It’s the “swing and a miss” that Marvel was bound to have eventually.
Suspense! Intrigue! Romance! Kung-fu (or is it karate?)! Iron Fist had one out of four of these in spades.
A SWING AND A MISS
I am a huge fan of all the Marvel Netflix series, so much so that I took the time to break down the stats of how much they blow DC out of the water when it comes to the small screen. Now in the past, I have at least known something about the superhero being featured. I had either read a comic book, seen an older version of a movie, or at least did some research ahead of time. I came into this show completely blind. I knew essentially nothing about the story of Iron Fist, who any of the characters were, nothing at all. Lucky for me, this show provided me with a lot of exposition.
Unlucky for me, that’s pretty much all the show provided for the first 10 out of 13 episodes in season 1.
To say that this show had a slow build was an understatement.
We begin with what was quite frankly my favorite opening credit theme of all Marvel Netflix shows so far. The animation was phenomenal and it sucked me right in.
We then meet Danny Rand, who has seemingly returned from the dead 15 years after his family went down in their private plane in the Himalayas. His father was Wendell Rand, who started Rand Enterprises with his best friend Harold Meachum. Danny is now the majority shareholder of Rand, and returns to New York from Asia to find that Harold has passed and his children, Joy and Ward, are now running Rand. Danny is immediately out of place and unwelcome. Ward has never liked him and always bullied him (mainly because Danny and Wendell had a healthy father/son relationship and Ward and Harold did not). Joy feels betrayed: Danny was her best friend, and he remained hidden for 15 years, letting everyone think he is dead. Now he is back and kind of expects everyone to welcome him with open arms, like they always used to, but New York is not the same as he remembers.
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We find out that Danny has spent the last 15 years in a mystical monastery in Asia called K’un-lun, learning martial arts from the monks who rescued him after he survived the crash. During his training he acquired special powers, namely, the Iron Fist. And he is the “sworn enemy of the hand”, which, if you remember, was the dark cloud hanging over everything in Daredevil Season 2.
One plus side of this very slow moving story is we get a much deeper and more detailed look into who The Hand actually are, how they operate, and why they seem to keep popping up all over New York. We learn how they factor into the wider Marvel Universe, and how everything is connected.
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As the plot trudged on, I found myself getting very impatient and very confused at the same time. For a storyline that was so dragged out, it was surprisingly difficult to follow. I found myself getting bored and irritated and turning it off to watch something else, whereas with past Marvel shows, I have been glued to my screen. Eventually, I was glad I kept watching, as the last 2 episodes finally gave me something to work with. We finally got to the point we had been driving towards for so long. Now yes, normally the point is to build and build throughout the season to get to a final climax. But with a plot as slow moving as this, I found myself honestly just pleading to get to the end. Not out of suspense, but out of impatience.
The fight choreography in this show could have been interesting to watch (a lot more fluidity due to the theme of martial arts rather than just superhero punching), but there was honestly too much of it. The fight sequences dragged on far too long in most instances and had so many camera cuts it was hard to follow the action. During one 40-ish second fight sequence, the camera cut 56 times.
On the other hand, the casting of this show was on par with all other Marvel Netflix shows. Finn Jones delivered a sweet, strong, youthful Danny Rand, a young man plucked from his ordinary life and now trying to find his way back into it. In fact, Claire (the nurse who continues to get sucked into these superheroes lives, played by the GLORIOUS Rosario Dawson) tells Danny that every other person with “special abilities” that she has crossed paths with were dark, tortured people, but Danny was different. Danny has a sweetness about him that she worries he will lose.
Tom Pelphery tackled the complicated character of Ward Meachum with ease. An angry, tortured man who in many ways is still a child, Ward walks into a room with and air of “I may shake your hand, or I may stab you in the heart-literally.” He was delightfully creepy, but not quite a villain. More like a man who has everything to lose but behaves the exact opposite.
Onto the ladies. Jessica Henwick plays Colleen Wing, a fierce and feisty Kung-Fu instructor who owns her own dojo, where she teaches discipline and honor to troubled kids through martial arts. She is a classic Marvel heroine-smart, strong, bold and unafraid to say what she thinks. She herself was “saved” through martial arts, and is passionate about using her skills to help others. She starts off similar to Claire-very reluctant to get involved, but incapable of squashing her need to help other people.
Joy Meachum was a bit of an enigma. She is the younger sister of Ward and was Danny’s closest friend as a child. She is still grieving over her father’s death 12 years later, and is doing everything she can to live up to his legacy. Played by Jessica Stroup, Joy is portrayed as a kind young woman who wants to make everyone happy, but one whose patience is wearing thin. She wants to make her own mark on the world, and can’t seem to figure out if Rand will help her or hurt her in that quest. The audience spends a lot of time trying to figure out if they can trust her or not. How much of what she does is for the betterment of others, and how much is self serving. Is she smarter than we think she is?
Overall, this show was a bit of a flop for me. The final episode gave me hope for an improved second season, and the casting and characters were spot on. But whether it was the result of poor directing or writing, the flow of the show seemed awkward, slow, and a bit unorganized. I am hoping that now that we have hit our inciting incident (fancy theater word for “important event that tips us into the main conflict of the story), we can move past this painful drudge of exposition and move forward.
+Casting was excellent
+Characters were well written
+Break from the norm as far as fight choreography goes
-Almost unbearably slow pacing
-Weird, sloppy editing on fight sequences, ruining the choreography
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