Marvel’s Iron Fist Doesn’t Pack Enough Punch
Marvel is notoriously well known for putting out consistent quality entertainment since the Marvel Studios renaissance in 2008 with Iron Man. A cinematic universe and a similar “Netflix Universe” later, Marvel has been able to achieve the impossible. Creating a more family friendly film universe, as well as a gritty unrated streaming one, simultaneously, taking place within the same world. Iron Fist is the last series before all of our heroes in Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage comes together to form The Defenders.
Iron Fist is the story of Danny Rand (Finn Jones) who returns to New York City after being presumed dead for over 15 years. He is the sole survivor of a plane crash, which took the life of his mother and father. After crashing, Rand is taken in by Buddhist Monks and is taught martial arts in the mysterious realm called K’un-Lun. Danny is from a very wealthy family; he’s a billionaire. However, he’s been in this world of K’un-Lun for a long time where he’s learned kung fu and Buddhist philosophy. Upon returning to New York, Rand must fight against the criminal element corrupting the world around him with his incredible kung-fu mastery and ability to summon the awesome power of the fiery Iron Fist.
Statistically speaking, this was bound to happen, a flop in the Marvel Universe. Going by only six episodes (which I was graciously given the opportunity to review) Iron Fist feels like it would be more at home on ABC than the gritty Netflix universe surrounding the character. The first few episodes are a struggle to get through, mostly due to the stale narrative and mostly wooden performances.
Right away, the tone feels off when compared to its predecessors. A uncharismatic Danny Rand returns to his families company, Rand Enterprises, looking like a washed up boy band member from the 90’s. The technological advancement of the building itself excites Danny, as he looks in awe and remembers how he used to ride his skateboard around the lobby. After being denied at the door, we witness some of the worst fight choreography I have seen since Taken 3. Security guards come at the shoeless presumed dead billionaire, and I almost couldn’t believe how unexciting the fight scene was.
The shaky camera, the lack of effort by the actors involved, Hell, not even the slightest sound effect of a punch landing can be heard. This would be passable if we weren’t treated to the bare-knuckled, one take fight sequences of the previous Netflix series before it. You can’t take one universal tone across three different shows and suddenly change it up for the fourth, that’s not how it works. I blame this on multiple things. The direction feels rushed, unpolished and generic, and whoever the casting director is for this series should be fired.
Finn Jones tries his hardest, and I must say, as the series continued he did feel more solid in the role. For someone who is supposed to be at perpetual peace and lives a Buddhist lifestyle, Rand complains an awful lot about pretty much everything. He comes off more so like a child trying to get his favorite toy back from his old best friend, than someone who has the power of “The Iron Fist.” We are supposed to care about his past relationship with Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey) and his sister, Joy (Jessica Stroup). Unfortunately, the chemistry just isn’t there. The weakest link of the cast is without question Pelphrey’s stoic Ward, the now co-owner of Rand Enterprises. Not only is his presence just an unwelcomed distraction, but his performance is also just flat out dull. You know that character that comes on screen that you just sigh at the mere presence of them? Yeah, that’s Ward Meachum.
Jessica Stroup does fair better than most of the cast, playing mostly both sides, not entirely “good or evil.” She wants to reconnect with Danny discreetly, and if the chemistry between both of them were at least somewhat believable, it could’ve been the saving grace for this show. Speaking of good and evil, after six episodes there isn’t a clear villain yet. We are supposed to believe it is “the hand,” but the lack of presence isn’t formidable enough to establish that just yet. In case you were wondering, “The Hand” is an underground order of mystic ninjas, (also seen in Daredevil) who are looking to overtake the underground fighting scene in NYC for, some reason?
The other potential villain is Harold Meachum, who is the ex-best friend of Danny’s now deceased father. For the sake of avoiding any and all spoilers, Harold has a bit of a backstory of his own. It’s a bit ridiculous, but if I’m honest, I had fun watching his character’s arc thus far and excited to see if it pans out to where I think it may. David Wenham appears to be having a good time playing the self-seriousness, though somewhat level headed Harold. He’s one of the main reasons that kept me going throughout the first six episodes and a standout in the cast for sure.
The returning cast of Jerri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) are welcomed with high praise. Both seamlessly fit together in this different world, while also maintaining the same attitudes and nuances which made them such likable presences in the first place. Dawson in particular, (who is the Agent Coulson of the Netflix Universe) has a uniquely great story arc with Jessica Henwick’s dojo owner Colleen Wing. The female characters all around are what make Iron Fist watchable. Without these characters, it would just be about a wealthy kid coming back from the dead pleading to take back his father’s company, who occasionally uses Kung-Fu.
There is more to Danny’s backstory that is to be unveiled and his reasoning for leaving K’un-Lun is one of the only mysteries worth sticking around for. I will say that out of all six episodes I’ve seen, the sixth was the strongest of them all, actually having some semblance of a story start to form. A series is hard to judge with only watching a portion of what showrunner, Scott Buck set out to tell. However, unless Iron Fist can pull a complete turnaround, this is the most disappointing of the Marvel Netflix series thus far, and I hope to God that the highly anticipated Defenders series is nothing like it.
Iron First season 1 will be available to stream on Netflix on March 17th, 2017