After exploring the more “grounded” aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe through Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Netflix and Marvel have finally debuted the final member of the street level group The Defenders. Frankly, after forcing myself to watch 13 hours of Iron Fist’s “adventures”, I wish they would have done literally anything else!!
There’s a reason this review is so late in being published: I literally couldn’t bear to think about this show anymore after I’d watched it!! Iron Fist is not only the worst of the Netflix/Marvel series, it’s arguably the worst comic book show in recent memory!! It’s poorly acted (save for three characters), features some of the most cringeworthy dialogue ever heard in any medium, is too long by about eight episodes (or debatably an entire season), has logic that makes Prison Break look like Westworld and is so unbearably boring, cracking your head off of a wall is a more appealing idea. The biggest problem Iron Fist faces however, is that it just simply doesn’t know what it wants to be. Should it be a martial arts show? A observation of eastern culture? A knock-off of The Good Wife? A superhero show? Cause I’ll be honest: it does none of them even remotely well!!
For those that don’t know, let me bring you up to speed: Iron Fist follows the character of Danny Rand, a 25 year-old rich kid who survived a plane crash when he was young but tragically lost his parents. Raised by the monks of the fabled city of K’un-Lun, he undergoes training to become the Immortal Iron Fist, the greatest martial artist on Earth. Returning to New York City after the events of The Avengers, Danny is met with ridicule and contempt by his former childhood friends and must fight in order to regain his father’s company whilst also dealing with the appearance of the deadly organisation The Hand (last seen in Season 2 of Daredevil). Sound familiar? That’s cause there are over 20 other superheroes who have this origin story (in some manner) and all of them are done better than this.
All caught up? Good, cause it doesn’t get any better from here! After 13 episodes and an almost three month removal from the show, I’m struggling to even remember what actually happened in it. Iron Fist constantly struggles to tell a coherent story, resulting in a jumbled mess that feels tonally at odds with each different aspect of the show. Note to showrunners: if your show is about the greatest martial artist on Earth, can he 1) act like it? And 2) actually throw a goddamn punch at times? Oh he can’t? No worries, at lest we have all these highly engaging boardroom meetings to look at! Seriously, that wouldn’t even be the E, F, G or H plot in a Batman story, let alone the fucking B plot!! The less said about the terrible “You thought I was dead but I’ve been alive behind the scenes all this time” C plot the better.
This matter isn’t helped by the absolutely atrocious dialogue that plagues Iron Fist throughout its run. Case in point, Danny is homeless after returning to New York. He meets a homeless man who acknowledges Danny’s old school iPod (bearing in mind he was in a plane crash in roughly 2002/3 so that was the height of Apple technology). Not even questioning how Danny has managed to keep an original IPod charged for 15 years in a magical city that doesn’t have electricity, he proceeds to show him an iPhone he stole off of some random passerby. What follows is a homeles man telling a rejected surfer lookalike how an IPhone works. IN 2017!!! Seriously, who doesn’t know how an iPhone works in this day and age? And it’s not just vast technological improvements that astound Danny! For some reason, he can’t seem to understand why people don’t take him seriously when he keeps saying he needs to recharge his chi or that he is the mystical saviour of a city that “cannot be accessed by mere mortals. Probably because it sounds completely fucking insane Danny!! Then there’s the M&M’s moment that just defies all logic and feels like such blatant product placement that even Michael Bay would be embarrassed by it. Oh and the scene set in “China?” Looks a lot like every other generic warehouse seen in a TV show with a limited location budget!! Adding some Chinese lanterns isn’t fool me!!
That doesn’t even take into account every mention of the Iron Fist as if it were a sex toy. Seriously, at one point Coleen Wing even asks Danny to “take your righteous Iron Fist and destroy me!” The porn parody basically writes itself doesn’t it? Hell, I’m pretty sure someone even says that Iron Fist sounds like a sex toy! If you’re aware that this is an issue within your own series, why do keep writing dialogue that no one will take seriously?!
Acting wise, Iron Fist is a complete mess. Finn Jones, most well know for his role of Loras Tyrell on Game of Thrones, is a poor choice as the leading man. Hell, there’s a reason Loras Tyrell never really did anything on Game of Thrones. Jones lacks the acting talent and charisma required to pull off Danny Rand and instead reduces him to an surfer douchebag that you wouldn’t care if he died in any of the scenarios he’s put in. He also lacks the necessary believability that he is a master martial artist, often looking like an actor rehearsing a fight scene rather than someone who could take down fifty ninjas without breaking a sweat (then again, all of the fight scenes in Iron Fist are edited to such a poor quality it’s amazing they were even included). Much has also been made of the “white saviour” debacle that arose when Jones was cast. In hindsight, an Asian actor would have been a much wiser choice for the role. Someone like Steven Yeun or Lewis Tan (who actually appears in episode 10 for a brief role and is infinitely more likeable than Jones).
Much of the praise for the series has been directed to Jessica Henwick for her portrayal of Coleen Wing and to Rosario Dawson, returning as Claire Temple. Well…it’s not deserved. Henwick is a terrible female lead, often failing to emote anything other than “slightly fucked off” and failing to match other female characters within the MCU. Likewise, while Dawson is still excellent as Temple (proving herself to be one of the most underrated actresses working today), her character feels shoehorned in and unnecessary to the plot. It literally only feels like she’s there because she was in the other Netflix shows. The actors that play the Meachum twins don’t even deserve recognition for their horrendous performance while David Wenham plays main antagonist Harold Meachum as if he was the villain in a Roger Moore era Bond movie. Wenham is a capable actor but he really hams up his performance here, especially during a scene where he kills his PA because they don’t like a certain flavour of ice cream. Yes, seriously. That’s an actual scene. Can you tell this is a piece of shit yet?
The only legitimately great performances come from Carrie-Anne Moss, reprising her role as Jeri Hogarth from Jessica Jones, and Wai Ching Ho who returns as the sinister Madame Gao, last seen in Season 1 of Daredevil. Both bring a much needed sense of talent and intrigue into the series and are once again brilliant in their portrayals of strong female characters. It’s a shame that Moss is only utilised in three episodes as these episodes come to life whenever she is on screen. Ching Ho gets a much larger number of episodes to appear in and utilises every minute of her screen time to remind the audience just how much of a badass Madame Gao is. Hopefully her character will return in future Marvel/Netflix shows
But what’s the biggest issue with Iron Fist? Simple: it doesn’t embrace the campiness of its source material. The Iron Fist in the comic is a man wearing green and yellow pyjamas who does Kung fu. It’s inherently stupid. And that’s fine. Comics in general are quite dumb. But in the context of the show, all this is stripped away in “favour” of a dark, gritty tone that clashes violently with the whole principle of the character. How any of the actors managed to talk about K’un-Lun or the Immortal Iron Fist without bursting out laughing can only be imagined. A show like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. embraces the more outlandish elements of Marvel comics with joy. It isn’t afraid to be silly. Maybe Iron Fist would have worked better here?
So…is Iron Fist worth your time? No, absolutely not. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage weren’t brilliant but at least they had something going for them. This doesn’t. Don’t bother with it. Skip straight to The Defenders. Which should be far better as it’s the Daredevil showrunners that are behind that show and the trailer was pretty damn good.
The Defenders will debut on Netflix on August 18 and will see Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist join forces to fight The Hand. At this moment, it’s unclear if Iron Fist will be renewed for a second season but if it is it needs to make some big changes to its format. If it’s not……well, I’m going to lose sleep over it.
By the way, if this review appears to be poorly written, apologies. Reliving the experience of watching this was something I never wanted to do. Next one will be better, promise.
Oh and as a final note: the showrunners for this is also in charge of The Inhumans series that will air later this year. Read into that what you will.
VERDICT: A joyless, scrambled mess of a TV show that wastes it potential and gives Marvel its first officially bad product in the MCU and earns the distinction of being the worst superhero series of the last ten years. Avoid at all cost!