Category Archives: Articles by Alban

Iron Man 2: Bad as it wants to be

By Alban Yee

I have been tasked with writing an article about Iron Man 2, the worst of all the recent Marvel movies.

If you’ve already seen it, you probably are already familiar with its problems: undefined plot, no climactic ending, and the devolution of our favorite characters from the original Iron Man.

If you’ve seen it and you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’ve done what I have been trying to do — gracefully forget how bad it was.

First, the plot. Do you remember the plot? Vaguely, there’s a Russian physicist with an electric whip who’s trying to kill Tony Stark. Also, there was a hot girl in the form of Scarlett Johansson. We’re not really sure what her role was, other than wearing tight clothing, but you might vaguely remember a fight scene where she beats up a bunch of guys at the end. Additionally, she’s a computer hacker.

You might also vaguely remember that Tony Stark was dying from palladium poisoning from the power source in his chest. He needed to get that fixed too, by inventing a new element. Which, apparently, was really easy:

Tony Stark [upon discovering and inventing a new element in his garage]: “That was easy.”

Secondly, the anti-climactic ending. Whereas the first Iron Man had a villain that rivaled Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit (and Stark was limping on a nearly depleted power source), the sequel had a bunch of flying drones that never established themselves as a threat. There was never a moment when I thought that Iron Man was in any real danger. He didn’t get beat up. He didn’t get kicked around. He just took care of business. When he finally squared off against electric whip guy, he beat him down fairly quickly and again, way too easily.

Thirdly, the characters we loved from the first Iron Man — Pepper Potts (lost in the CEO storyline), Tony Stark (self-destructing and despicable), and Rhodey (replaced by Don Cheadle) — were missing.  Gone is the fun, jazzy chemistry from the first movie, replaced by a stale script and wooden acting. If you were hoping to laugh at witty banter, one-liners and zingers, Iron Man 2 disappoints here too.

So what does this movie do? It introduces two new characters: War Machine (who regretfully doesn’t have a part in The Avengers) and Natasha Romanoff (who regretfully does). It’s not that I don’t like Agent Romanoff, who turns out to be a Russian spy/assassin/computer hacker. It’s that I don’t like the woman who played her. Johansson does nothing to bring this character to life. All we have on screen is a scowling seductress who unleashes a few kick-ass moves and then surprisingly hacks into the bad guy’s computer system. In fact, I didn’t even know she was Russian until she tells us she has a long Russian back story in The Avengers.

And War Machine? Where was he in The Avengers? You would think that he would show up to help save the earth.

I’m sure there were some good parts to this movie, because I didn’t hate it when I came out of the theater. I just knew that I didn’t like it.  Unfortunately, I just can’t remember any of those things right now.

If anyone has anything good to say about this movie, please speak up.  Until then, this movie will remain where it belongs, at the very bottom of the Marvel movie canon.

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)

I’m glad you liked The Avengers, but it should have been better

By Alban Yee

I liked the Avengers movie.  I thought it was entertaining, and I would watch it again.

However, this movie had its problems. And here, I give you three.

1) Scarlett Johansson was the weakest link. She wasn’t weak in terms of power or contribution; her script created a character who contributed significantly (persuading the Hulk to join the team, bringing Hawkeye back to the team, and – spoiler alert! – closing the intergalactic portal with the magic stick); her director, Joss Whedon, is renown for creating and directing powerful female leads (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dollhouse). Scarlett, however, failed to fill her role. For a character who was supposed to steal the spotlight, her most significant contributions were a pretty face and looking good in a skin-tight suit.


And how.


I was severely disappointed by how little she brought to her role. While every other actor embodied and radiated his character, Scarlett had to constantly remind us who she was, sometimes literally. Her lines such as “I’m Russian, remember?” or “This isn’t that bad” (in reference to some terrible war scenes she’s seen in Russia) were painfully injected into the script to remind us that she has a back story as a Russian spy, and not an American one. While I am glad that a female lead had such a significant role to play in this film, I was disappointed by how little I was enraptured by the woman who played her. It should have been so much more.

2) The petty invasion. First of all, as Brian Slattery pointed out, this was the Transformers 3 take-over-the-world plan. They’re planning to take over the world from one city? With that army? How embarrassing! I was more intimidated by the alien invasion force from Independence Day. Those were aliens I actually believed could take over the earth. These aliens were far weaker and fewer than even the feeble threat posed by the Decepticons in last year’s catastrophe. Tell me again why we needed the Avengers to stop this? This could have been handled by Will Smith and an iPhone (Macbook reserved for more threatening aliens).


"Welcome to... wait a second, someone just texted me...."


3) The lack of internal consistency. I present to you two things. One, how did the Hulk change from a raging, uncontrollable monster to a raging, controllable monster who takes orders from Captain America? How? Can someone explain this one to me? One minute, he’s trying to kill Scarlett Johansson. The next minute, he’s one of the good guys. The pals.


"Because I choose to SMASH!"


Secondly, where was the military? We have already established that we are living in a post-9/11 world where America, and Stark industries, battle terrorists and scramble jets at the drop of a hat. If the military can send jets to fight a bogey the size of a flying man (see: Iron Man), you’d think they would send a couple of guys to check out what’s going on with Manhattan when its getting destroyed by an alien force. Right?

On the scale of recent Marvel movies, I put The Avengers below Iron Man and above Thor and Captain America.

If I expand it to include other comic book movies, I put it above all the Spider-Man and X-Men films and below the Batman trilogy for quality and consistency. In terms of rewatchability, The Avengers wins for pure entertainment.

All in all, a pretty high rating for this movie. It was great with a few flaws. I will remember it fondly, laugh at its jokes, and occasionally dream about what could have been.

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)

A Review of “The Fighter”

By Alban Yee

I became interested in The Fighter only after seeing the promotional display at the theater. It featured a quote from Time magazine film critic Richard Corliss describing it as a “proletarian true-life sports drama about an athlete who battles alongside and against his family.” Once I read this, I knew I was hooked. These are the kinds of movies I deeply enjoy. Rudy comes to mind. October Sky, although not a sports drama, is another classic I love.

What separates The Fighter from those other movies is the elevation of typically cliché characters into real people with complex emotions and motives. Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) isn’t just a washed up crack addict dreaming of his glory days. He loves his younger brother Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and battles his addiction in order to get back into his brother’s life. Their mother Alice (Melissa Leo) could easily have been painted as a two-dimensional, self-serving control freak, but under her horrible outward actions, Leo is able to show a mother who loves her children and wants the best for them.

It is a credit to the acting and the script that the movie played out more like a documentary than a movie. I was drawn in immediately and felt like I was being given access to the broken, nitty-gritty details of their lives. And some of those details were ugly. The detail and flow of the trashy family dynamic left me feeling angry, ill, and impressed all at once. In fact, one of the more vicious fight scenes in this movie takes place outside the boxing ring. When a Jerry Springer-type brawl broke out between Micky’s girlfriend and sisters on his front porch, I was so “close” to the action that I cringed and had to look away.

True to its character, the film doesn’t have a big, Hollywood “heart” moment. When it does come, it comes subtly in the form of acknowledgement, humility, and compromise.  Some of it is unspoken, as oftentimes is the case in real life.

The Fighter delivers what the promotional display promised: an Oscar-worthy, character-driven drama. The acting is excellent, especially by Bale (be sure to stick around during the credits–you’ll have an opportunity to guess which real person was played by which actor), and the director never lets you forget that these are real people with real hearts. It is an excellent film, and one that I am happy to recommend.