Marvel’s Iron Fist – Netflix Original
A nine year old boy’s plane crashes in a remote Asian mountain range. His family is killed in the crash, but he survives. The boy, Danny Rand, was rescued from the crash site by Warrior Monks from the mystical realm of K’un-Lun. It is here that the boy studies ancient martial arts, and over the course of 15 year earns the the power of the Iron Fist. This power comes with the responsibility of defending K’un-Lun from attack. The series opens with Danny returning to New York to find the world has moved on without him, as he tries to reconnect with the life he might have lived.
Refraining from too many spoilers, Danny Rand embarks on a misguided voyage to see his old family friends the Meachums. This seemingly innocent attempt spirals out of control when we find that the Meachums now controls the Rand Corporation. As mysteries are revealed, what was seemingly a visit to Danny Rand’s past life becomes a search for the truth about his parents death. Blinded by this teachings Danny attempts a war against the Hand, disregarding his prime responsibility of defending the entrance to K’un Lun. He finds allies in Colleen Wing, the Night Nurse, but fails to ever meet a true adversary throughout the series.
I almost hate to start with the story as the worst part of Iron Fist is the writing. From the lackluster storyline to the odd dialogue, the show never seemed to have anything to actually say. Danny Rand is a confused boy in a man’s body, and his actions reinforce that concept. The Luke Cage series may have gone too heavy handed with the messaging, but Iron Fist didn’t find a reason to exist. Iron Fist didn’t offer much for audiences to relate to unless you were already a fan.
Iron Fist has been defended as being for the fans. This is an argument I could latch onto if it was true, but very little of Iron Fist lines up with the original story line. For Instance, throughout the series we are told the The Hand is the mortal enemy of Iron Fist. A simple premise, but Iron Fist was created in 1974 and the Hand wasn’t introduced until 1981, but that was against DareDevil. That is obviously just the tip of the iceberg, but when the entire struggle of the show has been fabricated just for the show, the defense that the show is just for the fans falls flat.
CHARACTERS & CAST
The characters on the other hand by in large managed to entertain, and this was in no small part due to the Casting. Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, and Sacha Dhawan were all fantastic additions to the Marvel Netflix universe. That coupled with recurring characters from other series helped pull the world together in some ways.
Danny Rand, played by Finn Jones, was a very solid choice for Iron Fist. He brought the spirit of Danny Rand from the comics to the show with his energy. Danny Rand also has a naivety to him, as anyone that lived the last 15 years outside of society but is new to the character. If you’d like to learn about Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist, from the comic book perspective we have a very thorough character profile here; Who is Iron Fist? Physically Finn Jones does seem a bit less muscular than is believable after years of martial arts training, but this was not a deal breaker. The young Danny Rand, played by Toby Nichols, was however very odd casting choice. A green-eyed wavy brunette boy that grew into blue eyed curly blonde man, and was some how recognizable? Odd. Unfortunately, there are no attempts at bringing an iron fist costume to the screen. Overall, Finn Jones was an enjoyable Iron Fist.
Colleen Wing, played Jessica Henwick, had a rewrite of her history for the show, but in a way that so far works for the show. There are homages to her white outfit and even the use of the name The Daughter of the Dragon from the comics. Colleen Wing has some of the more memorable fights in the show as she elevated to one of the main characters of the series. Her swordplay and emotional support filled out the cast nicely. I hope to see more of her character, possibly in the Marvel Netflix crossover series, Defenders.
Howard Meachum, played by David Denham, was the family friend and business associate of Wendell Rand, Danny’s Father. The entire aspect of Howard Meachum in this series was a low point. The acting of David Denham was appropriate, it was the concept of the role that interrupted the flow too often. The writing made this care such a one note character, that any twist that they tried to convey was too thin a veil. Only the gullibility of Danny Rand would fall for such an attempt. He is a pivotal aspect to the show, but one I could have done without.
Joy & Ward Meachum , played by Jessica Stroup & Tom Pelphrey respectively, are the childhood friends of Danny Rand. Each character was well acted as well considering the plot bouncing back and forth with whether or not they were friend or foe. Ward is a troubled soul, weighed down by secrets of his past. Joy was a much more difficult character to understand, as her ambition didn’t seem to align with her dialogue. They brought a depth to the show where if either character was removed from the story the show would have suffered.
Rosario Dawson continues to be the unifying thread between the Marvel Netflix originals, reprising her role as the Night Nurse. She brought with her a more human, or even sensible perspective. Unfortunately, it was annoying. Danny’s enthusiasm was negated by the Night Nurses cynical responses. Her fear of the hand is apparent, yet never even suggests that Danny talk to DareDevil. This did make the joint universe feel a little hollow. When a character will fly to Asia to fight the hand, but won’t drive a few blocks for help it gets a little ridiculous.
Wai Ching Ho, playing Madame Goa, is a fantastic actress, and brings a level of mystery to the show that I enjoy so much. I love every scene she is in, and the unease it creates for every other character. Her calm demeanor, and almost half smile let’s you know that she’s seen it all before, and it’s sadly funny to her. Madame Goa’s wisdom is in her truth. Such a cunning manipulation, that works so well with a character like Iron Fist.
Bakuto, played by Ramon Rodriguez, is responsible for a major twist in the story. His involvement dilutes the Hand, and while a necessary plot point didn’t hit with any gravitas. Bakuto is the head of a new division of the Hand. One seeking to over through Madame Goa. Other than his name, his is a fully reimagined character for the show. He never lives up to the role he’s presented in, and doesn’t seem to even be an actual concern for Madame Goa.
Davos, played by Sacha Dhawan, was welcome introduction later in the season. The childhood friend of Danny Rand from K’un Lun. They trained together and even competed for the owner of the Iron Fist. Sacha Dhawan is an actor capable of creating intense scenes. I look forward to his involvement in the series, and hopefully takes his role as the Steel Serpent.
Marvel has set such a high bar that good enough for prime time, isn’t exactly cutting it on Netflix. There isn’t much notable about the production value of Iron Fist.If anything the production values were adequate. It’s a quality show, but lacking in style. The art direction, color profile, and even cinematography didn’t do anything to lend itself to the story. The choreography of Iron Fist was interesting enough to watch, but never reached the level of DareDevil. There is no moment that comes anywhere near the hallway scene of DareDevil. If anything the action was actually on the boring side.There are a few homages, but by in large this series fight seems felt hampered by too much realism and not much creativity.
What may have been the prime example of a film lacking in style and hampered by realism was the scene where Iron Fist confronts the Bride of Nine Spiders, Alessa. This scene plays out as a woman in a warehouse with with chain link fences and oddly decorated with white cloth. Alessa walks over and Danny and uses her feminine wiles to poison him. It’s such a bland moment, I had to look it up to write the recap. Depending on the writers and artists, Alessa has far more spider elements than a love of poison in the comics, things which would be either expensive or just out of place in Marvel Netflix shows. The white cloth was a nod to the concept, but it really didn’t do enough. In the show Arrow, the League of Assassins make an entrance by rolling down a cloth from the rafters in a cirque de soiled style. If the Bride of Spiders had even this level of theatrics it would have really build the character, and make a more entertaining scene.
THE UNRELIABLE WEAPON
If there is one thing we’ve learned about the Iron Fist it’s that it may be the least reliable weapon in existence. For one thing the weapon is attached to a person, and in the case of Danny Rand a very defiant person. The second, and much larger issue, is that Danny Rand suffers from performance anxiety so often you could be forgiven for forgetting this was set in the Marvel Universe from time to time. Nearly everyone else seems to know how to use the Iron Fist better than Danny, which gets old pretty quick. Hopefully there is a version of little blue pills to help Danny rise to the occasion in futures series.
As of the posting of the review the Rotten Tomato critic score is 17%, while the audience score is 80% for Iron Fist. The audiences are not only enjoying the show, but the episodes are being binged at a higher rate than any other Marvel Netflix series. The reasoning for this disparity stems from critics attacking the show with their own personal agendas. This agenda is to push for female and minority leads regardless of subject matter. In the case of Iron Fist, the critics gave lower score to protest against the color of Finn Jones skin. Thankfully this is something audiences had the good sense to not judge the show by. The critic scores do not reflect their evaluation of the show itself, just their personal opinion on more political factors. Another example of this agenda in action would be Super Girl, with a critic score of 97% and an audience score of 53%. A show so bad, I had to force myself to get through the three minute trailer, I couldn’t imagine enduring a full length episode.
Overall, Iron Fist failed to hit the standards we’ve come to expect from the Netflix original Marvel Series. That’s not to say it was a bad experience, it just failed to grab my attention in the way the DareDevil, Jessica Jones, or Luke Cage did. DareDevil had an amazing color palette with some of the most discussed fight scenes in any show. Jessica Jones brought a story outside of the traditional super hero tales with a villain that created psychological havoc. Luke Cage brought a style that made a neighborhood in New York, feel like a community. Something very few films have ever touched on. Iron Fist failed to add anything new, and in the end came up short. I enjoyed the Iron Fist & Colleen Wing characters, but this storyline didn’t give them a chance to shine. I hope to see them showcased in the upcoming Marvel Netflix Defenders crossover starring DareDevil, Jessica Jones, & Luke Cage.