One of the strongest criticisms of the MCU for a long time was that it had a villain problem. Despite producing iconic heroes left and right, Marvel Studios could never quite create a memorable villain. During the early phases of the MCU, the notable exception was Loki, who would be labeled as Marvel's best villain before he finally got some competition. Apparently, Marvel knew early on that it had to nail Loki, and executives told Thor screenwriter Zack Stentz that his top priority was making Loki as good a villain as Magneto.
Way back in the early days of of the MCU, Marvel Studios knew that it was building up to The Avengers. As such, studio execs had the idea that Loki would the villain of that film, but they were also aware that they weren't super great with making good villains. Iron Monger, Whiplash, and the Abomination were forgotten as soon as people left the theater.
So, if Loki had to be their Big Bad of Phase One, they needed to get it right. Here's what the studio told Zack Stentz when he was writing the screenplay for Thor.
It's a complicated issue because we had a very clear mandate when we were writing Thor. They already knew that they were building towards The Avengers and they already had the notion that Loki was going to be the villain. They knew that their villains thus far in the MCU had been a bit underwhelming, and they said -- one of the executives literally said, 'Look, if you fail at everything else, give us a villain as good as Magneto in Loki.' We need someone at that level because that’s going to be our villain for The Avengers.
Back in 2011, The Dark Knight's Joker was the villain to beat, but before that film came along, Magneto was probably the best modern day comic book movie villain. He appeared in every X-Men movie, he had cool powers, and the audience could sympathize with his rationale because of his sad backstory.
Loki certainly has the audience's sympathy. Zack Stentz told The Fanboy Podcast that while writing the character, he knew that one of the most important things for making Loki a great villain is that he had to be relatable.
We always put a lot of effort into our villains, but in this case we really worked hard giving Loki an interesting story and making him sympathetic at the same time as he's doing these terrible things.
I would say that Zack Stentz and his fellow Thor writers certainly gave Marvel what they wanted. Loki went on to become a huge hit with fans, and even after all these years he's still in the Top Five of MCU villains. Of course, a lot of the credit also goes to Tom Hiddleston for his performance as the character.
Loki's movie future was made unclear by Avengers: Endgame, but the character will be the star of his very own mini-series on Disney+, which doesn't have a release date yet. Magneto, currently played by Michael Fassbender, will be seen on screen again soon in Dark Phoenix, which opens in theaters July 7.