Tim Bustin recommends Iron Fist for the next instalment of Epiflix and Chill.
Perhaps we’ve come to expect too much from Marvel. Anticipation is high after the studio’s nine-year win streak they’re still riding, combined with the nerdy passion of millions of comic fans eager to see more lore brought to life.
But whilst that blindness forgave the slightly under-par Daredevil series two and then the structurally-confused Luke Cage, unless you’re a lifelong Danny Rand fan or you’re just too hyped for The Defenders, you’ll seriously struggle to forgive Iron Fist.
Continuing the grounded-in-reality tone of the Marvel Netflix shows so far, Danny Rand’s weird superhero backstory is only referred to via infrequent flashbacks.
Instead, we first meet the character barefoot and homeless, trekking around New York after being missing, presumed dead, for 15 years. His deceased father’s company is being run by his childhood friends, who refuse to believe this is really Danny and push him away.
The comics’ Iron Fist has always been a man out of place in the world – when he returns home no-one wants him, while he left the supernatural monastery he spent 15 years studying at because he always felt an outsider – a lonely American.
The cultural backlash to Finn Jones’ casting is irrelevant because of this fact – or at least it would be more so if we actually saw more of Danny’s time in K’un-lun, besides the occasional shot of him being beaten by monks or meditating on a mountainside.
The interesting backstory is instead traded for monotone corporate locations and mental hospitals. Whilst previous Marvel Netflix shows smartly weaved the character’s origin into the story framework, with the correct dosage, Iron Fist’s is frustratingly bare for a backstory so dramatic.
Really, every creative decision in the show is poorly thought out. Why a gritty, realistic tone, when your fun lead character has little reason to be serious? Simply because it then follows on from all other Marvel Netflix shows.
At the end of the day, Iron Fist is cheap television that takes itself way too seriously
You can tell from the beginning that 13 hours of Iron Fist is going to drag on – and the pacing is slow in a plot that’s a dull build-up to The Defenders. The occasional bursts of fun or intrigue – getting to see Danny’s powers, spending time in an apartment-turned-dojo – make the show watchable. Just.
The showrunners should have realised when constructing the series that grounding a hero who got his powers by literally punching a dragon in the heart is never going to work. You’re allowed that one, more supernatural hero in your grounded universe, but the campy feel isn’t embraced and the fight scenes are horribly shot.
It doesn’t help that the CGI budget has clearly been saved for The Defenders – but a lack of money can never forgive generic dialogue and terribly executed ideas. You can always get the gist of what a moment or scene is trying to be, but rarely do you feel it.
At the end of the day, Iron Fist is cheap television that takes itself way too seriously. Whilst its lead is fun enough – Finn Jones plays Danny with a boyish, out of touch feel, although that often comes across as Jones simply not knowing what he’s doing – Iron Fist suffers from too many issues. The gritty tone fails in this unrealistically written show.
Lacking the layers of Daredevil and missing the campy feel of Agents of Shield; Iron Fist awkwardly sits in between dumb fun and gritty realism. There’s just enough moments to keep your interest switched on, but like Luke Cage before it, was there any purpose to this show being made at all?
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