Film Critique: Marvel's Iron Fist
Spoiler Free Review
Marvel's Iron Fist on Netflix came out last week, and much like with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, I binged the whole series. Iron Fist is one of my favorite Marvel Characters, due to my interest in eastern philosophy and martial arts, so I was excited when it finally came out, but unlike his Kung Fu peer, Daredevil, you're going to have to suspend your realism a little longer during the fight scenes, which are more wushu based than practical based. Danny Rand aka The Iron Fist (Finn Jones) brings an interesting take on a primary hero, being a character that was taken from his life when he was just a little boy, and raised with strict martial arts upbringing in the mystic city of K'un Lun, one of the 7 Cities of Heaven. This is important because there are a lot of times where you will go "oh come on, no one's that dumb" in certain moments, but this is more like when Thor came to Earth for the first time, except you have a guy who is a super hero who's been out of the modern world for 15 years, and has the idealistic views of a 10 year old boy with the black and white views of a militaristic up bringing. Some deep breathes may be needed.
The character development, for the first time, was better in the auxiliary characters than that of the main character, particularly in the case of Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) and Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey), particularly the latter who plays a complex and ever evolving character, who you can't quite get a real grip on til the end, which makes for a fun, grey area character.
Colleen Wing, a hard nosed karate instructor, who mistakes the Iron Fist as a hobo, also has more than one side to her, creating a unique female character in the Marvel series who isn't starting off as a damsel in distress, and really doesn't require saving other than being kind of stuck up for the first half of the series. We have other returning characters that continue to connect the Big Apple Marvel heroes, such as Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss), Claire Temple aka Night Nurse (Rosario Dawson) and the enigmatic Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) who is still by far my favorite Marvel Netflix character, and most likely our Big Bad for the Netflix Marvel story arc. There are several hints that Madame Gao is immortal and not of this plane, but her connection to Marvel Comic sources is still iffy at best, making her unique in that she may be an amalgamation of characters from the comic realm, or she may be an entirely new entity on her own. Which is why she's my favorite character so far.
The show's tone is not quite as consistent when compared to the other Marvel Netflix versions. It's heavy influence from kung fu and wuxia media is apparent, but with a little too much martial arts seriousness. We don't have the typical break from the plot with gags or jokes like in our other three Marvel series, and some of the plot lines appear to be half filled concepts, with one point in the story being Danny Rand literally saying "It’s a long way to China, I’ll figure it out before we get there!" Some have complained the overall tone is too dark for a campy kung fu show, but there are somethings going on in the back (you'll have to see for yourself) that are pretty dark. My real issue is just the lack of a break from being in a comic book show, that nearly all other Marvel incarnations have to remind the audience 'hey, don't take this so seriously, it's a comic book show, remember?' and have a little fun at it's own expense.
Overall, I would give Marvel's Iron Fist a 3.5/5 stars, it's not a flop, but it's not quite where Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, which hit deep on some real life issues and not just fictional comic book story lines, which is why we like comics. Luke Cage hit on the issue of Race, Jessica Jones hit on the issue of abuse and rape, Daredevil hit on shadow corporations creating policy, and Iron Fist just doesn't really have a theme to it, other than Danny Rand trying to get his company and name back, aka Batman Begins. Despite this, there's still potential for some major character overhauls and more complex relationships based on some cliff hanger moments in the last episode, in addition to Danny's black and white view on the world coming into conflict with his more nuanced world viewed peers in the upcoming Defenders series. Imagine it: an altruistic, starry eyed billionaire trying to explain how the world works to a penniless and blind lawyer working for the disenfranchised, a woman who's overcoming rape and trauma, and a black man who experienced new age Tuskegee style experimentation, in addition to growing up in the ghetto.
I'm excited for the multifaceted political, identity politics, left vs right butt hurt that's already brewing.