On A Tangent

The ultimate site for a generation sidetracked by the fandom life


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Beginning In Media Res, Origin Fatigue, and Worldbuilding; or, Fantastic Ideas and How to Lose Them

This piece contains spoilers for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. 

This weekend, after some house cleaning and the chaos of Thanksgiving, my mom and I went to the movies. We both wanted to see Moana and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, so we settled on a double feature: Fantastic Beasts first, then dinner, and Moana for dessert.

Over dinner, we discussed the first movie. We both liked it, we agreed. We thought the visual effects were (pun intended) fantastic, the creatures were fascinating, and that Eddie Redmayne was a great choice for the lead.

But as we discussed, a thought occurred to me. I turned to my mom with a question.

“Did you understand who Grindelwald was?”

Her answer, of course, was no. My mom has seen the movies, but she never read the books. Though she might have remembered his brief appearance in the final films, he wasn’t really highlighted. For her, Grindelwald was just a name on a newspaper. The significance of his presence in the film was lost to her entirely. fb

Fantastic Beasts is a movie produced under strange, but increasingly common circumstances. Harry Potter is a global phenomenon — you’d be hard pressed to find someone of my generation who hasn’t read or at least watched it. It sparked films, LEGOs, theme parks, and the ever-expanding Pottermore, for those who just can’t get enough of the world. Fantastic Beasts is a product of that multimedia empire and ravenous fanbase, always clamoring for more — it’s a story already sketched out in vague lines for devoted fans who picked up the “textbook” on which it is based.

But the film fleshes that story out. And as a part of a multimedia franchise, it does so in a manner that assumes many things about what its audience knows about the setting. If Fantastic Beasts were merely a sequel, that might be okay. There is an expectation with sequels that you really only get the full picture if you’ve followed the series (although skilled writers should be able to ground you in the story regardless.)

But Fantastic Beasts isn’t a sequel, as such. It’s the beginning of a new series, one that, while related to Harry Potter tangentially, exists entirely on its own plot and characters. It is our entry into a world familiar, yet strange.

But if this is our entry point… boy, is it muddled.

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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: 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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Fandom Friday: “You Killed My Father. Prepare to Die.”

When I was in 10th grade, I was dual-enrolled at the local community college, which meant one of my elective courses during the school day was left gloriously blank. Of course at the time, I was only 15 going on 16 (you know you just sang the Sound of Music in your head), which meant I could go absolutely no where until my dad collected me at the end of the day.

My best friend at the time, who for purposes of anonymity I will refer to as KC, was likewise dual-enrolled with a free period, and in a fit of extreme generosity, our very young and very likable geometry teacher let us camp in her room, which was her free period as well. Her room shared an office area with three other teachers/rooms and we were ecstatic to be encouraged by another teacher in the quad-pod to delve into her old VHS movie collections to bide our time. (Seriously, as an adult myself now, I glory at these teachers’ letting us into their private time when they had to deal with teenagers ALL DAY LONG. Where ever you are, wonderful teachers, I thank you!)

Best. Movie. Ever.

Best. Movie. Ever. (Leah’s note: Is this a kissing movie?)

First of all, as sheltered, bookish child, I had missed out on a lot of pop media in my day. KC, who was as pop-media savvy as I was naive, and I were quickly mowing through a variety of classic films, when the subject of The Princess Bride sprouted.

“What do you mean you’ve never seen The Princess Bride?!” KC exclaimed one day over popcorn and a movie, our feet propped up on the adjoining desks. The revelation was so overwhelming she actually stood up. “This is completely unacceptable. It’s my favorite movie ON THE PLANET. How in the world could you never have seen it?”   Continue reading