Cast: Finn Jones, David Wenham, Colleen Wing
(The author was given six episodes in screeners for this review)
Remember the good ol’ times, fellow Marvel fans? The times when we would be amused at them lowlife DC fans at their attempt to tell us that they are better than us?
They would struggle to defend the string of disappointing films coming out of their stable of late, and we would clinch the argument by assembling the Avengers on them. If they still dared to fight for the candy floss served in the name of superhero TV shows, we were ready with our masterstroke. The treasure that were the Netflix Marvel shows: Daredevil (seasons 1 and 2), Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. There was no escaping the nasty blow of crushing defeat.
However, it is time to bid farewell to that sweet joy of victory over DC. It is time to accept Iron Fist, the new bumbling idiot of a superhero we are saddled with. The streak is ended, the shark been jumped. Today, we sing a requiem.
Iron Fist, the fourth and the last piece before the Defenders, tells the frustrating story of Danny Rand (played by Game of Thrones’ Finn Jones) -- or at least its attempts to do so in between a million flashbacks on how his parents were killed in a plane crash in the Himalayas while he survived narrowly.
He was taken in by monks who taught him how to be a warrior, and harness his chi into a golden fist to punch people and break hospital doors with. He becomes the Iron Fist, the only one who could defeat the Hand (the bad guys). His parents owned a big, successful company in New York but their death left it all in the hands of their business partner Harold Meachum (David Wenham), our scarridy little villain who loves to play dead.
Danny returns to New York 15 years later, wanting to reclaim his life and identity. His frenemies, Meachum’s son Ward (Tom Pelphrey) and daughter Joy (Jessica Stroup), don’t make things easy for him. Of course, he could have simply gone to the police rather than put a gun to Ward’s head. But then, we shouldn’t nitpick on logic with this one.
I could talk about the whitewashing on the show that has haunted it since the day it was announced, but that would mean drowning in the sea of uncomfortable cultural appropriation. Danny, who although always was a white American even in the comics, embarrassingly lectures Asians on martial arts. For a show that takes so much from an Asian culture, it’s a pity that the most important Asian character -- Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing -- is just an aide to the protagonist. Her hobbies include running a dojo in New York and casually getting taught about her own culture by the white guy. Her character runs rudderless for most of the show. One moment she is asking Danny to get out, the next she is involved in an unprovoked cage fight.
She isn’t the only one, though. Even if you were to ignore the lacklustre story for a moment, the lazily written characters don’t let you feel any good. Danny is clever enough to hang on to a ceiling to escape the baddies, but he is also daft enough to talk about other dimensions, being the chosen one, harnessing his chi to create a fist of iron at will to a psychiatrist who already thinks he is a little cuckoo in the head.
The villains also take pleasure in confusing you. Meachum Sr turns from intimidating his assistant to wetting his pants at Madame Gao’s threatening voice. His daughter Joy cries at receiving candies from Danny but is OK with asking him to conveniently forget his identity. Absolutely nothing seems to work for this show.
Coming back to action. If your title is Iron Fist, the least we expect from you is some good, power-packed, well-choreographed action. But even that is asking too much from the show. The movements look so lazy, so weak. The awkwardness makes it look more Power Rangers than Daredevil. So, so much more Power Rangers.
However, is it bad enough to throw us off Defenders? Could Jessica, Luke and Matt not make up for the Ringo Star that is Danny to their Beatles? No. Not for me. I don’t love anything enough to put myself through the rest of the episodes.
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