Breaking down Marvel’s Iron Fist… with plenty of SPOILERS
The Snooty Ushers are a pretty positive bunch. We like to see the good in everything. We also know the pain of having a horrible moment stick in your mind from a perfectly decent film. Sometimes, writing a simple review isn’t enough. Well, this is the column that will allow us to praise what we like, and vent about what we didn’t.
So, it has been a while since we busted out this column. Last summer saw a couple of blockbusters that we decided to break down in some detail, but since then we’ve not really felt the need to return to this concept. The good films have been good and the bad films have been bad. However, last month Netflix released Marvel’s Iron Fist, and it gives us no pleasure to report that it is a step below the previous entries in the Marvel Defenders series. However, there were still some good points that might get missed in the mixed to poor reviews that have been around. So, for the first time, we are putting a whole season under the microscope as we look at the Good, the Bad, and The Ugly of Marvel’s Iron Fist. Expect SPOILERS!
Hit the theme tune and let’s get to it!
Carrie-Anne Moss is just on another level from the rest of the cast and completely lights up the screen the minute she shows up.
Madame Gao – I just love her. She is just so cool and powerful even though she is just this tiny old Asian woman. She never panics and can really play with people. Gao is always in control and its fantastic. I can’t wait to see her flex her muscles as we have only seen her pulling strings. The closest we came was when she slapped Danny. The adaptation of her is so much better than in the comics. Is she leader of the Hand or is there others?
Colleen Wing– Jessica Henwick is standout performer, strong, passionate and also very good at pulling off a martial arts master. The fact she was trained in the ways of bushido is great. Although I hate how she is part of the hand, and feel its unnecessary she plays the emotional rollercoaster perfectly. I would happily watch a show with her and Claire as the leads.
Rosario Dawson – Speaking of Claire Temple, another great turn from Rosario Dawson props up the middle of the season. I think it was telling that Iron Fist leaned quite heavily on her when the other shows have used her for a few episodes then been happyto move on.
The scenes with Davos and Danny –These are all great, mainly because it brings the show back to its core themes. Since Davos is the Steel serpent and probably Iron Fists mortal enemy this also builds some great foreshadowing and character work. Sacha Dhawan is so intense as Davos and really brings the fury and silent rage. It is also the only time when Danny Rand doesn’t look like a complete wuss.
Lewis Tan as Zhou Cheng – The “sworn protector of the Hand” plays a really small role but could be Danny Rand’s most interesting fight (which brings to mind the “drunk master” fights that are a staple of old Kung Fu). He goads Danny verbally, resulting in Danny releasing his anger on Cheng’s face. With his fists.
Ward Meachum – There are some issues with the Meachums and the Rand company. Their skills – and ages – don’t seem to match up with being high powered executives, even if they have been guided and helped along the way. But about half way through the series, the bullying, cold hearted business man Ward shows some vulnerability and has dreams beyond the corporate world, which was a nice wrinkle in what I thought was going to be a cliched character. I was glad for it, even though I found it hard to get Entourage’s Ari Gold out of my head. His showing the middle finger around the office trying to find the hidden cameras.
The Chikara Dojo – I mean, they have to know, right?
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“Is there any vanilla?” – is a great line that belongs in a much better setting.
Differences from the source material – In the comics the Iron Fist is not the “sworn enemy of the Hand” neither is Crane Mother Madame Gao/ Hand connection, However I understand why they have done this as it helps draw together plot elements from season 1 and 2 of Daredevil and allow us to become familiar with the Hands practices ready for the Defenders….you will be sick of hearing me say this but I very firmly feel, the hand will be the first opponents of the Defenders.
Colleen Wing siding with the Hand or at least a branch of it. Her loyalty to Bakuto notwithstanding is a ridiculous and convoluted move to shoe horn in more drama and force conflict that was unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong Colleen was amazing and Jessica really nailed what she would be like. It’s a shame they felt they needed this extra reveal.
The Meachums. I know they are trying but god help me its like watching Dallas or some bad soap opera with business suits. The acting is stupid and their side story just drags down the plot. Iron Fist has less to do with them in the middle of the series and its very much just them dealing with their baggage. The worst offender is Joy Meachum played by Jessica Stroup. No one cares about the almost incesty sibling relationship. The evil absentee abusive father and all the emotional knots it brings.
The setting– These heroes are supposed to be Street Level heroes. Granted Danny has a huge company in the comics but most of his time is spent with Luke Cage in Harlem or training kids in his dojo with his Girlfriend/fiance Misty Knight. This show is very much set in sky rises and office building, Manhattan apartments. The only real street place is the Colleen’s Chikara Dojo.
Iron fist himself was conceived in the roots of Martial Arts. Yet hardly any of that comes through. I want K’un L’un, Shou-Lou, Kung Fu, more ninjas, more Yakuza, more Davos . The best moments and episodes are those where they are escaping Bakuto’s compound(Black Tiger Steals Heart), fighting the three tier challenge to save Sabina (Immortal Emerges from Cave) and when he is hunting down Goa in China.
what we get are boardroom meetings and heavy handed dialogue between a seriosuly dysfunctional family of bad actors. The ultimate showdown is with a business man on the roof of a skyscraper…..this is an Immortal fucking Weapon, a mystical warrior who is supposed to be a master of Martial Arts and he is FIGHTING ON A ROOFTOP WITH METAL BARS AND LOSING.
Danny Rand is a total Pussy – This infuriates me to no end. The lead character is first shown to be an emotional, sensitive, hippie. Then he is shown to be a gullible tool on top of this. Whats worse he is always uncertain of who he is, who he wants to be, what he should do Danny just careens from mishap to disaster. He is so full of angst, uncertainty and basically just
Its ridiculous the star of the show is outshined by his love interest and three other supporting cast. When I am more interested in Colleen than Danny you have failed. The other three Netflix Heroes, albeit they had demons to face, but were engaging, enthralling and could handle whatever came along. Finn Jones was not a brilliant casting choice, he is better than the Meachums but only just. He cant pull of the bigger emotional moments and therefore the scenes lose their impact.
The Martial Arts/Action when present, while it is great to see, it isn’t actually that great – Sadly, Iron Fist’s action completely lacks soul, which is sort of impressive for a show about a protagonist defined by the fact that he’s one of the greatest martial artists in the Marvel universe. This is part to Finn Jones having to learn Kung Fu. Much of the Choreography is very slow and lacks urgency and power, its very much awkward choreography what you would expect from a low budget Martial arts movie.
Neither Luke Cage or Jessica Jones had particularly elaborate or standout action, but they at least had the story-driven excuse of their protagonists being super powered (Key Note Danny has the Iron Fist, technically a power at least in this context) to the point that they didn’t really have to care about fancy fights—they were blunt, brutal forces of nature, not intricate masters of combat.
There’s an entirely different expectation for a character like Iron Fist that the show fails to live up to, and even fails to compare to Daredevil which had some lavishly brutal fight scenes and some pretty explosive action and violence
The limitations of a Netflix budget – I understand that you can’t show a mythical/mountain city like K’un-Lun on the small screen, so maybe it was the right choice to have it only mentioned and shown in brief flashbacks. But the Rand company and building is very sparsely populated which feels very unreal. It reminds me of the show Suits, which sometimes falls into the same trap of seemingly only having a handful of employees and one client a week. There’s also the issue of a very unconvincing trip to China, which seems to have involved putting some Mandarin language signs on a plain brick building. It seems like the directors couldn’t match the ambition of the scripts on these occasions.
And that is our column! Any suggestions for any films – new or old – for us to give The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly treatment, let us know!
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.