There’s been a surprising amount of cyber ink spilled about Netflix’s Iron Fist so… yeah, I’m going to spill some more. But before I really begin:
SPOILER (AND NERD) ALERT!
Iron Fist is a perfectly fine show on Netflix, the 4th in the line of Marvel “Super”hero TV shows on the network and the one which was in the least envious position of being the last solo run before the much talked-about “Defenders” series which will include all four. In it, Finn Jones, ably portraying Danny Rand, returns to the life and inheritance of a billionaire after being thought dead for 15 years. In the interim, he has learned all martial arts taught in the ‘unknown’ Chinese city of K’unn L’unn.
Far Fetched? Dude, it’s modeled after a Marvel Comic book first debuting in the 70’s, along with one of the most garish costumes you’ve ever seen. Seriously, look it up. It’s awful in the best possible way.
All that stated, I will be the first to say there are some definite issues which faced Iron Fist and prevented it from being far more loved.
The first is a whole lot of people up in arms that Danny Rand is white. I don’t mean to be a spoiler, but Danny Rand _IS_ white. That was the whole point of the character. He was an outsider in K’unn L’unn which already made him an outcast in that city in and his training, so he fought uphill there. Then coming back as a warrior monk to modern day New York and becoming a billionaire further ostracized him from his contemporaries. He was an outsider both at home and away. I won’t say that making him Asian would have been better or worse. I’m just going to say that Danny Rand, as he was written, is white specifically to address the outsider nature of the character in all situations.
Second, the fight scenes are very different than we’re used to seeing as of late. Kung Fu, Jujutsu (not to be confused with Jiu Jitsu, or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), and Aikido are all incredibly different in both intention and visualization than the martial arts we’re used to seeing portrayed. Daredevil was a blend of Eskrima, Boxing, Krav Maga, a little Capoeria, and Muay Thai blended into create an incredibly gritty, “realistic” fighting style for the show. Luke Cage was very basic street fighting, but often times very little technique at all as you’d expect from a man who has unbreakable tissue on his body and unrivaled strength (sans the Incredible Hulk). Jessica Jones rarely fought and when she did it was often a simple slap that would nearly kill people. So seeing a man hitting a lotus kick or tiger claw to an enemy looks campy… but folks it’s real technique. I can’t speak to its efficacy but it isn’t the point. The point it it just doesn’t LOOK like you’re used to. The same case with Aikido. Heavily based on wrist locks and arm throws, it looks disjointed (pardon the pun) and odd when placed in the same scene as basic wrestling. It doesn’t make it any less a martial art… it just looks different.
All those points included, I readily give MAJOR credit to Iron Fist for the incorporation of Drunken Boxing into a scene. It was well done and I felt Jackie Chan would be proud.
Third, It was using plot points from Daredevil rather than create it’s own mythos, so it was immediately behind the eight ball in terms of expectations. Daredevil is very widely loved, and when they introduced the Hand, it was after their universe had already been meticulously created and slowly crafted.
Iron Fist, however, plunged us directly into the Iron Fist vs. Hand idea without the slightest understanding of why we should really care. What did the Hand want in K’unn L’unn? Why were the Iron Fists the good guys? What does this mean to the world at large?
None of those questions were well answered and the show seemed somewhat less urgent. In fact, I started calling it Daredevil-Lite for these exact reasons.
The pacing of the show showed that they seemed to want to craft the world around the Hand narrative, but that should have been done first with the Hand explanations coming after. It’s one of the reasons the show seemed to drag along at times.
Finally, the grossly inflated expectations on the show after following Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, all of which greatly exceeded somewhat low expectations placed on them. Each benefited from people not understanding what to expect. Iron Fist was painted into a corner and failed in many eyes because people “knew” what to expect and simply didn’t get it. Which, if you’ve ever been the victim of unreasonable expectations, you know isn’t fair. If Iron Fist came out first we’d be reading reports of “Unexpected hit from Marvel” rather than “Disappointing offering from Marvel,” and “Marvel’s first miss.”
Iron Fist is worth your time. I’d even suggest watching it FIRST if you’ve never watched any of the Marvel franchise Netflix shows before. Give it a chance, open your mind, and relax:
Iron Fist shall succeed – because, he always has.