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Marvel's Iron Fist Review: It's far from perfect, but it's not horrible.
The Last Defender
Marvel's Iron Fist is the fourth in a series of comic book television shows to be released on Netflix. The show shares continuity with other previous Marvel Netflix television shows coming in right after previous Marvel Netflix show, Luke Cage. Iron Fist runs for 13 episodes and was produced by Marvel Television and ABC Studios. The cast includes Finn Jones (Danny Rand), Jessica Henwick (Colleen Wing), Tom Pelphrey (Ward Meachum), Jessica Stroup (Joy Meachum), and David Wenham (Harold Meachum). The show's protagonist Danny Rand is an expert of multiple, martial art styles and can center his chi into his fist to call upon the power of the "Iron Fist".
Over 15 years ago, Danny Rand and his parents were presumed dead after a deadly plane crash in the Himalayas. Fast forward to present day, Danny Rand mysteriously appears. The first few episodes deal with Danny and his transition back into society. Childhood friends Joy and Ward Meachum are now adults and in charge of his father's company, Rand Enterprise. Their father Harold Meachum (whom Danny also considers to be family) is dead.
The show's problem with pace, rears its ugly head within the first few episodes. Danny's transition into society is a bit sluggish. While I agree that its best for the transition to not be rushed, it takes away too much time from the Iron Fist lore. Instead we get many scenes of Joy, Ward, Harold, and their turbulent relationship with Danny. However, this is not the Meachum show. To prioritize the Meachum storyline over Danny's training in K'un-Lun is ridiculous. If Danny's training and past were more entwined in the show early on, then the poor pacing wouldn't have been so noticeable. Not many is going to notice how long it takes Danny to earn the trust of his friends again, while we're given more of a look at how his life was back in the monastery.
The Story Continued (The Hand)
On a better note, the show does get better; although problems still arise. Iron Fist seemingly picks up where the second season of Daredevil leaves off. The Hand is still a threat and still have their eyes on New York. They are the main antagonists (again) and are led by the charismatic and cunning, Madame Gao. However, this is where the disappointment lies. Instead of investing in a completely new antagonist (Steel Serpent, maybe?) from one of the Iron Fists comics, it rehashes one from another.
The Hand has forgone a different look as well. Gone are the ninjas featured in Daredevil and introduced are more conventional fighters. Unfortunately, the fighters are more like gun-toting mercenaries for hire. Which is contradictory to the show's theme of honor and code. It's also bothersome and not believable to see Danny and friends fight in enemies with guns. It would have been better for The Hand to stay the same organized crime unit of "evil" ninjas. When The Hand aren't carrying automatic weaponry, there are a few fighters who still have honor and fight with their own unique fighting styles. What makes it better, is that these fighters pose an actual threat to Danny than the rest of the group's laughable fodder.
The Characters (Danny Rand)
The Danny Rand in the Netflix series is a much different Iron Fist than in the comics. He is severely underpowered throughout most of the show. He's also too dependent on his companions. There's nothing wrong with asking for help, but he does it too often. More than any other character thus far in the Marvel television universe. He needs more confidence, power, and skill. While all this will come in time, it's easy to see why some are frustrated with the way he currently is.
The Characters (Joy, Ward, and Harold Meachum)
In what almost becomes "The Meachum Show", Iron Fists' sibling pair Joy and Ward Meachum provides the show drama and intrigue. Both are complicated and layered individuals. Joy is a strong and confident business woman who can not only handle her own but does so while retaining her humanity. To watch her navigate the more intricate dealings of the corporation is awe-inspiring. She's tough but has a sweet, kindness about her. She allows herself to be vulnerable at times and her character shines through these moments.
Ward Meachum is more tough and aggressive. He can come off as cold and distant to people, colleagues, and even his own sister. He is a business man first and a person second. His fearlessness is not only intoxicating but will cause most to despise him. Ward is very much presented as an angst, villainous-type character. He's haunted by his vices throughout the season and there is a sense that there's more to his character.
Harold Meachum is an enigma in every sense of the word. From the beginning, it is hard to get an understanding on what his true motives are or who he truly is. Does he care for Danny Rand? What about his children? Does he love them more than he loves himself? David portrays the character in a sinister way but there's much more to Harold. At best, he's neurotic and at his worst he's psychotic. The mystery that is Harold Meachum will keep you watching to the very end—for sure.
Joy and Ward Meachum's family relationship also is one of the main reasons that the series is so engaging. Essentially, the theme of the show is family. What are we willing to do for our family? Are we willing to lie to them in order to protect them? What is the price we are willing to pay? The show explores this and more. At the end of the series, some characters are better off. Some have become broken. All in the name of family.
The Characters (Colleen Wing)
Set in the Chikara Dojo in Chinatown, we meet Danny Rand's female companion Colleen Wing. She teaches her students marital arts and advises them to live by a code of honor. At first, she has a very hard exterior. It's apparent, she's not interested in being Danny's love interest. Nor, is she heavily sexualized or anything like that. The beauty of her character lies within her progression as the show moves forward. Eventually, her hard exterior goes away and we get to see her smile, have fun, friends, and love. Her skills with the sword is also second to none. She can hold her own next to the Iron Fist, The Hand, anyone.
The Characters (Davos)
From his past in K'un Lun, Davos returns to New York to confront Danny. Davos and Danny have a troubled relationship as a result of his leaving K'un-Lun. Davos is important because he allows us to see more into Danny's past at the monastery. He is also another important part of the comics that the show doesn't mess with. And when Davos is introduced, it's like the show actually remembers that its main character is the Iron Fist. It's cool to see Davos and Danny team up to fight against their sworn enemies. Also, Davos shares with us his Crane-like fighting style. One of many of the prestigious fighting styles of K'un-Lun. He'll most likely play a more important role in the show's second season.
In comparison to Daredevil and previous Marvel Netflix television shows, the combat in the Iron Fist is underwhelming. However, this isn't entirely the show's fault. The martial arts combat as shown( in the comics and as described by Danny early on) is not about aggression but about deflecting one's power against themselves. Think about it, Daredevil's combat is fast, aggressive, brutal. Danny Rand's fighting style is the complete opposite. Most of the time he waits for his opponent to attack and then he blocks or deflects. He stops his enemies with the least amount of injury needed.
On it's own, the combat is fluid, quick, and nicely choreographed. The martial arts used by the actors look carefully demonstrated and utilized. I'm not an expert by any means, but I'm sure these styles are being accurately used. Styles, poses, formations are all performed with finesse and care. Nothing looks janky on that front. Jumps are done well, but can look a bit hokey. Strikes are done well with open palms and even though sometimes the kicks don't connect (the cinematography could use some work here), it's still done with flare and looks great.
The show's hip-hop soundtrack hypes it up giving it a cool, modern atmosphere. The music creates a strange dichotomy that somehow works. The music plays when he is fighting, posing, practicing his stances, and formations. However, it is used sparingly and doesn't take away from the seriousness of the scene. The music fades in and out quickly and thankfully the songs chosen somewhat go with what's actually happening on screen. However, the music is censored and it feels weird (especially, in a Netflix series). But, I digress.
Marvel's Iron Fist when compared to others is the weakest out of the four; Overall more things could've been done better. There are many low-key inconsistencies. The action scenes do not leave an impact (except for a scene or two). And the underpowered Danny Rand, as he struggles with most of his fights doesn't help. The story focuses too much on the Meachums' and not enough on Danny. And the failed opportunity on incorporating a new antagonist from the Iron Fist comics is disappointing.
However, the show accomplishes what it sets out to do. It continues (and concludes?) the storyline of The Hand. The introduction of important characters in the Marvel Universe such as Colleen Wing, the Meachum's, Bakuto, and Davos. As well as its continuity of other guest characters from other Marvel Netflix series. And last but not least, Danny Rand (The Iron Fist) is properly introduced and given purpose. Most casual watchers will find the show to be okay. And most hardcore fans will most likely have more than a few gripes. But, Iron Fist is worth watching and experiencing. The martial arts is fascinating and the overall story has its usual twist and turns. Nothing is ever boring or unwatchable. Fans (and myself) after having watched Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage maybe set expectations a bit too high. Here's hoping an eventual second season corrects all the wrongs of the original.
Marvel's Iron Fist is currently streaming on Netflix.