There had been a lot of publicity around how bad Marvel’s Iron Fist was going to be. The latest Netflix original faced a torrential downpour of hate after the first 6 episodes were released early to reviewers. I heard rumors and read headlines about people being upset about the cultural appropriation which took place, others upset about how slow it was. I didn’t dive too deep into why people didn’t like it because I wanted to form my own opinion, without preconceived notions helping shape that.
I finished the series this Saturday and decided to sit and reflect a bit before I dove into this review, I really wanted to give this a fair shot, because I knew how sensitive people are going to be especially with all of the hoopla that arose when it was suggested Marvel should have made Danny Rand Asian. Anyways, here is your spoiler alert, let’s dive into this review of Netflix’s Iron Fist.
The Iron First revolves around Danny Rand, who is the son of a pharmaceutical CEO who after a tragic plane crash is presumed dead with the rest of his family. Of course, Danny does not die in the crash but is instead saved by these warrior monks from a mystical city who train him from the age of ten to become an “Immortal Weapon” known as the Iron Fist. The duty of the Iron First is to protect the passage to the mystical city of K’un-Lun and to destroy the evil organization known only as The Hand. Rand leaves the city of K’un-Lun to return to New York and try to find out who was responsible for the death of his family. I pretty much got hung up on one thing, and that thing annoyed the hell out of me throughout the entire series.
The weak as F@%k fight scenes.
The very first fight scene, which takes place in the lobby of the Rand corporate headquarters is so underwhelming. Am I supposed to believe you spent 15 years training and earned the title of Immortal Weapon? Set the tone early! Don’t come out of the gate with some moves that look like a scene out of a slapstick comedy where the Martial Arts instructor takes a dive vs the rich white guy so he feels better about the lesson!
The Iron Fist should have dropped those five guys with quick powerful blows that should have been reminiscent of an Ip man movie. I am not saying rip off Ip man fight scenes but the first fight or introduction to the main character should show us a bit about his skills, he’s not Daredevil who was working through it on his own, he spent 15 years! I also don’t want to hear this, he was not trying to hurt them nonsense either, he could have taken them down quick and easy (refer to how fast Davos drops the dude in the taco truck) or it could have been filmed in a way that made it look quick and easy, instead it was lame and had me worried for the series, but I held out hope.
I thought maybe there was a reason his fighting style wasn’t smooth, or that he looked like someone who only studied martial arts to play a role on TV whenever he fought. It is later revealed that he abruptly left K’un-Lun and his training was not all the way complete, I thought that maybe this would result in his ability increasing over the remainder of the series. Instead, this fact about his training not being complete had more to do with his ability to control his Chi, which granted him extra power and allowed him to summon the actual Iron First ability which he could use to enhance his martial arts prowess. By, enhance prowess, I mean occasionally use it to break a door or gate he could not get through.
Unfortunately, the fighting was extremely difficult for me to get around. While some scenes were clearly edited better than others, which made them easier to watch, they rarely gave that feel of excitement, or incite that urge to hit your friend with some Kung Fu moves. For me the only fight scene I truly enjoyed and got me anywhere near hyped was watching Colleen, the most interesting character, aside from Madam Gao, fight her way through the first illegal cage match. Even the climatic battle with the defender of the hand and the later fight with his friend Davos were so weak. I was hoping and expecting something between Ip man level fights and the power punching/enhanced strength brawling style Luke Cage used. Instead, I ended up with something in-between Power Rangers and Walker, Texas Ranger.
Now I know you’re wondering, why I keep getting hung up on the action and fight scenes? The reason is because it directly ties into what they are trying to sell you on with Danny Rand as the latest flawed hero to join the Defenders universe. It’s clear that this series is trying to sell you on Danny not being able to control his temper and violent nature. Not being able to control this nature seems to revolve a lot around the process which turned him into the Iron Fist along, with never gaining closure on why, how or who cause the plane to crash that killed his family and his survivor’s guilt. They show you this with multiple flashbacks followed by violent outbursts either in combat or in conversation. Then because of the angsts and anger deep within him, this prevents him from properly channeling his Chi and summoning the Iron Fist.
How does this tie into the fighting? It is because they have told us that the Iron Fist is not something that is given, it is something that is earned. Danny allegedly trained for 15 years in a monastery to even gain the right to take the challenge of the dragon and become the Iron Fist. So here we have a highly-trained weapon, with a legendary power, and a temper, but this potentially lethal combination is only shown after a fight is decided or when shouting at the people around him?
That is extremely, lame and really difficult for me to buy as a member of the audience.
These aspects should have been expressed in his fighting, the scenes should have shown him using brutal, powerful moves, not using a power ranger style flourish, then running and jumping on top the enemy and then beating him senseless. The outbursts and weak fights that end in tantrums make it extremely hard for me as a viewer to see Danny Rand as anything but a spoiled white kid who’s simply appropriating Asian culture.
He’s constantly meditating, doing Tai chi, or quoting whatever saying a former master used to have about karma when the situation arises. Yet, when the chips are down he’s struggling against one guy in the back of a truck so long, that it ends up getting the person he was trying to saved stabbed. Then on the flip side, I am supposed to believe after barely being able to take one guy with a knife in an enclosed space he can fight two guys with knives in an enclosed space? Then at the end struggles with a 50+-year-old man? It just felt like The Immortal Weapon known as the Iron First was a major poser.
If I were to rate this on Netflix I would give it two stars. The fight scenes were kind of lame, there was no greater social issue that was being addressed like in other Marvel Netflix series. It felt kind of bland, like it was thrown in there because they needed to introduce the fourth defender before going into that series, and getting to season two of the other originals. Now I do want to talk about the appropriation and making Danny rand Asian, but this is already long and that discussion deserves its own post. So, watch Iron First for yourself, hopefully, you’re reading this after finishing the series. Let me know if you liked it, loved it or hated and why.
Until next time.