On A Tangent

The ultimate site for a generation sidetracked by the fandom life


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Marvel Monday: I am Iron Man… but is Iron Man the hero?

For our Marvel Monday column for the next two months, we will be reviewing all of the Marvel canon movies to prepare for our big review of The Avengers: Age of Ultron  on May 1. This week, Leah will be reviewing Iron Man 1, 2, and 3. Today, we question who the real hero of Marvel’s Phase one debut is with Leah’s review of Iron Man (2008).

Welcome to another edition of Marvel Monday! This week is all about Iron Man, as I attempt to play catch-up for the reviews I missed last month. Today, we dive right in with the first installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

About a year ago, I decided to go back and watch all of the Iron Man films in succession. To be honest, I’m not even sure I watched them in the right order the first time I saw them, so watching the full trilogy was quite an experience as I got the full progression of Tony’s character arc. But this week, I’ll be taking a little time to step back from the trilogy and evaluate the films individually.

Iron Man is an odd place to build the foundation for a superhero series, which may seem like a bit of a strange statement. Even non-comic fans are familiar enough with the tropes underlying Iron Man’s story: eccentric genius with ample time and more-than-ample funds decides to step up for the sake of justice.  Seems like the perfect place to enter the superhero-verse, right?  The fascinating thing about Tony Stark, however, is that he doesn’t step up just for the sake of injustice — he steps up to face injustice that he caused. We’re entering the Marvel universe at the ground-level, not with a hero who acts on moral principle without personal connection, but with a hero who is selfish, ignorant of the consequences of his actions, and has to be exposed violently to the “real world” to come out a better man.  In a way, however, this makes Tony the ideal candidate for the entry into a vaster universe — he is so fundamentally human that we cannot help but identify with him. His is a story that is not about heroism so much as about redemption.

Iron Man is essentially an exercise letting Tony Stark atone for his neglectful behavior. His “billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” shtick has gotten the better of him, and after an eye-opening kidnapping, he realizes that he has played a large — if somewhat unintentional — destructive role in hundreds, maybe thousands of lives. Consequently, the rest of the film is spent trying — and sometimes failing — to account for these oversights.  It’s not just a feat of unexpected brilliance that leads Tony to create the Iron Man suit. It’s the realization that his neglect has had a very real impact for people, and that the lives lost ought not to be passed off as just “collateral damage.”  Tony must work past selfish tendencies to understand that his neglect has costs.  He has to defeat the enemy he has essentially created — the embodiment of his own company in Obadiah Stane — to fix the wrongs of his past.

Which leads me to my second realization in rewatching this movie.  Tony Stark is a very specific kind of hero, because his path to heroism is essentially composed of backing down the path he’s already created by his extravagance and idleness and trying to clean up the mess. So then the question becomes: if Tony is the reactive hero, who is the proactive hero of this film?  That distinction, I believe, belongs to Pepper Potts.

One thing that quickly became apparent as I was watching was how critical Pepper is to the plot.  Aside from her general duties of essentially running Tony’s life, she is the proactive force that identifies the heart of the problem.  She takes the information about the weapons project from Obadiah Stane at great risk to herself. She brings SHIELD into the fray.  She’s also the one who actually acts to destroy the arc reactor, stopping Stane in the process of killing Tony.  Pepper is also, most notably, the one who preserves Tony’s original mini-arc reactor. Tony is more than ready to throw it out, but Pepper instead decides to have it preserved for him — a joking gesture at first, but one that proves to be a Chekhov’s gun.  Without her foresight, Tony would have been dead long before his climactic battle.  While Tony is certainly crucial to Stane’s end, that end is only facilitated by the diligent groundwork laid by Pepper.  Expect me to come back to this moment when we discuss Iron Man 3 on Friday — a film in which Pepper is undisguisedly the heroine.

So is it true that no hero exists in a vacuum, as I argued last week about Cap? Or is there something more that I’m missing that definitively makes Tony the hero of his own tale? We’ll discuss further with Iron Man 2 on Thursday!


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Fandom Friday: Forming, Storming and Performing with The Avengers

AvengersFor our Marvel Monday column for the next two months, we will be reviewing all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to prepare for our big review of The Avengers: Age of Ultron  on May 1. (This Marvel Monday is particularly special, because it falls on a Friday. Don’t get confused. It’s just a preview of what to expect on Friday May 1.)

Of all the Marvel movies of recent years, The Avengers (2012) is DEFINITELY my favorite. First of all, it was written and directed by Joss Whedon. What can you expect but a well-paced, deeply character-driven plotline from the king of Buffy, Angel and Firefly? Ensemble cast movies can go incredibly, horribly wrong in a variety of ways, especially big-budget super hero action flicks. It’s so easy to lose one or multiple members of the cast to formulaic or missing plot points in these types of film, but everyone has a believable (but succinct) plot device to drive themselves into the group. It’s a beautifully nuanced work of art. (Remember when I said that ultimately Thor was setting everything up for something else? Well, this is it!)

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Marvel Monday: How to Grow a Superhero

For our Marvel Monday column for the next two months, we will be reviewing all of the Marvel canon movies to prepare for our big review of The Avengers: Age of Ultron  on May 1. Today, we compile the recipe for how to make a superhero from scratch with Leah’s review of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).

Since I am our site’s resident Agent Carter fangirl reviewer, it will likely come as a surprise to no one that her heroic counterpart, Captain America, is my favorite of the Avengers.  Consequently, rewatching his debut was a great deal of fun.  Which is not to say the film was perfect. I don’t believe Marvel had quite hit their stride yet with this film, though it was certainly a fun installment.  For one thing, CA didn’t have the cohesion of many of Marvel’s later films.  For a good majority of the film, Steve’s plot and the plot of Red Skull seemed largely disjointed, only coming together near the very end.  And I think the strength of many of Marvel’s films lies in that character-driven plot — we feel for the characters, so we become invested in their narrative.  Here, that investment was broken by the ambitions of Red Skull, which remain separate from Steve’s core conflicts for a large portion of the narrative. Avengers

But what we do see of Steve’s character is utterly fascinating, and this rewatch gave me a new perspective on the film, as well as a question that becomes central to the movie: is a hero born or made?

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Marvel Monday: Thor, Full of Sound and Fury

AvengersFor our Marvel Monday column for the next two months, we will be reviewing all of the Marvel canon movies to prepare for our big review of The Avengers: Age of Ultron  on May 1. Today, we get philosophical about the nature of heroes and aliens with Laney’s review of Thor (2011).

When it first came out in theaters, despite starring another of my all-time favorite leading ladies Natalie Portman, Thor just didn’t hold up to how much I enjoyed Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely! Was it the best written plotline in the world? Well… to me, it felt a little rushed and a little contrived.

Rewatching it for our blog, however, and in light of the films that come after Thor, places the film in an entirely different light. Like a lightbulb going off, I have realized it is the pivotal plotline of the current Marvel continuity. Continue reading


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Marvel Monday: You Don’t Want to See Me When I’m Not Mark Ruffalo

AvengersFor our Marvel Monday column for the next two months, we will be reviewing all of the Marvel canon movies to prepare for our big review of The Avengers: Age of Ultron  on May 1. Today, we get mean and green with Laney’s review of The Incredible Hulk (2008).

Any review of the character of the Incredible Hulk must of course begin with the recognition that there have been three in recent adaptations, and everyone has a firm opinion on which one was the best: Eric Bana, Edward Norton or Mark Ruffalo.

In full disclosure, along with many others, I am a wholehearted Mark Ruffalo fan, but it was also fun to go back for the first time in many years to review The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton and Liv Tyler, which is the ‘canon” Hulk film. Admittedly, I am huge Liv Tyler fan, which is also a piece of vanity because in high school, when Lord of the Rings was huge, I got compared a lot to her. (Dark long brown hair, thin pale face, soft-spoken.) Continue reading


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Announcement: Marvel Monday Schedule

So, as I’m sure you all know, Agent Carter has come to an end. (At least for now, fingers crossed.) I’ll be finishing up my reviews with this week’s Fandom Friday post, so be on the lookout for that.

In the meantime, however, Marvel Mondays will continue! How, you ask? What could possibly fill the void left by our favorite leading lady? Well, prepare yourselves: it’s gonna be big. Continue reading


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Marvel Monday: The Many Faces of Margaret Carter

Welcome back from our mini-hiatus. Due to an unprecedented bout of bad weather where I live, coupled with that lovely portion of college life I like to call midterms, my schedule has been a bit off. But, we are now back in full swing! This week we’ll be discussing the episodes for the past two weeks, A Sin to Err and Snafu, which I actually find fit rather well in a review together. So, without further ado:

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