Another year, another Netflix Marvel TV show. This time, it is the long-awaited Iron Fist. We had an opportunity to watch the first six episodes of the series. To say that they were easy to watch would be a heartbreaking understatement.
Iron Fist follows the exploits of Danny Rand (Finn Jones), the upcoming Defender and martial arts master. Like all superheroes, he has humble beginnings as the son of a billionaire who unfortunately was presumed dead after his family’s plane crashed into the Himalayas when he was ten-years old. While his parents met their demise, Rand was somehow lead to the magical lands of the mystic city of K’un-Lun.
Flash forward fifteen years, and Rand — who for some reason never bothered to phone home — randomly strolls back into New York City. Sporting the latest in boho-chic fashion and an “I’m too cool for shoes” attitude, he is expecting to take over the world… or at least his father’s company. Silly hippie.
Instead of the warm welcome our absent-minder hero expected, he soon discovers Ward and Joy Meachum (played by Tom Pelphrey and Jessica Stroup, respectively) at the helm of the company. Once Rand’s childhood besties, they are baffled and confused over seeing the unkempt and smelly looking hero. Questioning this random stranger’s claims, they decide to have Rand committed to a mental institution where he discovers his mighty magical fists of rage, the evils of Manhattan, and finding his place in the world.
Iron Fist is officially Marvel’s bastard child. The one you hide in the shadows because of the shame and embarrassment it brings you. Completely unoriginal (the pilot episode feels like a lazy plagiarized pilot episode of Arrow), there are no redeeming qualities about this show nor the main character. A masterful stroke of dullness, Rand is an asshole with a heart of narcissistic boredom who demands attention, time and even money despite not deserving the oxygen in the air. Unlike other asshole characters we’ve come to know (Tony Stark, Batman, Bernie Madoff), Rand lacks charisma, personality, or even the ability to hold an interesting conversation. He stumbles and bumbles his bare-footed way onto the screen telling unfunny jokes, flipping over cars, reminding people of who he is, (and how much he’s worth) and breaking into homes.
Are we even sure he lived with peace-loving monks?
Dealing with assholes is one thing, but Marvel tops that by having Tamara Becher pen each episode with dialogue that tortures the viewer with mindless and endless conversations. These serve no purpose other than to fill the run time and explain everything in full detail to the viewer… repeatedly.
There’s a reason why the phrase “show, don’t tell” is a rule in screenwriting. It strips away the actor’s ability to act and blocks organic progress. A quiet or bonding moment between two characters is ruined by saying every and any thought that pops into their heads. As a viewer, it strips away the magic of a scene and the cast’s possible chemistry. What’s even more heartbreaking is that Iron Fist has small pockets of an engaging story line. However, they are instantly ruined by lazy writing that refuses to delve deeper. As a result, characters are dropped by the wayside, never to be spoken of again.
While Rand is basically rendered useless, characters like Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), a dojo master with a taste for blood lust are left to pick up the pieces. While Iron Fist bathes in lackluster performances (I’m talking to you, Meachums), Wing manages to be believable, bringing in her own strengths and complexities. However, when paired with Danny, all of this is lost. Lacking chemistry and a screenwriter who cares, their friendship feels forced and awkward. Oh, how I long for Foggy and Karen.
Despite its flaws, Iron Fist manages to have decent fight scenes. A far cry from his previous work on Marco Polo and Arrow, Stunt Coordinator Brett Chan does his best with what he’s given. Unfortunately, it’s Finn who carries out these moves like a practice run in rehearsal. While the moves flow, they are performed without much care or believable strength.
Overall, Iron Fist is a dud. Without the appearances of Night Nurse or other cameos, it feels disconnected from the previous Marvel shows. While Luke Cage has Harlem, and Daredevil and Jessica Jones have Hell’s Kitchen, Danny Rand is homeless. Lacking the feel of New York, the finesse of a heartbeat, and the bravery of a true superhero, this is one Defender that should have stayed in the reject pile.