Iron Fist is a character I have always liked, but mostly read about in other titles or the books that cover his Heroes for Hire days. As this show grew closer and I conversed with others, I found out just how little people knew about what they were getting into. The origin story for Danny Rand is pretty simplistic and anyone with a little experience watching some classic kung fu films should be able to follow what is going on and get into the vibe. With that in mind, I had a lot of hopes that Netflix would go four for four and knock another one out of the park as well as giving a few viewers some new favorite characters and dabbling with the mysticism that Doctor Strange showed us could work. What we received though might be one of Marvel’s first really failed outings, or just an enjoyable but flawed jaunt back into their New York-based superhero underworld.
“Must have been a pretty gangsta ten year old”
Starting off with the positive, the first thing I noticed was how tight the soundtrack was for this show. Even the background beats were solid, setting a good tone and getting me into the atmosphere. Visually there are some great shots, perfectly symmetrical images, and a light use of color and screen splitting that results in small moments of excellence. The elevator fight is one example of this, but my favorite brief insight has to be the karaoke scene that felt classic. Once again, side characters are what steal the show in these Netflix series. Claire Temple dominates the small screen again as a fierce and resourceful voice of reason, so much that I really do think they are trying to give Rosario Dawson her own show. Madame Gao has this excellent presence and I couldn’t wait for someone to kill Bakuto’s smarmy ass. I liked the bad guys, but went back and forth so much with the Meachum family. Harold has such a wild swing with his progression while Ward and Joy have excellent brother sister moments and some genuinely good scenes. For me though—and others I’m sure—the standout here is Colleen Wing, whom I love in the comics and thought they handled beautifully. She has a more interesting journey and emotional struggle than Iron Fist himself. Also, her martial arts is better.
If you haven’t read Daughters of the Dragon, do it and you’ll want them to make a series out of that.
I know there are some issues with the fight scenes involving the main character, but I like how it presents his style as so natural and fluid for him. One of the characters even says it’s like a language for Danny Rand, moving slower because there is no need to exert extra energy when not needed. It makes him seem not only better, but like someone who has adopted his art into simple movements that just kind of happen. Aside from a few standouts, like the drunken master Zhou Cheng and Colleen Wing of course, there just isn’t anything about the fight scenes that place them above serviceable, and that feels like a crime in something that the original concept was modeled off of the great martial arts films. I expected something creative, innovative, anything that would be memorable. Finn Jones who plays Rand is probably the weakest link here, but I have heard he didn’t have much time to train and it does get better later on.
I could have overlooked this more if the writing was better. These episodes are ripe with bad dialogue, leaps in logic, plot holes, and odd character reactions, and for the love of all that is holy could I get half as many flashbacks? The scripts just aren’t tight, and again, that gets better as it goes on, but there are so many things that stick out. I honestly wonder if these episodes were rushed in the writer’s room. I spent so long trying to figure out if Danny Rand was a likeable character, or even simply interesting, but the few moments of quality I saw from Jones never solidified that one way or the other. Some of the fellow actors seemed so bored talking to the show’s centerpiece. I thought the struggle with him trying to find the balance between being Danny Rand and the Iron Fist would work well, but there was no subtlety to it, too many missed opportunities, and a few moments just felt like him whining. The theme that did work was that of self-medication, dependence on drugs or magic, and to show that the world Marvel has created is hard to handle without relying on something or someone.
“Would you like to choose a weapon?”
“I am the weapon.”
Needless to say, I was never bored while watching it and kept clicking on the next episode. I wanted to know what happened next, even though so much of it was predictable. The first few episodes were the weakest and it picks up nicely after the fifth or so, but overall the pacing is wrong and a lot could have been cut to make room for more interesting things. I see a lot of people saying the show needed more of the supernatural elements and to expand on the Immortal Weapons stuff, but this is a part of Marvel’s street level world, so it makes sense that most of it takes place in New York and will help lead into Defenders. I was worried about that when the show was announced though, him not fitting in or the writers having to water the character down. Speaking of Defenders though, I think the character will do much better there, as a part of an ensemble cast. I kept wondering what the other heroes were doing anyway, so when they are all together I won’t have that distraction. Iron Fist will probably stand for a while as my least favorite of these series, but I would still recommend it, as there are a lot of things that would be worse to watch through again, and the good here did outweigh the bad, like a finely balanced chi… Ignore the joke, watch the show.