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

Three of a Kind (or, Who Is the Crimson Fury?)

Last time I presented one of my original fiction story ideas, it was about three adult siblings who gained amazing powers. So, this is (almost) deja vu ­čÖé , except that, besides the “three adult siblings” protagonists, everything else about this idea is very different. The initial concept bubbled up in my mind some months ago, but I added a little more later and then fleshed out quite a bit of the details just this week. (That’s getting to be a pattern….) Here’s what I have:

“Three of a Kind”
OR
“Who Is the Crimson Fury?”

Philip, Derrick, & Terrell Jameson are identical triplets who grow up in a great, middle-class, African-American family. They loved rock & blues music and excelled in academics, sports, and martial arts. They attended the same university, majoring in business (Phil) and software engineering (Derrick & Terrell), eventually earning master’s degrees. Shortly after graduation, they went into business together and soon released their first software product. While celebrating their 26th birthday, a tragic accident(?) left their parents dead and Phil & Terrell missing but presumed dead. Fortunately, none of the brothers was married or had kids. Following a fairly quick police investigation that cleared the surviving brother of any suspicion of wrongdoing, Derrick collected a few million dollars in inheritance and insurance (from the parents’ policies), then cut all personal and professional ties and effectively disappeared.

The Jameson brothers as college freshmen

The Jameson brothers as college freshmen

What Derrick didn’t realize was that his brothers both survived. The explosion at the vacation cabin where they had been staying apparently blew their battered and burned bodies to the river’s edge; the current took them miles downriver, where they washed ashore. They were discovered and taken first to the closest hospital, then transported to one many miles away with a burn ward. The brothers remained comatose for the first few days. Once they awakened, it was discovered that they were amnesiac re their own identities (and familial relationship) and of the events leading to their burns and other trauma. Namely, Phil and Terrell both had 1st- & 2nd-degree burns on 75-80% of their bodies — hands, arms, legs, feet, back. (Could have been worse if they hadn’t spent hours in the cold river.) Their fingerprints had been burned off, too, which was another obstacle at identifying them. Fortunately, their faces and necks had only minor burns and would suffer no lasting scars. They also had an assortment of bruised and broken ribs and limbs.

After a few weeks, first Terrell and then Phil recovered his memory, but they remained in physical and psychological therapy at the hospital for many weeks. As soon as they were able, they set about tracking down Derrick — contacting friends, family, and associates; doing internet research; talking to cops and insurance investigators. Those last two groups were understandably interested in finding Derrick, so that they could properly redistribute some of the inheritance and insurance money. Phil and Terrell were sure their brother would be happy to see them and share the money, but at the time they had no money to spend on investigators or anything else. (Their only close relatives were cousins with a struggling farm in the Midwest.)

Eventually, they went on TV, asking Derrick to contact them or for others who might know where Derrick was to get in touch. Derrick, who had been living in isolation in a cabin in Canada, saw a newspaper article about the televised plea and the brothers were reunited days later. Once the lawyers and insurance people cleared everything up, Phil & Terrell returned with Derrick to his cabin. Determined to get back into the athletic shape they used to be in, the brothers adopted a rigorous training regimen. Meanwhile, Derrick shared with Phil and Terrell the research he had been doing on the cabin explosion that injured them and took their parents’ lives. Contrary to the official report, he did not believe that it was accidental. Furthermore, he believed that they were collateral damage in a larger web of corporate espionage and corruption at high levels. Once his brothers were convinced he was truly onto something, they began to discuss how they might set things right….

Jump forward to a few years later. All three brothers have fully recuperated and invested a lot of time and money (which they had invested quite wisely, while living very modestly) into implementing an intriguing plan. Using false identities, shell corporations, cover stories, etc., the Jameson brothers essentially fell off the grid. Having moved to a strategically-located area (and far from where they grew up, went to school, and worked), they now share a new, single civilian identity — Forrest Blaque, reclusive software engineer and entrepreneur. They continue to make and invest money under this name and BlaqueStar Software, while making few public appearances. (Note: All three now have identical facial hair, which they never used to wear, and haircuts. They already sounded and moved quite similarly.) They also share a single masked identity — the crimefighter known as the Crimson Fury — with a nearby base of operations at an abandoned factory/warehouse, that they purchased (through a shell company) and secretly renovated.

Crimson Fury - helmet, gloves, staff and nunchuksThe brothers share the same muscular build (5’11”, 190 lbs.), the same love of athletics, the same weight-training regimen, and they are all black belts in both aikido and taekwondo, including mastery of several weapons. The Crimson Fury costume incorporates some innovative materials, including a non-conductive, temperature-resistant outer fabric with an inner layer of impact-absorbant padding. There is extra protection in the gauntlets and helmet, though they are considering replacing the helmet with a reinforced cowl. Finally, they have loops, straps, and pockets for weapons, as well as a utility belt.

The three sometimes work cases together and sometimes individually, depending on the complexity, seriousness, and who’s available. They trade off on who appears in each identity, thus helping to ensure that none gets overworked. Whenever they go “out” in either guise, they use cameras, microphones, and GPS trackers to monitor and record their activities. This not only supplements verbal reports but serves as a “permanent” record for later study. After all, since they share an identity (well, two of them, technically), they need to know where each other goes, people encountered, what was said, intel uncovered, etc. This makes it easier to stay informed and maintain their identities. There is always at least one guy at home/HQ, doing research, keeping surveillance, and generally backing up whoever is “out”, while in near-constant audio-visual contact. Naturally, when “off duty”, they have to sleep, train, and run a small-but-successful software development business (though they do have an assistant or two for that last one).

The sorts of cases that the Crimson Fury works on vary, sometimes involving one or more corrupt and/or legit businesses, sometimes organized crime, sometimes government agencies, sometimes public servants, and occasionally other masked adventurers on both sides of the law. But, no matter what else they have going on, they always keep at least one eye on their main goal — uncovering the international network of white-collar criminals and government officials who are ultimately responsible for the deaths of their parents and many, many others.

Questions? Comments?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.

Fan-Cast: Iron Fist

Since Marvel/Netflix seem to be having a rough time getting some traction on the “Iron Fist” series (or, at least, last I read), I decided to help them out with some casting suggestions for the central character, Danny Rand, aka (the) Iron Fist. It’s the least I could do….

Iron Fist

Iron Fist crouching pose with fiery fistDaniel Rand is the son of successful businessman Wendell Rand, who had ties to the extra-dimensional realm of K’un-Lun, and his wife Heather. Wendell and Heather were killed during a trip to Tibet when Daniel was nine. Young Daniel spent the next decade in K’un-Lun, where he was trained in the martial arts by master Lei Kung the Thunderer. When he was 19, Daniel successfully battled the mystical dragon Shou-Lao the Undying, leaving him with the distinct brand of a dragon on his chest and granting him the abilities, title, and responsibilities of the “Iron Fist”, protector of K’un-Lun. The abilities in question included a general manipulation of his enhanced chi (e.g., for enhanced senses, healing, environmental adaptation) and the power to focus that chi energy into his fist, making it “like unto a thing of iron.” In later years, he learned additional ways to vastly augment and manipulate his chi for varying physical and psychological effects. He is a master of multiple martial arts fighting styles and other disciplines, as well as being at “peak human level of strength [for] a man of his age, height, and build that exercises intensively.”

Daniel Rand returned to America, where he took over his father’s business, aided by his father’s friend, an attorney named Jeryn Hogarth. In his “off hours”, and often when he should have been more involved with his business, Rand fought criminals of various types, “normal” and costumed, as “Iron Fist”.┬áSometimes referred to as “the Living Weapon”, Iron Fist is one of, if not the, most powerful & skilled martial artist(s) on the planet. He has teamed up with many different individuals and groups over the years, including Spider-Man, Daredevil, and incarnations of the Avengers and Defenders. But, he is best known for his frequent partnerships with Luke Cage, aka Power Man I, sometimes under the business name of “Heroes for Hire”. Rand and Cage are also frequently joined, personally and/or professionally, by Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, who do bodyguard and investigative work under the banner “Knightwing Restorations”. Rand’s enemies have included businessmen like Harold Meachum and Norman Osborn, as well as costumed villains such as Sabretooth, Davos (aka Steel Serpent, also from K’un-Lun), Master Khan, Robert Hao (aka Chaka Khan), and Nightshade.

iron_fist_v2_by_uncannyknack-d7pzp0bWhile I don’t remember much from Iron Fist’s early comics, I do seem to remember that he is generally level-headed. Not always responsible, but level-headed. Sometimes he gets angry or frustrated, but his training has helped him to maintain an even keel. He can be quite serious when necessary and very focused (also enhanced by his training), but he is also known to have a healthy sense of humor.

Despite the clearly Asian nature of his background, Daniel Rand has always been blonde and Caucasian-looking. There has been some talk of casting an Asian, or half-Asian, but others (like myself) think that would be a bad idea. Marvel’s wiki says Rand is 5’11”, 175 lbs., so I think a height range of about 5’10” to 6’1″ would be fair. How old? Well, if we stick to the source material, he became “Iron Fist” at 19 and returned to America shortly thereafter, when the once-every-10-years mystical conjunction between Earth and K’un-Lun reappeared. According to recent reports, the Netflix show will begin “just as Rand has returned to the Big Apple, after having gone missing from [the] city for several years.” It isn’t clear, though, if this will be his first time in NYC since becoming the Iron Fist nor how closely it will stick to the comics when it comes to K’un-Lun. But, rather than going with a 20-year-old businessman/superhero, I am guessing the show’s producers will want someone a bit more mature. So,… I think our best bet is casting someone in his mid-20s to early-30s.

Years ago, I thought David Paetkau (5’10”,b.1972) from “Flashpoint” would make a great Danny Rand, but he’s already in his mid-40s, so… too old. Martial-artist-turned-actor Scott Adkins (5’10”,b.1976) is too old, too, but he might make a good Davos/Steel Serpent (i.e., archenemy of Iron Fist). Also considered but deemed to be a little too old are Travis Fimmel (6′,b.1979) (“Vikings”), Charlie Hunnam (6’1″,b.1980) (“Sons of Anarchy”), and Alain Moussi (6’0.5″,b.1981) (Wings of the Dragon), though the last one could do all his own fights/stunts. (A Moussi vs. Adkins fight could be epic!) Model/actor Julien Kang (6’3″,b.1982) is too tall, plus he is half-Asian, so he probably wouldn’t look “natural” as a blonde. I like Jason Mac (6’2″,b.????), but he’s a little too tall and might be a little too old. Rick Cosnett (5’11”,b.1983) (“The Flash”) is a possibility, but his voice grates on me. I even considered UFC-fighter Alexander Gustafsson (6’5″,b.1987), but he’s way too tall and has no acting experience. Freddie Stroma (5’11.25″,b.1987) — Cormac McLaggen in the last three Harry Potter films — is a strong contender and gets an ‘honorable mention’. Finally, I considered Alexander Ludwig (6’2″,b.1992) but decided he is slightly too young and slightly too tall.

My top three candidates range in age from 26 to 33 (at this writing), so there’s one for each end of my preferred range and one right in the middle. They are…

Luke Bracey

Luke Bracey

First up is Luke Bracey (6′,b.1989). He hasn’t been around all that long, but genre fans may remember him from G.I. Joe: Retaliation, The November Man, and the recent Point Break remake. So, he’s familiar with action-oriented roles. He has the right height and build, and he definitely has the blonde “dude” look down. I think he’d make a fine Danny Rand / Iron Fist.

 

 

 

Chris Zylka

Chris Zylka

Next, Chris Zylka (6′,b.1985) can be seen in the Canadian series “The Secret Circle” and movies like Shark Night 3D, Piranha 3DD, The Amazing Spider-Man (as Flash Thompson), as well as the current series “The Leftovers”. So, he’s a physical match and he has genre cred. Could be just famous enough — but not too well-known — to make a great Danny Rand / Iron Fist.

 

 

 

Travis Van Winkle

Travis Van Winkle

If Travis Van Winkle (6′ or 5’11.25″,b.1982) looks familiar, then you may have followed my suggestion to watch “The Last Ship”. But, he was also in Bloodwork, 247┬░F, the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th, Asylum, Transformers, and appeared in several TV shows. I think he has a great look that would be just perfect for Danny Rand / Iron Fist.

 

 

 

Alright, lads and lasses. I gave it a shot, and I think I found some decent candidates. I hope Marvel/Netflix can do at least as well!

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.

7 Marvel Properties that Should Be on TV (Part 1 of 2)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some ideas I had for DC properties that I thought would make cool TV/Netflix shows. As promised, this week and next I’ll do the same for Marvel properties. It’s not as easy as it may sound, especially when trying to balance a mix of interesting characters and genres without breaking special F/X budgets. But, I think I came up with some fun stuff.

First, I should explain a couple conspicuous absences. Any talk about possible TV series based on Marvel characters has got to include something X-Men/mutants related, right? But, we already know that one is in development, and I already discussed several possibilities for it and my preferences in my “Jack Bauer and the X-Men” post. I have not included a “Punisher” series in this list, either, even though I would love to see one, because one is likely to spin off from season 2 of “Daredevil”, anyway.

F.y.i., I played with the idea of a “Daily Bugle” series, but decided that to really work, it would need to have a lot of superheroes & villains popping up not just in print but on-screen. Since the Bugle is in New York, as are most of the major heroes/villains, that would probably not work out logistically or legally, particularly with those claimed for the big screen. Some have suggested a “Spider-Woman” series, and I’d be fine with that, but Netflix already has a female private investigator (i.e., Jessica Jones). On the other hand, the characters are different enough that it might work. (Dakota North would be another possibility, if they did decide to have another female P.I.) Finally, another idea I considered was “Thunderbolts”, based on the original concept of a band of new superheroes, who are actually supervillains seeking to gain & exploit the public’s (and government’s) trust. But, ultimately I dropped it, because I wasn’t sure it could be done without significantly re-working many of the characters, connections to the Avengers, etc.

Alright, here are my first three suggestions…

845482-moon_knight__005_017_018_copy_01_superMoon Knight: I know I’m not the first to suggest it (though I did think of it quite awhile ago), but I think a show based on the Moon Knight has a ton of potential. If you aren’t already aware, MK is part Batman, part Punisher, with some unique “issues” and abilities thrown in. Marc Spector is a former Marine-turned-CIA operative-turned-mercenary who died(?) and was brought back by the Egyptian moon god “Khonshu”, which inspired the Moon Knight persona for fighting crime (and Khonshu’s enemies). He also created for himself the identities of successful financier “Steven Grant” and taxicab driver “Jake Lockley”, both of which serve his purposes as adventurer/vigilante. So, we have a rich guy with deadly skills and fancy toys who fights crime in costume (sound familiar?), who also struggles with keeping his multiple personalities straight; plus, there is the mystical connection with his serving as the “Fist of Khonshu”. With friends & associates like ‘Frenchie’ DuChamp and Marlene Alraune, as well as foes like Bushman and Taskmaster, I see lots of opportunity for fun and intriguing stories involving a boatload of action and drama. There should be the occasional reference to characters and events from other shows and movies to demonstrate a shared “universe”, too. Also, can you say “Marvel Team-up”? [Note to self: I really need to fan-cast this guy.]

Shang-Chi

Shang-Chi

Shang-Chi: Created in the wake of Bruce Lee’s death, the “Master of Kung Fu” has the dubious distinction of being the son of criminal mastermind/sorcerer Fu Manchu, who trained him as an assassin. He has connections to the Avengers, Heroes for Hire, and the British intelligence community, as he has worked as both spy and adventurer/crimefighter. But, all he really wants to do is live the simple life of a fisherman. I think these and other characteristics make him different enough from Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) to justify a second show centered on a martial artist. I see it having elements of the old “Kung Fu” series, where our hero wanders all over the globe (e.g., Hong Kong, England, USA), reluctantly either finding himself encountering injustice that needs to be addressed or being contacted & persuaded by other heroes and intelligence agencies to lend them his particular skills and knowledge. With the right vision, writing, and casting, I think such a series could be both charming and action-packed — sort of like Bruce Lee.

 

Agent 13 (aka Sharon Carter)

Agent 13 (aka Sharon Carter)

Agent 13: I would love to see a current day “spy” series that is more James Bond-ian than what we have with “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. Black Widow could work as the protagonist, but her being a major player in the MCU probably puts her out of the running. But, Sharon Carter (aka “Agent 13”), whom we have seen played by Emily VanCamp in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and returning for Captain America: Civil War, is a distinct possibility. “Agent 13” is, therefore, already established as a live-action character, and I can see her branching off into a series of her own, much like her aunt Peggy did in “Agent Carter”. As a (former?) S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, she has connections to Captain America and Fury, who might make the occasional cameo appearance. (She and Cap were lovers for quite a while in the comics.) I imagine the show being about Carter going undercover on various missions, some related to but mostly separate from the events in the MCU and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” She might report directly to Fury, but it would probably make more sense for her to report to either Coulson or another high-ranking officer that survived the Hydra massacre/purge. Or, if she stays at the CIA (as per the end of Winter Soldier), that opens up a whole ‘nother realm of possibilities.

That’s enough for this week. I’ll discuss the other four next time. I think you’ll like ’em. ‘Til then…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2015.