Section: ArtsMarch 24, 2017
A few weeks ago, the first reviews of “Iron Fist” were released, and they were not positive. Though critics praised other Netflix and Marvel collaborations such as “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage” and lauded “Jessica Jones,” “Iron Fist” received a much more tepid reaction. When asked about the poor response to the show, star Finn Jones said in an interview with Metro UK, “Well, I think there’s multiple factors. What I will say is these shows are not made for critics, they are first and foremost made for the fans. I also think some of the reviews we saw were seeing the show through a very specific lens, and I think when the fans of the Marvel Netflix world and fans of the comic books view the show through the lens of just wanting to enjoy a superhero show, then they will really enjoy what they see.”
The thing is, I’m one of these fans Jones is counting on. I’ve read (and really enjoyed) the Iron Fist comic books that Jones is referring to, and I love the other Marvel Netflix shows. As a fan, I can tell you that Jones is dead wrong. This show is not for the fans; this show is not for anyone. And I’m only three episodes in.
“Iron Fist” is not a good show. It’s not even a watchable show. The premise, reminiscent of a grotesque combination of “Arrow,” “Batman Begins” and “Dr. Strange,” is that the prodigal son of an affluent family returns from the mystical East (we’ll get to that issue in a second) to his native city to fight crime and take back his corporation. It doesn’t get better from there.
The first and arguably largest problem is that the main character, Danny Rand, is not compelling in any way. In those comic books that Jones was quick to mention, Iron Fist is a likeable, if somewhat aloof, businessman by day and crimefighter by night. He should be like if Batman had the sense of humor of Spider-Man or Tony Stark.
On the show, however, there’s no reason to care or get invested in Danny, and Jones is about as charismatic as Jeb Bush or a cardboard box. The audience needs to know why they should like Danny in the first place, aside from the smirk Jones gives the camera after his character has made the 10th dumb decision in an episode. Plus, three episodes in and the “hero” Danny Rand has been so self absorbed that he has forgotten to actually save anyone. What a fantastic superhero.
Not casting Jones could have solved a couple problems, actually. This show was plagued by bad word of mouth the minute Marvel chose to cast Jones, a white man, as Danny Rand, as there is a huge lack of Asian superheroes in TV or film. While Rand is white in the comic books, his entire origin is problematic in 2017.
For context, Iron Fist was originally created in the seventies, when white appropriation of Asian culture was certainly much more prevalent (but still not OK, obviously). I had read in another review (by Polygon, which I highly recommend) that there was a scene where Danny, a white man, teaches an Asian woman how to do martial arts in her own dojo. I was worried that scene wouldn’t make it into the first three episodes, but there it was, in episode three, just as bad as I was expecting. While the “white man returns from the East with ancient magic” trope is inherently bad, “Iron Fist” really works to take it to new levels.
And not only does the show promote questionable handling of Asian culture and an awful main character, “Iron Fist” lacks any fun fight sequences. After all, Marvel also makes “Daredevil,” which has the best fight choreography on TV. (Seriously, don’t get into a hallway with Daredevil. He will mess you up. It’ll look great). But no, the fight scenes are nothing but blurry movement and excessive cuts. It is the least interesting, Jason Bourne-esque direction that has been problematic in action movies and TV for the past decade. Also, there is a character on this show named Ward Meachum. Somebody actually wrote that and then it got made into a character on a television show. Ward Meachum.
It’s just a chore to watch. Each episode is about an hour, full of boring corporate maneuvering and bland characters. Had this show aired on a network, the directors would have had to cut each episode down to about 40 minutes, which I actually would have preferred. Also if this show had been on a network instead of Netflix, we would probably hear that it was canceled, a slight reparation for the three hours I have already wasted with the show. Watch “Jessica Jones” instead. Or “Daredevil.” Or “Luke Cage.” Or even “Arrow.” Take it from a fan of the source material and just about everything else Marvel: You’ll want to stay away from “Iron Fist.” Fan or not, you deserve better.