Marvel’s Iron Fist just came straight from the forge March 17th to bolster the growing Defenders roster on Netflix. After the amazing opening by Daredevil, the world tone set by Jessica Jones, and the amazing immersion by Luke Cage, it left me intrigued how Iron Fist would stack up. Being entirely honest, Iron Fist is a hero I know very little about. I was looking forward to the Netflix interpretation as my first comic book was an Iron Fist and Spider Man crossover. How did Iron Fist live up to the gleaming Marvel roster?
Well, it didn’t.
Naturally, everyone was upset that the show chose a white lead over an Asian with a chance to re-invent the series a la Luke Cage. I’m sorry to disappoint everyone, but this point is moot because the story is so poorly written that you either end up with the racial stereotype of Mystical Asian or Mighty Whitey. What should have been an engaging story from the humble beginnings in the Kunlun mountains, to the streets of New York, and an elaborate story about the birth of the Iron Fist gets the back burner. Instead, we get a very bland, mediocre protagonist with mental trauma that has a special ability serve as a maguffin forcing things along. Any time you have a question about the plot, the answer is “Because he’s the Iron Fist.” with no explanation.
This lack luster attitude also translates into the fight scene choreography. Think back to the hype you felt watching that Daredevil fight scene in the hallway. He’s fighting five or six people for the first time and its this amazing brawl. Everyone including the hero is taking a licking and it looks like he might lose but, then digs deep and comes out on top. From start to finish, I felt Rosario Dawson, Wai Ching Ho, and the stunt doubles performed a much more authentic fighting experience. When Finn Jones took to the screen, it felt like I was watching a post-prime Steven Segal film. There are reports from an interview with Finn Jones where he reports that he only had 3 weeks of training, learning choreography for fights 15 minutes before scenes due to scheduling being so tight. Oh, I’m sorry, the cast of AMC’s Badlands had 3 months of intensive training with a good portion of the cast being non-martial artists doing intense fight scenes. The difference 3 months makes is amazing because those fights look much more natural and fluid than anything between Finn Jones and most of the cast on the show.
Now, you say to me, “Ed, there has to be some good elements to the show. It’s Mahvel!” Well, there were a few that stood out to me. Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple, adds some much needed relief to the forced chemistry between Danny and the leading ladies. Carrie-Ann-Moss reprising her role as Jeri Hogarth the take no prisoners lawyer from Jessica Jones was a welcome addition. Lastly, the cherry on top for me was insight into the mysterious Madame Gao of Daredevil fame. These are all much-needed details that demonstrate the shared universe Marvel sought to give us. Sadly, these highlights do little to make up for the show’s obvious shortcomings.
That being said, I sincerely hope the recent wave of backlash against Iron Fist doesn’t hinder future Marvel products. I definitely want to see a Punisher series in the future. Most importantly, however, I hope they learn to promote proper storytelling without the use of stereotypical tropes and poor plot devices. If you feel you’re brave enough to fire up your Netflix account and binge watch Iron Fist, I won’t stop you. I would recommend bringing alcohol and comfort food to numb the pain. This way, you watch one of Marvel’s most abysmal showings since 2004’s Punisher, and go peacefully.