Netflix Review: Marvel’s IRON FIST
*** MINOR SPOILERS ***
As of Sunday evening, all 13 episodes of Marvel’s Iron Fist had been watched thus giving Monday to process and put words down on paper. Of the four Netflix series produced from Marvel Television, Iron Fist would probably be labeled the most questionable and controversial of the lot. Usually every time a new Marvel/Netflix series drops, some people want to see Marvel flop and deliver a dud but even this time around it looks like Marvel has escaped dud status for their latest series/ Though it does have some problems, Iron Fist still wins the fight.
Since the announcement of the casting of Finn Jones, there has been nothing but disdain from some critics about Marvel’s casting of the character, deeming it whitewashing. To this, we could say some rather harsh words to these people who obviously have never picked up a comic book. You won’t be bored with a lecture of how Finn’s character’ Danny Rand, has always been a white American boy who learns Kung-Fu from, dare I say, another dimension. Which brings us to the second recent complaint: that the series got the whole Asian culture wrong. Being as Iron Fist was trained in a culture from another dimension described as one of the cities of Heaven, it would be easy to say that the culture could be whatever one wanted it to be and not have to adhere to the standards of what stereotypical Hollywood or even traditionally of what reality has to say about Asian culture. Because let’s face it, Iron Fist doesn’t come from anywhere traditional.
More concern about faults in the series are the story’s pacing and the choreography of the fight scenes. These might be the only true valid points one can gripe about. However, the pacing seemed good and steady from the get-go. No one can fault people for complaining about the story of the series. One can imagine that when you hear about a series called ‘Iron Fist,‘ which is being billed as a martial arts adventure, one would expect something along the lines of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, but this was the reverse. The series isn’t about fighting, Danny barely uses the Iron Fist throughout the series, which is a good thing as all problems aren’t solved with his powers. If anything, this series serves as nothing more than a set-up for Netflix’s next series, The Defenders; which will have all four series headliners being drawn together.
For anyone paying attention, you can easily see The Hand has been a running theme beginning in Daredevil, which links it to Iron Fist. There is also the use of Rosario Dawson’s character, Claire Temple also known as Night Nurse which connects Iron Fist to Luke Cage. If you really listen to the dialogue we also get a mention of Jessica Jones as “A really good private investigator when she can stay sober.” Also Carrie-Anne Moss once again plays the edgy attorney Jerri Hogarth who was also in Jessica Jones. Easily Iron Fist has served as a meeting ground for this televised universe to blossom. From the heroin cooked up by The Hand first seen in Daredevil to the precedent set by Luke Cage revealing his abilities to the whole of New York, we see all roads leading to this would-be Rome with Madame Gao leading the way.
It’s easy to see where Iron Fist can rank #4 out of the four series so far. However just because it can be ranked last, doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Sure, the fight scenes are questionably done and bring up memories of the Batman episode with Bruce Lee as Kato fighting Robin and Lee having to hold back because of Burt Ward’s lack of fighting ability which blatantly showed on camera. Obviously the 2-4 hours a day Finn spent training for the role wasn’t enough but that doesn’t make the fights any less enjoyable.
Iron Fist is a fish out of water story on many levels. The first is a man who returns home to slowly learn that his home isn’t the home he imagined it was, as time has moved onward in those missing 15 years Danny had been away. But also Danny was a fish in a strange pond during his time in the heavenly dimensional city of K’un-Lun. Again, something which justifies Danny Rand being cast as a white man, but again that casting doesn’t require any form of justification as most critics never understand the source material being adapted when these shows are produced.
Which brings us to another point…adaptation. Iron Fist is beautifully adapted from the source material in the comics. From the use of the Meachum Family to the inclusion of Colleen Wing as the Daughter of the Dragon, right down to her love for white attire. In the comics, Harold and Ward Meachum are brothers and Joy Meachum is the niece of Ward Meachum and daughter of Harold. The change of Ward becoming Harold’s son along with Joy becoming his sister made for a much better dynamic on screen. Harold was shaped into a far more superior villain than his crippled comic book counterpart could have ever hoped, who only stuck around for 4 issues of Marvel Premiere before being killed off prior to the launch of Iron Fist‘s first short-lived solo series.
While Danny isn’t a strong lead character as say Daredevil or Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, what makes him hold his own is his surrounding plot lines. From the creation of a Hand splinter group through the villain Bakuto to the heartfelt fight between himself and his best friend, Davos, who we see at the end working his way to easily becoming the Steel Serpent, which is the name of Davos’s comic book counterpart. Just one of many Easter Eggs scattered throughout the series. (Anyone catch Stan Lee in the series?)
In the end, Iron Fist was going to be a hard sell for Marvel. To begin with, the series had numerous script rewrites and at one point Marvel Television stated they had no idea in what direction to go with the character. The 1970s haven’t been around for almost 50 years now, Iron Fist is a bit late to the small screen but again that just adds to the whole ‘fish out water’ as the series itself is a bit of the same but the bottom line is Iron Fist does deliver; it was entertaining, it had balance between fighting and intrigue, and once again it gives us a great springboard for what is to come from the future of Marvel Television and Netflix with The Defenders later this year. Proving once again that Marvel Television works wonders with what they have at their disposal.
*** article was written by Christian Kern