‘IRON FIST’ REVIEW: THE STRUGGLE IS NOT REAL

Originally published on iDigitalTimes March 20, 2017.

If you’re looking for shock value, Iron Fist does not have it. Netflix and Marvel have turned an interesting superhero into a basic bro. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch.

Have you seen Arrow? Do you like shows where you don’t have to think? Do you like drama more than action?  If your answers are no, yes, or yes, you’ll probably like Iron Fist more than Jessica Jones and maybe even Luke Cage. (Warning: this article will contain light spoilers throughout.)

While it’s fair to call Iron Fist the worst Marvel show on Netflix, its low points were just as low as moments in Daredevil, generally seen as the best series Marvel offers. What’s particularly bothersome about Iron Fist, though, is there’s no struggle. While the series becomes undeniably enjoyable by episode 8, by omitting flashbacks and backstory, Danny gives us no proof of character — no reason to be invested in his journey.

Jessica Jones had flaws, too.  Long stretches of meaningless dialogue and a plot that was so serious, impactful and compelling it was hard to watch. While Luke Cage had villain problems, Mahershala Ali, Theo Rossi, Alfre Woodard and Erik LaRay Harvey helped set the series apart from its siblings with bold narrative and character development. Marvel-Netflix always does a great job in taking itself too seriously, and Iron Fist is no exception, unfortunately with little payoff. Just give us the damn dragon a green costume already! Fuck.

The first thing you’ll notice about Iron Fist are its underwhelming fight scenes. If you’re looking for ‘wow’ moments, go watch Daredevil kick ass (or get his ass kicked) because Danny Rand doesn’t do either very well. There were five good fight scenes out of 13 hours of footage.

Then there’s Danny’s origins. We get the same dreary origin story over and over — a plane crashed, parents died, monks save the day, white kid studies martial arts, comes back to rich life. The problem is we don’t actually see any of that. By episode 5, you’re going to enjoy Harold, Joy, Ward and Colleen. On the other hand, you’ll absolutely hate Danny. He’s incredibly boring.He lacks a compelling story. But you’re going to hate Harold, Joy, and Ward by the end because you’ve had enough of their stupid family drama. By then, Danny will start to grow on you as his character gets more dynamic and interesting people, like Bakuto and Davos, come into his life.

Colleen Wing is the one consistent, good thing about Iron Fist. Her fight scenes are natural, her character is genuine and her plot twist is organic. Only her romantic relationship with Danny felt  forced. She has great chemistry with Claire Temple, foreshadowing an awesome team-up with Misty Knight in The Defenders, but Claire’s role here feels awkward and out of place. They could have easily eliminated Claire’s Night Nurse role and introduced Bakuto earlier to stitch up Iron Fist when he gets hurt.

Madame Gao is a compelling villain, we’ve known this since Daredevil . She lurks cautiously and always has the best lines. But with dozens of hours of screentime across two series you’d think, we’d have more answers than we do. Sure, we have an idea about what she’s up to, but her involvement (and noninvolvement) with The Hand has been dragged out for too long. The Defenders is expected to clear that up, but still, some sort of resolution at the end of Iron Fist would have been nice. Whether it be the reveal of Gao’s true identity, the name of her special faction of The Hand, why she’s so interested in powered individuals, where she’s from … something. We needed to make all that time spent worth it.

Now let’s get to the nitty gritty. The Iron Fist cast is diverse … but the problem is Danny Rand isn’t authentic. Every other character, white or not, is more compelling than the lead. Danny is just so uncultured. I really hope that isn’t what Finn Jones meant when he said the show would ‘inspect’ cultural appropriation. This scene in the early episodes on the stoop of Joy’s apartment is pretty ridiculous.

Finn Jones was right when he said we can’t get past Danny Rand’s corporate, Trump identity. But somehow, we can get past Harold, Joy and Ward’s — they are all really likeable characters. Even though the circle of family drama grows irritating, their struggle is real and their performances hold the show together — they link the corporate world to the streets.

Danny Rand, as a character, is the problem. The narrative fails to show us anything other than his white identity, and cops out of visualizing the struggle that comes with being homeless in Central Park or what it’s like to grow  up without parents or have your home stripped from your fingertips or be thrown into an unfamiliar place with new cultural norms. There is struggle in this story… we just didn’t see any of it.

Luke Cage fights for freedom. Jessica Jones fights for her life. Daredevil fights for justice (on the streets AND in the courtroom).. Why does Danny fight?? It’s not for The Hand, and it’s not for his stake in Rand Industries, his birthright. It’s hard to get past one question: What did Danny Rand do to deserve the power of the Iron Fist? We still don’t know.

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