Review of Iron Fist (Netflix series)

“You are the worst Iron Fist ever.” — Davos

I had originally meant to do a “Mr. Zeus” installment this week. But, I decided I’d better do this review while the show is still relatively fresh in my mind. Some of my comments may be briefer or less systematic than usual. We shall see…

For the most part, I’m going to ignore the many missing or changed details in this version of Danny’s becoming an orphan, the Rand connection to K’un-Lun, the introduction of Colleen Wing, etc., from the comics version. Unfortunately, the bulk of my comments will still probably be negative, so allow me to start with something positive: I liked the opening credits. The music was good, with a sort of Asian/mystical feel to the electronica vibe. The dark-ish mood and swirling, inky effect with the semi-slo-mo kung fu guy worked for me. I don’t know if that guy was real or totally CGI, but he looked like a good fit for Danny/Iron Fist.

Speaking of which, as you might guess from my earlier fan-casting for the title character, I thought Finn Jones was all wrong. True, the studio didn’t cave in to demands to make the character Asian. Jones is also the right age, height, and has blonde hair. But, Iron Fist should’ve been more muscular and athletic looking, and his hair should’ve been cut shorter and straight. (And get rid of the beard, too.) As for the portrayal of Danny, I don’t know whether to blame Jones, the writers, or the directors — probably a bit of all of them.

SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

Finn Jones as Danny Rand

Danny’s seeming naivete and other mannerisms were annoying, as were his fits of anger and going off half-cocked at the end. He acted like a child. And what were those “episodes” toward the end, when he’d grab his head and his vision got blurry (or, at least, ours did)? Sometimes, he had a memory flash from the plane crash or K’un-Lun. What was that about?

We never really got satisfying answers either for Danny’s abandoning of K’un-Lun or even for Colleen’s going against her own principles when she did the cage matches. In fact, motivations in general were a weak point.

Danny’s fighting skills were, shall we say, rather underwhelming. Dull. Poorly choreographed and/or poorly edited. If it wasn’t clear before, the last couple episodes confirmed that he had a *lot* more training to do. But, imo, he should never have received the powers and responsibilities of the Iron Fist (w/ tattoo) at his current skill level. He should have been even better than Daredevil, but at this point, I think DD would put him down easily.

He says that he spent years training in martial arts, which includes controlled breathing *and* controlling his emotions. A minute later, he’s freaking out over air turbulence, and Claire has to calm him and get him to focus. What?! Same goes for his anger issues.

If (like he told Ward) the only time he drove a car was as a 10yo on his dad’s lap, how is Danny driving around NYC on his own a couple days later? For that matter, if he’s been stuck in extradimensional K’un-Lun for 15 years, why does he seem so unfazed by — even familiar with — NYC? A few familiar buildings and landmarks, sure. But, I’d like to have seen more fish-out-of-water behavior.

Casting for Colleen was good. Jessica Henwick is certainly an attractive woman of mixed Asian & Anglo ethnicity with martial arts skills. In fact, she was much more impressive in that area than Danny was. (She showed what she could really do, even without the sword, in those cage matches!) On the other hand, she’s too short and her hair is supposed to be medium brown to auburn. Still, she was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing series. (I’ll even forgive the fact that Danny’s supposed to have a romantic relationship with Misty Knight, not Colleen. That is, if they wanted to stay faithful to the source material. In the Marvel-Netflix world, though, Colleen is a better match for him.) Claire (Rosario Dawson) was another one. It was nice to see her involved and continuing to connect the various series together. Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss) makes a couple of welcomed appearances, as well.

Not sure about the Meachums, as I don’t remember that much about them from the comics. I will say, though, that that is one supremely dysfunctional family! I despised the manipulative Harold (David Wenham), who treated his son like $#!+ — and that was even before the, er, violent physical exchanges. Of course, he was supposed to be a total jerk, so… well done! I thought I was gonna really hate Ward (Tom Pelphrey), too, but I ended up just pitying him. I wanted to like Joy (Jessica Stroup) more, and she had her moments, but she ended up disappointing me, too. (Especially the final scene.)

What to make of Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho)? She is formidable, but inconsistently so. One day, she exhibits the ability — presumably through focused chi or some such thing — to “knock” someone several feet when she is standing several more feet away from them. (Think telekinetic “shove”.) A day or two later, though, she’s all scared when Danny charges her and she doesn’t even try to defend herself. What’s up with that? Was the latter behavior merely an act in order to give her more opportunities to get in the heads of our heroes?

I question the wisdom of using The Hand again as the “big bad”, especially since we know they will show up in “The Defenders” and/or season 3 of “Daredevil”. Surely, the writers could have found another evil organization to use from Marvel’s stable or even created a new one. Even though there was the interesting twist toward the end with the competing factions, I feel like The Hand was underutilized except as another connecting thread with the other shows. Their fighters weren’t very impressive, either, and they’re supposed to be among the deadliest in the world.

I hesitate to delve into the various other issues with the plot. Instead, I point you to this excellent review by Mike Floorwalker at Looper, which I fortunately read as I was finishing this up. He briefly discusses plot holes, inconsistencies, plodding development, lack of humor, “shoehorned-in moral conflict”, et al. In my opinion, most of his observations are right on the mark.

A few quick, final comments…

o Interesting casting for Davos (Sacha Dhawan) and Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez). I wouldn’t have gone that way, but I suppose they did adequate jobs. Physically not very impressive, though. No clue why Davos, who I always thought was East Asian in appearance, is played by someone of Indian descent with a Manchester accent, either.

o There was not enough of K’un-Lun, and I think there should have been flashbacks of Danny training with Davos (since they changed the Davos character and made him Danny’s peer) and under the instruction of Lei-Kung the Thunderer.

o The “iron fist” F/X was decent, I suppose.

As usual, I really wanted to like this character/series, especially with its connection to the other Netflix series. It could have been spectacular. Unfortunately, it fell *well* short of its potential. I got the feeling that the series’ creative minds might have known the basics about Danny Rand / Iron Fist — they had some facts about his history, abilities, etc. — but they didn’t really understand the character.

If I were to grade the four series, I’d give “Daredevil” an A-, “Jessica Jones” a B-, “Luke Cage” a B or B+, and “Iron Fist” a C- (and that might be a bit generous). I haven’t read a lot of other reviews, but from what I have heard/seen, the general consensus agrees with me. I just hope that the creators learned something from the criticism and make some positive changes for “Defenders” (though that has already filmed) and any future Danny Rand / Iron Fist appearances.

P.S.  We never saw the iconic costume, either. (That yellow & green robe doesn’t count.) At this point, I’m sort of glad.

Bits-n-Pieces

I didn’t have time this week to do a regular-size piece on any one subject, but there were a few recent news items that I’ve been thinking of briefly commenting on. So,…

star-trek-axanarItem #1:  First up is the latest development re the suit against the producers of fan-film Star Trek: Axanar. The film short, “Prelude to Axanar” (2014), got a lot of good feedback, and Axanar Productions has been able to raise over $1 million, so far, for the full-length film. But, Paramount/CBS must have gotten nervous, especially since the production quality rivaled their own. So, they began legal proceedings a few months ago, claiming trademark infringement on multiple elements: species (including Vulcan ears), themes, characters, costumes, settings. Producer/actor Alec Peters predicted as much and was ready for a fight. (Or, perhaps a diplomatic negotiation? Good thing he is an attorney in his “day job”.) The most recent dispute is over the right to use the Klingon language. Sigh!

From what I understand, the planned film is set to adapt ideas from a 2-book module in the FASA Star Trek role-playing game: Return to Axanar/The Four Years War. It follows the events of a serious conflict between the nascent Federation and the Klingon Empire in the 2240s — i.e., two decades prior to ST:TOS. Sounds cool. I guess maybe I should watch “Prelude to Axanar” to see what all the hubbub is about….

Item #2:  There had been quite a lot of speculation about what race the title character would/should be in Netflix’s “Iron Fist”. Originalists like me wanted a white guy, while others thought an Asian or mixed actor would be more appropriate. Now that the very white Finn Jones (“Game of Thrones”) has been cast, the controversy has heated up even more, with those who wanted Danny Rand to be white (as he has always been in the comics) being called “racist”. Gimmeabreak! People throw that term around so much and so unfairly these days that it has lost its punch. (No pun intended.) I read an article a few months ago by an Asian guy who did not want Iron Fist to be Asian, either, but his reason was different. If I remember right, he didn’t want the first major Asian superhero to be a martial artist, ‘cuz it feeds a stereotype. Not sure I agree, but I understand and sympathize with the position. I guess he isn’t too thrilled about the rumor that Shang-Chi will make an appearance in “Iron Fist”.

Item #3:  Spider-Man news! Everybody is talking about the wall-crawler’s cameo at the end of the new trailer for Captain America: Civil War. I loved it, though it sort of ruins the surprise (if Spidey’s appearance is a surprise, anymore) within the movie itself. Still, I understand why they did it. I also love Spidey’s costume. It isn’t quite the comic original, but it is much closer and more like what a teenager would put together than the suits the Maguire and Garfield versions had. (Here’s a Youtube “Costume Breakdown” of the suit.) Also, in case I haven’t mentioned it, I am very happy with the casting of Tom Holland.

A second bit of Spidey-related news is that the Venom movie may happen after all. I have mixed feelings about this. I wasn’t thrilled with the version from Spider-Man 3, but my enthusiasm for the character had waned loooong ago, since its overuse in the 1990s and 2000s. If they want to do a solo film for this creature/villain/anti-hero, fine, but there are other characters I’d rather see get the live-action treatment.

Item #4:  Jessica Jones, Supergirl, and Agent Carter have each been renewed for another season. This is great news! I’ve mentioned (in my review of the show) that I was disappointed in several aspects of the Jessica Jones adaptation, but I liked it enough that I’ll probably watch a second season. I’m rather curious what the plot and main villain might be. Similarly, my “Initial Impressions of Supergirl” post included some negatives, but I continue to enjoy the show and am glad to see that the studio has seen fit to give it another season. (I may need to do a follow-up review, once Season 1 finishes.) As for Agent Carter, I never reviewed it, but I am enjoying that one quite a bit, as well. So, I’m thrilled that Hayley Atwell et al. will get a third season.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them - posterItem #5:  On the fantasy front, you may have already heard about the release of a script book for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II play and maybe the confirmation that there are three Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films planned. But, unless you are a Potterhead (or whatever they call themselves), you may not be aware that J.K. Rowling is now writing material about other wizarding schools in other countries & continents at the Pottermore website, with particular emphasis on North America (since that’s where the new movies will take place). I checked it out, and so far they are relatively brief pieces. But, they do help to answer a few questions, fill in the blanks, pique our curiosity even more, etc., regarding magic in the rest of Harry Potter’s world. Looks like fun!

Item #6:  A fifth installment of Indiana Jones, starring Harrison Ford and directed by Steven Spielberg, has now been officially (re-)confirmed and even a tentative release date announced: July 19, 2019. Woohoo! That’s just a few days after Ford turns 77, so I hope he doesn’t overdo it! (That’s what stuntmen are for, right?) I also hope he and Spielberg can “make up for” the Crystal Skull and end the series on a high note. I’m rootin’ fer ya, guys!

The End.

UPDATE 5/13/2016:  Regarding #4 above, it looks like I jumped the gun. What I had read about “Supergirl” was, I believe, merely the optimism of one of the producers. However, it has now been announced that the show has been renewed for season 2 but is moving over to CBS’s cousin, the CW. (Now, they just have to figure out how to reduce its huge budget without losing quality or beloved characters.) Unfortunately, the news is not good about “Agent Carter”. Don’t remember what I read that gave me the idea it had already been renewed, but it (and I) was wrong. The show’s future has been in limbo all this time… until now. ABC has finally decided to cancel it. (At least, we’ll see Hayley Atwell in her new series: “Conviction”.) They also decided not to move forward with the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” spin-off, “Marvel’s Most Wanted”. No word, yet, on if they’ll try to bring the Morse & Hunter characters back into the fold.