So, the newest Netflix Marvel show is out. It’s the one about the guy who punches things really hard. No, the other one about the guy who punches things really hard. No, not that one, the other one.
Yeah, they got a lot of shows about guys punching things really hard, don’t they?
Anyway, I managed to find some time to check it out, as well as read some reviews of it at other sites. If you’ve not heard, Iron Fit got savaged pretty hard. Did it deserve it? Was it as good as the previous Netflix shows? Come with me, and you will see, a world of Willy Wonka memes.
Oh. Sorry. There will be no actual Willy Wonka memes. It’s just a thing you say. Like yolo or something, I think. Maybe. It’s a hip thing, and I may not be hip.
If you aren’t familiar with the Marvel Comics character of Iron Fist, then don’t worry. Nobody else really is, either. He’s kind of a B character most of the time, sometimes chilling on the C list. Not that he isn’t an important figure in the Marvel comics universe. I mean, he’s not, but he could be. If he wanted. He doesn’t. He’s got a bag of chips and the complete dvd collection of Friends, so, stuff to do.
Okay, okay. Iron Fist, aka Danny Rand, is just one of those characters who never really took off. The height of his popularity was when he was teamed up with Luke Cage. Giving Danny somebody to bounce off of helped take him from a one note theme character and turn him into a realistic person that readers could get attached to. Of course, this generally works with any character, since everyone bounces of Luke Cage.
Danny’s origin story goes like this. While on a trip with his parents, their plane crashed in the Himalayas, with Danny as the only survivor. He was found by monks from the mystical city of Kun-Lun, and taken back there, where he was trained in the ways of kung-fu. Later, he fought a dragon and became Iron Fist, who’s only actual super power is the ability to make his hand impervious to damage, and really super strong.
Yeah. Just his hand. I think the dragon may have screw him over a bit there. Dragons do that sometimes. Oversized iguanas with an ego complex is all they are, so it shouldn’t be surprising. Not that I’ve ever been screw over by a dragon giving me a shitty superpower, but I know a guy.
Putting that aside, Danny takes his crappy superpower and runs away, leaving Kun-Lun defenseless, since the Iron Fist is suppose to guard it from evil ninjas and stuff. He returns to New York and tries to retake his place in the multi-billion dollar international corporation his dad built. Except everybody thinks he’s dead, so that doesn’t go as easy as he thinks.
Cause Danny is an idiot.
Eventually, in the comics anyway, Danny does get to be part of the company again, and spends his considerable free time superheroing around New York, fighting muggers, while Spider Man and the Avengers do the real superheroing. Sometimes he fights ninjas.
Basically, Iron Fist is kind of a lame superhero. He’s had a good few really gripping story arcs in the comics, and when teamed with Cage, is a much more interesting character. On his own, he’s just not enough to hold peoples attention for long, since everything more or less ends with Danny Iron Fisting some ninjas.
I think I just stumbled into the porn knock off title, though, so there’s something.
The big problem with Iron Fist has always been his basic character concept. Rich white guy learns kung-fu, becomes a hero. That’s pretty much it. There’s not a lot else to Iron Fist, for the most part.
Which means I was really curious what they were going to do to make a tv show about him interesting. Turns out the answer was angst. Cause the answer is always angst. Ninjas killed your parents? Angst is the answer. Dog ran away? Angst. Grocery store out of your favorite breakfast cereal? Angst.
Angst solves everything, guys. You should totally try it.
One of the more redeeming qualities of Iron Fist was that, despite him just being a white guy who knew kung-fu and could sometimes hit stuff really hard, was that Danny himself was always a pretty mellow cat. Mostly optimistic, and kinda happy go lucky, Danny was often a bright spot in the Marvel universe. His training helped him stay calm no matter what was going on, and he didn’t really let stuff get him down. He was kinda perky for the most part, and always saw the silver lining in every cloud. You know the type.
Wanna beat ’em with a baseball bat just to shut ’em the fuck up about how when a door closes a window opens. Assholes. Now the AC is running right out the window. Maybe I wanted that door closed, you kung-fu cliche spouting dipweed.
So, yeah, they took the most mellow dude in Marvel, and gave him angst. Did it help?
As a series, Iron Fist isn’t bad. It’s a fairly enjoyable show, with some good characters, good cinematography, fairly decent action, and for the most part, good writing. When Danny isn’t on the screen, anyway. When he is, it’s less good.
Okay, first off, Danny’s origin more or less plays out the same as it did in the comics, except that the monks of Kun-Lun are now kind of dickheads. It’s less a mystical paradise, and more an unsupervised boot camp for future ninja killers. Instead of learning how to be centered and kung-fuish, Danny has angst about the way the dickhead monks raised him. Instead of, ya know, letting him die on a mountain as a child.
Yeah. I can see how that’d mess a person up.
He returns to New York, where nobody believes he’s Danny, and we spend several episodes with him struggling with that, for no apparent reason, until a bag of M&M’s solves everything.
At any point, he could have just recounted a memory nobody but him and the people he’s talking to would have. He doesn’t. He rambles off public facts at people that could be found in a Wikipedia bio. So, yes, everyone thinks he’s a nut. What makes it worse is that when he does share a personal memory only one other living person can confirm, he doesn’t do it with that person, but a completely different person, which leads us to the M&M solution. Everybody thinks he’s a creeper until then.
Especially his childhood friends, Ward and Joy Meechum, who now run Rand Industries after the death of the Rand family, and their own father. Joy kinda wants to believe Danny is real, while Ward is an asshole. Nobody just asks Danny to tell them what happened that one time at band camp. Cause everyone else is kind of an idiot, too.
This was the first failing of the show. Resolving Danny’s identity shouldn’t have filled more than a single episode. Despite the idiocy of it all, it’s still a good opportunity to establish the characters, and set up things for later, which they do pull off, including introducing Colleen Wing, a martial arts teacher that Danny befriends.
By which I mean he borderline stalks her, then pesters her into letting him stay at her dojo. Cause Danny doesn’t know how the real world works and is a free spirit, wheee!
Then we learn that the ninjas Danny is suppose to be protecting Kun-Lun against are all up in Rand’s business, and that Ward and Joy’s dad, Harold, isn’t actually dead, cause those ninja’s are the Hand from Daredevil, and can bring people back to life. Harold is secretly running Rand Industries through Ward, and is an even bigger dickhead than the monks of Kun-Lun.
Really, everybody on this show is kind of a dickhead. Iron Dickheads. That porn parody is really coming together, so that’s a plus. I guess.
Anyway, Danny learns all of this, and starts Iron Fisting some ninja’s, but things go wrong, and he isn’t sure if the Hand is evil, even though they are selling drugs, so he has more angst as we get a game of spin the wheel on who really killed Danny’s parents, and he has angst about that, too. Then he learns Colleen, who he has gotten all intimate with, is also with the Hand, and he levels up his angst skills. Then he sidesteps the first boss, levels up something other than angst, only to learn the second boss is already here. So he deals with that, then moves on to the final boss, but remembers meeting the dragon, and all his angst goes away.
Yeah. That’s pretty much Iron Fist in a nutshell. Danny angsts his way through a revolving door of bad guys, none of which he actually defeats. He just sort of avoids them.
It’s an Iron Fisty thing.
So, why did I say the show isn’t bad, if it’s obviously that terrible? Mostly, this is do with the cast. They do their very best to make everything work, and for the most part, while the plot is straight up 80’s kung-fu b movie bad, the rest is actually pretty decent.
Finn Jones, best known as Loras Tyrell on Game of Thrones, plays Danny. Until the angst meter starts getting cranked up, he does a really good job of it, too. He captures Danny’s optimistic nature, open minded approach to life, and kind heart really well. Then a dumptruck of angst falls on him, and much of what makes Danny who he is kinda goes away.
Still, Jones spent a crap load of time learning all the appropriate martial arts and the accompanying teachings, so he made a real and sincere effort to bring everything he could to the role. As the show progresses, however, it gets harder and harder to see Danny as a hero, though, which is the fault of the writing, not he actor. He tries, and brings everything he can to it, and as a character, Danny remains likeable, just not hero material.
Jessica Henwick, who was also on Game of Thrones as Nymeria Sand, as well as in the Star Wars Rogue One movie as X-Wing pilot Jessika Pava, plays Colleen, and outshines Jones and Danny at pretty much every turn. Seriously. She’s one of the best things in the show, and even her eventual reveal as being part of the enemy is done well. Much of this comes down to Henwick, and her ability to deliver a nuanced, emotional performance.
Plus, she gets the best fight scenes in the show. I mean, the very best. If she’s fighting, it’s freaking epic. Which is kinda weird, what with it being Danny’s show, but here we are.
Tom Pelphrey, who is most known as a soap opera actor on the Guiding Light, and Kurt Bunker on Banshee, has never manged to get himself killed on Game of Thrones, and plays Ward Meechum. Honestly, for me, he had the best performance on the show, too. Watching Ward start off as a typical douche bag rich kid, then following his descent as we learn the role his father plays in his life, then into drug addiction, and eventually, a complete mental collapse, before pulling himself together and becoming a worthy allie to Danny, is gripping fucking drama.
Mostly because Pelphrey really nails it all, with subtle, beautiful, and nuanced acting. The slow reveal of Ward’s deteriorating mental state, and his eventual rise from the ashes is convincing because Pelphery makes it so. Just watch his face, and you’ll get what I mean. Best damn character on the show, right there.
Jessica Stroup, known for a wide variety of work, including The Following and the reboot of 90210, plays Joy Meechum, and also doesn’t get killed on Game of Thrones. I guess House Meechum knows how to hide really well. While I generally enjoy Stroup’s work, her turn as Joy is somewhat inconsistent here, though again, that’s as much the fault of the writing as it is anything. She’s a solid actor, and does the best she can with the material, though at times, she looks a bit annoyed to be on this show.
Can’t say I blame her. I mean, getting killed on Game of Thrones could have made her the main star of her own show. Seems to work for everybody else. That aside, as much as Ward undergoes a transformation into a heroic character, Joy does a heel turn into a villain by the end, that is less than convincing. Honestly, I think Stroup would have done better with better material to work from.
Finally, we have David Wenham, absolutely best known as Faramir in the Lord of the Rings films, giving a gleefully over the top performance as the shows central antagonist, Harold Meechum. Nobody is having more fun on this show than Wenham is, and it shows. He’s every 80’s kung-fu cliche villain rolled into one, and he knows it. Believe it or not, it works, too, as every time Wenham is on screen, he’s so avidly chewing the scenery, it’s just plain fun to watch.
Make no mistake, Wenham is perfectly aware of just how absurd this all is. You can see his delight as he rolls around the set, hamming it up. It’s almost akin to Jeremy Irons’ over the top silliness of the Dungeons & Dragons movie, except that Wenham does reign it in a tiny bit better. Still, it’s a crap load of fun to watch.
There’s a couple other folks who show up. Wai Ching Ho returns as Madam Gao from Daredevil, and Rosario Dawson keeps things tied together as Claire Temple, though she gets a lot less to do in this besides practice martial arts in really short shorts. Not complaining or anything. Dawson is quite lovely. Just that, I’m kinda use to watching her act, and it would have been nice if they’d given her something to do besides stand around and wonder just how stupid all these people are.
Cause they were all pretty damn stupid.
Iron Fist was created and run by Scott Buck, which really kind of surprised me. This is the guy behind Six Feet Under, Dexter, Coach, and The Oblongs, all shows I loved. I don’t know if he was just in it for the paycheck, or what, but his usual talent is not on display here at all. The show just sort of meanders along, eventually reaching a climax of sorts, even though nothing has actually been resolved, except that Danny is slightly less angsty.
Not angst free, mind you, cause we’ve still got The Defenders and maybe a second season of Iron Fist to deal with, and we can’t tackle all that without angst.
Regardless, I expected a lot from Iron Fist with Buck’s name attached, and it didn’t really deliver. Is that fair? Maybe not. Nobody hits a home run every time, after all. Nor do I know what the working conditions were, how involved Netflix and Marvel were, or if this was something Buck was passionate about. Those things can all play a factor, after all.
The music was done by Trevor Morris, known for a huge body of work that includes stuff like Vikings, The Tudors, and Alphas. Here, he channels Stranger Things, for some reason. Probably because Netfix is still having an orgasm over how successful that was. The problem with it is that the main theme for Iron Fist just sounds like a knock off, but considering the whole show is kind of a knock off of 80’s kung-fu b movies, I guess that’s kind of fitting. Still, it was a bit disappointing to hear something so similar to another show. The rest of the music is good enough, when it isn’t trying to be Stranger Things.
As a series, Iron Fist isn’t bad, it just isn’t good, either. It certainly isn’t Luke Cage, or Daredevil, and it isn’t even in the same league as Jessica Jones. It’ not a bad way to kill some time, however, and does offer up some really good performances by several of the actors as it struggles to find a plot that doesn’t revolve around white boy angst.
Which brings me to my final point. The uproar over Jones casting.
If you missed it, part of the internet got its collective panties in a knot over Jones, a white guy, being cast to play Danny, who is also a white guy. It was felt that Danny should be played by an Asian actor. Never mind the huge number of issues that would have created with stereotyping, this being a kung-fu show and all, it was a thing everybody felt should happen, for some reason.
Would an Asian actor have done a better job in the role? Considering the script, I can’t say anyone would have done a better job in the role, to be honest. Any actor would have struggled to bring dignity and pathos to Danny when you look at how he was written.
Would the angst have been more acceptable coming from an Asian actor? Sorry, but nope. Danny mopes and whines, because that’s how he was written, and that’s annoying, no matter who does it.
Netflix and Marvel didn’t miss anything by casting Jones, simply because, when it comes to Danny Rand, there’s nothing to miss. This character isn’t a hill to die on folks. Even in his own show, he still managed to be a B character, behind Colleen Wing, and Ward Meechum.
Which is really the big issue with Iron Fist as a series. Everybody else is more interesting than he is.
Too bad they’ll never get a chance to die on Game of Thrones. Ah, well. There’s always The Walking Dead.