I’ve seen every Netflix Marvel series so far. I adored both seasons of Daredevil, I enjoyed Jessica Jones—even if I did find it a bit slow and heavy—and I really liked Luke Cage, despite its rather rushed and weak ending, so I was excited for Iron Fist, the last individual hero we would see before they all joined forces in Defenders.
Iron Fist is the story of Danny Rand, a billionaire whose plane crashed in the Himalayas when he was a child. Found in the snow by warrior monks, they raise him in K’un Lun, a sacred place that exists in another plane and connects to the rest of the world every fifteen years. As he grows in this mystical land, Danny learns several forms of martial arts, overcomes many trials and eventually becomes the next Iron Fist, the sacred guardian of K’un Lun.
But Danny still has ties to our world and he’s desperate to find answers on his past, so he leaves his post, abandons his surrogate family and arrives in New York, where he finds that for everyone else, he’s been dead for years and worse still, the enemy of K’un Lun, The Hand—which we saw in Daredevil as well—has infiltrated his family’s company, using it for nefarious purposes.
That premise up there plus whatever you know about Netflix Marvel series and the characters involved would make you think you’re about to watch a big New York Kung Fu adventure, the marvel version of Big Trouble in Little China, with lots of mysticism and fighting scenes, with Danny using the power of his Iron Fist to deliver some righteous smacking.
If those are your expectations, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If however, you’re expecting more than 5 episodes spent in Danny trying to prove his identity in courts, talking with people in board meetings in offices and not using the Iron Fist because he’s too troubled to focus and dealing with anger management issues, then I can only say you have weird tastes and that you’ll enjoy what Iron Fist has to offer.
For me, the first half of the season is the most tedious thing I’ve ever seen on Netflix.
And even past it, when the Hand comes into focus and Danny begins his quest to destroy them in earnest, the series writers kept the billionaire family, the corporate meetings and all that nonsense around, instead of focusing on what the audience really wanted, which is the Iron Fist kicking ass.
Now, the angle on the Hand I can appreciate, as is the twist with one of the characters and how it helps Danny’s characterisation, by giving him things to grow with, to challenge his preconceptions—even though they were completely spot-on—and accept there are shades of grey in the word.
But what I can’t forgive is how much the plot meanders, how often it switches point of view between Danny’s Iron Fist story and that of the Rand family and the corporate backstabbing and issues they suffer through. I honestly fought the urge to skip ahead of any Ward, Joy or Harold scene, because while this part of the plot becomes central near the end, at no point does it feel like it should and never manages to be entertaining.
The whole Rand family angle should’ve been dealt with in the opening episodes, three tops and then forget about them as much as possible, focusing on Danny’s fight against the Hand. The Rand family are secondary characters without the strength to carry the plot, yet are made central to the story and one of them becomes the main villain overall, with the last episode focused on him, the other villains, which are more directly tied to the Iron Fist completely forgotten, without any measure of closure. The Rand angle is better in this regard, you just won’t give a damn because it’s so damn boring!
This is the last series before The Defenders. You’d think a bit more effort would have been made in setting that up, with the returning and ever-amazing Clare (Rosario Dawson) and Jeri (Carrie-Anne Moss) perhaps bringing in some other characters to help, particularly when Clare insists that Danny fighting the hand on his own is insane. But nope, Clare becomes the last member in Danny’s team, which I don’t mind as it’s about time the character got to kick some ass, and Jeri shows up twice in the season for legal advice. That’s about it.
Some critics have complained about Iron Fist being an example of whitewashing and/or white saviour, since you have the white Danny Rand using martial arts and espousing oriental philosophies. That is complete nonsense. This is what the character is, a white kid raised among Shaolin Monks. Hell, this portrayal is a lot more relaxed on the ancient proverbs and Buddhism than the animated one on Ultimate Spider-Man.
The issue isn’t the political incorrectness of the character but his blandness. Finn Jones as Danny struggles to show the inner turmoil of the character, which is the central point of the entire season, his conflict between his duty and his desires, his need for focus and his welling anger. Jones manages to deliver on the confrontations, when the character has heated arguments, but other than that, he’s completely unconvincing as Danny Rand.
None of the Rand family are compelling or even likeable enough for you to care about what they’re going through. One of them has a drug addiction, has confidence issues, his father crushing his spirit every other day and you know what? I never cared, I had no reason to, the character was despicable, as much as his sister is. Iron Fist tries to make Joy out to be the best of Danny’s cousins, but she’s as despicable as the rest of her family. And let’s not even talk Harold, that one’s plain monstrous and not even in a good way, at least not in a compelling “I love this villain” way.
I liked Colleen Wing, Danny’s ally and main love interest. She’s a strong character and her internal conflict is fantastic, as is the evolution of her relationship with Danny.
Davos, who comes into the series too late to be honest, is also fantastic, acting as a link to K’un Lun and Danny’s duty to them. From the moment he arrives, you know he’s going to go bad, but seeing it happen is great either way, particularly because it leads to a pretty decent fight. He’s also vicious and at times carries more strength than the “main” villains.
The season ending leaves it open for a second season, or maybe it’ll tie in with the Defenders, but I’m honestly disappointed that it didn’t end with Danny meeting at least one member of the team, akin to the Nick Fury endings for the Marvel films.
And that’s why you’re here, right? See the Kung Fu smack-down of the Iron Fist. The choreographies are generally good, particularly the Colleen ones, as the stunt double is great and in the close-ups Colleen delivers on the physical prowess and intensity. Danny’s fights on the other hand I have mixed feelings about. Some are great, particularly the last fight with Davos, but in many others the actor portraying him, Finn Jones, lacks that physical intensity, delivering wet-noodle-punches. There’s one scene where he meekly punches out while using the Iron Fist and it looks painfully bad.
Having said so, Episode 6’s tournament is a pleasure to watch, with some nicely choreographed fights punctuated by Madam Gao’s delightful presence.
The other Marvel series, despite their issues, have been overall pretty solid, with good writing, awesome characters and great performances. Iron Fist breaks that trend and delivers the worst of the Netflix Marvel universe with its poor writing.
Let’s hope The Defenders is much better than this!
2/5 – Mediocre
One thought on “Review: Iron Fist”
I writing this comment before watch it, but… I will, because I like Iron Fist since the Buddhist/Kung Fu/New Age Warrior animated one on Ultimate Spider-Man.
While reading your review (Google, “who’s Finn Jones?”), I found this article “Finn Jones blames Trump for everyone hating problematic ‘Iron Fist” on Mashable. I think that the whitewashing controversy is just lame, the original character is white with blonde hair, I will mad if the producers change it so people feel better, a Buddhist/Kung Fu/New Age Warrior can be asian, latin, european, maori…or wherever/whatever, I don’t care. But a bad acting and bad script is really sad.
I will watch it, but without high expectation.