'Marvel's Iron Fist' Season 1 Review

★ ★

Marvel is famous for a light-hearted spin on the superhero genre that humanizes its heroes rather than doing what DC does and turning them into overpowered gods on Earth. And that's exactly what Iron Fist fails to do.

Now before I go into the many problems of the series, it's important to point out that plenty of the supporting cast (Joy, Harold, Colleen, and Ward) were all strong additions to the MCU (even though they were poorly used). Colleen, for one, is an amazing character befitting of the main theme within the Netflix MCU series: being a regular person making a big difference.

Iron Fist makes so many of the same mistakes that Arrow does. Primarily, it takes a comedic hero and turns him into something he's not: a whiny rich guy who has anger issues and, despite years of learning not to do so, does so. If you've seen the CW series, it's hard not to draw parallels between the two, but Iron Fist feels so much more akin because of its poor characterization of Danny and its more-than-problematic plot.

Marvel's Iron Fist

When Finn Jones was announced as Iron Fist, there was an uproar because he was cast instead of an Asian actor. Like Luke Cage, Iron Fist is the result of the '70s and its problematic display of "honoring" minority cultures. While comic book purists will admire how much Jones looks the part (funnily enough, blonde comic book characters are the most often to be replaced by someone who isn't in adaptations), Jones cannot convincingly portray the character and falls into the same traps that Stephen Amell did when playing Oliver Queen. You can tell that the role is difficult for Jones because a grand majority of his time is spent attempting to find some form of subtext beneath all of what Danny says when there isn't any. Danny, as written, is a superficial character with little to feel besides "anger."

The problematic casting of Jones in the role isn't the first controversy the MCU has faced in terms of diversity. They faced the same issues with Doctor Strange when Strange and the Ancient One were cast by Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swanton, respectively. In a time when whitewashing of Asian cultures is of such attention in the media, it's a bad situation for Marvel to be placed in. However, Iron Fist goes a step further and has issues in its display of Asian culture within the show itself, reducing it to martial arts and philosophical phrases. In fact, most of the "jokes" Danny spits out are of a mixture of either one of these.

The reasons for Danny's "anger" are whatever fit the plot at the time. There's not exactly any reason why Danny should be as angry as he is until he finds out that Colleen is part of the Hand and even then it comes across as childish. Yes, Danny is an immature character but that doesn't mean that his anger should be the only thing about him that comes across as young as that. In fact, it's a little sad to see that Danny didn't explore the world as it was more. It's been 15 years since he was in New York (or, hell, Earth) and there's little to show for it.

Arrow touches upon that topic just like Iron Fist does with Davos, but both series have an issue with the characterization of their titular hero. Both characters are known for their wit and playful immaturity, but their writers took a different direction on the characters and gave them vague missions to fulfill and no motivation to be placed behind them. There isn't much of an explanation given for Danny's abandoning of his post and "answers" isn't exactly the best possible answer, ironically enough. Every other Defender deals with their own issues. Jessica is an alcoholic sex-abuse survivor, Luke was a fugitive, and Matt deals with his religious guilt, but Danny's struggle feels like it comes completely out of nowhere. Danny's struggle with his role as the Iron Fist is something that feels like it was ripped out of Daredevil.

For the most ridiculous of the Defenders heroes in terms of origin (alternate dimensionally trained martial artist with the power to channel his chi into his fist is odd as heck), the show is the most tonally serious of the four. While Daredevil and Jessica Jones are dark, both retain their humor; Iron Fist is drearily devoid of it. The only person who is able to bring in any light to the series is Claire, who is out of place in the series given how well written she is compared to others. In fact, even Iron Fist's "version" of her is far more 2D than her regular self.

The show's plot demonstrates some of the same rushed aspects that Luke Cage had, such as new villains popping up at the last minute to shake things up after the first wave of villains is over and done with. The Hand is far less intimidating in this version and given how difficult they were for Daredevil to have fought, it's disappointing to see that it's just a casual stroll in the park for the Iron Fist. The weakest portion of the series are the episodes that are clearly there to buy time rather than add actual intent. For example, Danny has a side mission where he rescues a Russian chemist to shut down the heroin operation but this leads into a three trial episode with disappointing fight sequences or an entire fight sequence with that drunk guy. Luke Cage at least had a clear storyline through and through, while Iron Fist struggles to keep the story afloat over the course of the 13-episode run.

Speaking of poor plotting, anyone know how they managed to get Gao all the way to New York?

While the main story arc of the series is a drag, the first three episodes of Danny trying to get his company back are even more redundant. Joy and Ward do things that are completely uncharacteristic for them later on in the show. First, Ward tries to have Danny killed, then he locks him in a mental institution, then works with him, and then betrays him. Yes, he has his father to blame for him having to work with Danny, but why not try offing him again after his father was killed?

The least critically praised of the MCU creations to date, Iron Fist is more than just problematic, it's a forgettable addition that could have been so much better if any effort was put into it.

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UnknownfearContributor
Mar 29, 2017 2:12AM EDT

Well, I don't disagree with a lot of what you said in the beginning, but towards the bottom 4 paragraphs I definitely don't agree.
Luke Cage did NOT have a clear storyline all the way through. In fact, the pacing on that show was insane. Episodes in the beginning, and the middle had no traces of advancing the overall plot. I do agree that some of the beginning episodes of Iron Fist where he was trying to re-situate himself back into the company were a bit redundant and that some of his side missions were a little pointless -- but not as pointless as talking in a barber shop, not even close. Again, while I don't disagree with most of what you said, I STILL managed to find Iron Fist to be my favorite of the marvel/netflix collaborations -- in spite of agreeing with many of the flaws you pointed out. It had much better pacing, and a much MUCH clearer overall plot than Jessica Jones. Yeah, Danny's motives were a bit shallow and the character was a bit 2D, but he was a man with a direction and a plan. He came back to new york and in the course of 13 episodes did exactly what he wanted to do, use the power of the Iron Fist to defeat the hand and save people. And he did lots of that. Yes, his temperment and nature kept getting him into trouble, but he embraced that trouble and fought his way to victory in truly fantastic fight scenes for television. Iron Fist may not be as emotionally deep as the other marvel series, but in its simplicity, i think it acomplishes what it set out to do, which was to be a badass, fast-paced action show with a fun premise. You're so critical!! ;___;

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