Marvel sure has been raking it in when it comes to both money and popularity, from it’s ever expanding Cinematic Universe which continues to knock out the box office to its classic comic book lines that have been having a bit of an overhaul. There’s another platform that Marvel has been triumphing in lately though, Netflix.
Marvel’s Netflix series were a big part of the online service’s quick rise to mainstream popularity, and they have become some of its highest rated and watched series. It’s not surprising either since Marvel’s Netflix series such as Daredevil or Jessica Jones tend to tackle broader and more serious themes than the building destroying, explosion-ridden movies made for general audiences.
Not everything is perfect though, while well-received Marvel’s series can still receive some criticism (usually in regards to how its series are paced); things weren’t nearly that simple when it came time for Iron Fist, Marvel’s fourth series that focuses on the last member of the elusive Defenders that the company has been building up.
Iron Fist, like all of Marvel’s properties, is based on the comic character of the same name (created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane). The story is about Danny Rand (played by Finn Jones), the heir to the prestigious Rand Company who, after 15 years of being missing, returns with a new outlook on life and proficiency in martial arts. All of this doesn’t sit well with his childhood friends, children of Rand’s co-founder and who inherited the company after both Danny’s and their father died.
Besides worrying about recovering the company that rightfully belongs to him Danny also holds a deeper secret. During the 15 years after the plane crash that took his parents’ life and left him stranded in the Himalayas, Danny entered an ancient secret society called Kun-Lun, which specialises in training monks and prospects in the art of combat. Danny himself has received the title of the Iron Fist, the defender of Kun-Lun in charge of vanquishing its enemies.
What ensues is a series where Danny has to navigate through New York, trying to figure out who he could trust as well as his role now that he has decided to pick up his life in the normal world instead of staying in Kun-Lun. Throughout the story, to his aid comes Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwik), a Japanese swordswoman who has to help him fight against the underground organisation called The Hand.
That’s the basic gist of the story, and while it does sound a bit generic (rich superheroes are kind of antiquated at this point) it shouldn’t cause any problems right? At least that’s what Marvel thought. Pretty much as soon as the series was announced problems started to arise. First of all was the fact that Iron Fist was a relatively lesser-known hero at the time and that other heroic characters should’ve been picked to fill the final role in the Defenders.
The second issue is a bit more complicated. The Iron Fist is coming out at a time where people are talking about how multiple cultures are appropriated and used by movies and other fictional stories simply as ways to justify a story. This tends to be the case with Asian culture which usually gets reduced to magical or fantastical arts that exist for the main character (usually white) to master. Marvel itself had already gone through a similar case with Doctor Strange’s root in Buddhism and how it used it as a base for creating a new type of magical arts.
Because of that, people had hope that maybe Marvel would spice things up with the Iron Fist show by either changing Danny’s ethnicity to one that most closely resembled the culture the show was diving into, or that it would focus on an entirely different character altogether.
Of course, that wasn’t the case, and it led to an increase in tension between central star Finn Jones and audiences before the show even came out. All of this was fueled by the fact that critics who got an early screening of the first six episodes commented on them being slow, dull and generic.
But all of that is in the past right? What matters is how the series holds up now that it’s out and the answer to that is that it’s certainly interesting. It wasn’t able to adequately fend off criticism against cultural appropriation as many wished, in fact, it revels in the clichés of ancient martial arts and whatnot, from hidden ninjas to Chinese drug lords.
Iron Fist, in a way, tries to be a strange homage to old martial arts movies, but it ends up falling short by relying too much on shaky cam for its action sequence and simple battle choreography, with only a few of the fights (of which there are many) standing out.
The rest of the story and characters can be summed up in a similar way. While there are some interesting characters such as Colleen and Joy (Danny’s cousin played by Jessica Stroup) most of the main cast falls either flat on expectations or tries too hard at playing their roles. There exceptions being characters such as Claire (played by Rosario Dawson) and the villain Madame Gao (played by Wai Ching Ho), but considering they are returning characters from past Marvel series, that fact is understandable.
The series does manage to pick up in its final act (which is weird since most Marvel series tend to drag during those) and it does have some interesting themes, such as dealing with trauma and anger. Unfortunately, this all happen sporadically and while it helps gives the characters more depth, it’s not something that other series and even movies haven’t touched upon before.
That being said, Iron Fist isn’t outright wrong, it just falls short when compared to the rest of Marvel’s pantheon of superhero series. It works great as a lead-in for the Defenders, but it doesn’t stand out so well on its own, even its last minute hook for a second season feels like something that was tacked on an already completed story just to show us that there would be a second season.
Either way, it’s still better to give it a look for yourself if you’re curious, whether you want to see just how it stands to other shows or want to look at cool martial arts fight it’s still something you should give a shot too.Tags: entertainment iron fist marvel netflix tv series