Where do we begin with Iron Fist? Marvel and Netflix have enjoyed such a fruitful relationship since Daredevil became available to stream in 2015. Both companies helped to reinvent the characters to lay the groundwork for a huge ensemble extravaganza with The Defenders.
All they needed was for show number four to work out. Unfortunately, the ball was dropped on this one. Big time.
People can point to the 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes or the cultural misappropriation of a white man perfecting an art form that Asian civilization has mastered for centuries. Whatever stick you wish to jab Iron Fist with, the bottom line is that this is just awful.
The direction, the acting, the kung-fu, the plot twists, the villains – everywhere you look there are major issues with Iron Fist. There are some elements of saving grace, but it is 13 episodes that could easily have been cut down to 6 without leaving out anything important on the cutting room floor.
Season 2 will surely be on the cards, not on account of the success of the first but because of the continuity of the franchise. Like Adam Sandler’s deal with the streaming company, the critics slammed the quality while the clicks went through the roof to illustrate that viewership figures are all that really matters.
Fingers crossed the people behind Iron Fist take note of the criticism and not dismiss the dissenting voices, as the lead star Finn Jones did.
** MAJOR SPOILER ALERT – OBVIOUSLY! **
15 Doesn't Suck - Soundtrack
Let us start with a positive, shall we? The opening credits have been a hallmark of Netflix’s Marvel franchise, delivering a power punch to proceedings. The mixture of part Dubstep and Asian tunes for Iron Fist is not the strongest of the four but is arguably the best feature of the entire program.
The pilot’s use of “So Fresh, So Clean” by OutKast is well used, as well as “Come Down” by Anderson. Paak as Rand’s usually boring martial arts/kung-fu routine was jazzed up with the use of the music.
There are many instances where Iron Fist takes itself far too seriously and these sporadic moments of fun by composer Trevor Morris are crafted well. He should have enjoyed more scope to explore the soundtrack because what we were left with was a plastic character in a stale environment.
14 Does Suck - Joy Meachum Played By Jessica Stroup
One of the writing staff or filmmakers needs to explain how the lovable and redeemable daughter Joy can be an innocent victim caught in the crossfire one episode, and lobby for her pharmaceutical products to skyrocket in price the next before ending up as a future villain.
This contradiction sticks out like a sore thumb as Joy is subjected to a violent father who returns from the dead, an alcoholic and deranged brother, and an old friend who continues to put her in an uncomfortable situation. Throughout all of these issues, you are reminded that she is as cold and calculating as any of these people, so why bother caring one bit about her plight?
Actress Jessica Stroup actually does a decent job conveying what is put down on paper for her, but the fault really falls with the writers who are never convinced where or how Joy fits into this mess.
13 Does Suck - Ward Meachum Played By Tom Pelphrey
If there is a more annoying television presence in 2017 than Ward Meachum, then let us know. Ward is the public face of Rand Enterprises as he transitions from a smug business leader to jaded ex-friend, evil manipulator, murderer and then a trusted confidant by the end of the season.
That is quite the story arc to embark upon by the screenwriters, but it is hard to ever be convinced that he is not the same guy you saw in the pilot.
34-year old Tom Pelphrey looks the part as a selfish, jaded and self-loathing millionaire who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. Given his acting track record with cameo episodes in productions including CSI: Miami, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and The Following, it is clear that he was still coming to terms with Ward and what his real motivations were.
12 Does Suck - Backstory
One of the great superhero tropes is the backstory. Answering the how, what, why, where and when of how the protagonist came to be the vigilante we see before our eyes. In the case of Iron Fist, we see the first part of the tragedy but none of how he actually came to be.
Maybe this has been kept up the sleeve for season number 2, yet the interest levels to explore this part of his journey is significantly waning. The character Davos was utilized to bridge sections of his backstory as he returned to New York City with the idea of taking Danny to K’un-Lun.
Losing a fight with Rand and Colleen, Davos told the pair that they would regret their actions as the finale laid the groundwork for K’un-Lun to be center stage for episode 1 of season 2. Does it matter why Rand was chosen as the Iron Fist? Do we want to see the superhero fight some violent monks?
Let us hope that the series doesn’t fall into the Arrow trap by flashing back year in, year out. That is truly exhausting.
11 Doesn't Suck - Claire Temple Played By Rosario Dawson
Claire Temple might just be the coolest thing about the whole Defenders franchise. Rosario Dawson’s character achieves what dozens of others in Iron Fist cannot. She acts as part comic relief and part saving grace while being one of the best performers in the show.
The nurse from Hell’s Kitchen has seen it all with Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, being the glue that binds the four together – sometimes literally! There is serious cache about Dawson that the majority of the cast cannot come close to reaching.
Dawson has been a bad ass in titles like Men in Black II, Sin City, Clerks II, Death Proof and Killshot. Being “watchable” is an intangible gift that is hard to quantify and is incredibly subjective. Whatever the rationale is, Rosario Dawson is a pure star and whenever she is in front of the camera, Dawson is a scene stealer.
10 Does Suck - Directing
Iron Fist is directed by John Dahl (2 episodes), Tom Shankland, Miguel Sapochnik, Uta Briesewitz, RZA, Farren Blackburn, Kevin Tancharoen, Jet Wilkinson, Peter Hoar, Deborah Chow, Andy Goddard and Stephen Surjik. See anything wrong with this picture?
The intention to keep a production fresh and on their toes is fine. Plenty of television series has utilized numerous directors before, most notably with NBC’s The Office to great success. However, that was an established franchise that knew exactly what it was about, who the characters were and what the intended audience is.
Iron Fist is still searching for an identity when it comes to all of those departments and the mishmash of direction came through for the viewer. There was no consistency and visual techniques were brought aboard as quickly as they were dismissed.
9 Does Suck - Harold Meachum Played By David Wenham
Australia always produces amazing actors, particularly when it comes to the DC and Marvel world. Take one look at Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight or Hugh Jackman in Logan and it is obvious that the world of superheroes and supervillains are characters that come naturally to those Down Under.
As for David Wenham, the part of Harold Meachum simply doesn’t work. Much of this has to be put down to the writing of the character as the 300 star becomes the most uninteresting secretly undead billionaire quietly running a major corporation under the cloak of darkness and mystery.
Gifted by The Hand the ability to come back to life, Harold would discover that this attribute would become more of a curse as he lost his soul the more he returned from the grave. A perfect backdrop for any antagonist, but by the time he was pulling himself from a steel pole that had impaled him in the season finale, he became a parody of every bad guy ever made.
Can he be really dead this time? Please.
8 Doesn't Suck - Jeri Hogarth Played By Carrie-Anne Moss
Much like her co-star and colleague Rosario Dawson, there is that je ne sais pas quality to Carrie-Anne Moss that makes her incredibly watchable. Establishing herself in The Matrix trilogy, Moss has that ability to take hold of a scene and make it her own, offering that serious tone of a woman who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it.
The character she plays in Jeri Hogarth is only introduced sparingly as she attempts to guide Rand through some muddy legal waters. Moss is perfectly adept to portray a lawyer with a moral compass, an odd mixture at the best of times. Hogarth understands her obligations while keeping herself away from any compromised position.
It is only good news to hear that Moss will be back to reprise her role as Hogarth in The Defenders. She played off well on season 1 of Jessica Jones and it will be intriguing to see how she interacts with Cage and Murdock in the ensemble.
7 Does Suck - Colleen Wing Played By Jessica Henwick
There is no ambiguous way to say the bleeding obvious – Colleen Wing is a bad character that is poorly acted from Jessica Henwick. The love story between her and Rand is as predictable as any romantic comedy you are likely to see, showcasing a strong and independent martial arts dojo expert in New York who falls for the guy with the blonde curls. Rand’s refusal to take “no” for an answer makes the situation even creepier.
To make Wing that little bit more unbelievable, it turns out she has been working alongside the “good” part of The Hand this whole time before losing Rand and winning him back in time for the finale. How this beacon for righteousness could associate with a body that sabotages and destroys New York is anyone’s guess.
6 Does Suck - Length of the Season
When the critics went to town on the show, they prefaced it with a warning about the first 6 episodes in particular. The pacing is slower than an 80s detective murder mystery on BBC, seeing characters stand in bemusement for minutes on end without the story ever taking a serious step forward.
In one of the opening episodes, Rand is attempting to find out more about his old house that has been inhabited by the Meachum’s. As he tries to infiltrate the domain, the main protagonist gazes outside the window to see how he can climb in. This padding goes on ad nauseam to the point where you wonder if the editor inserted some deleted scenes just to carry the running time up to the full hour.
5 Does Suck - Villains
A superhero story is only as good as it’s supervillain. On that count Iron Fist gets what it deserves – a pale imitation of a good narrative that is far superior in the comic book edition.
Gao is back from Daredevil as the spiritual leader of The Hand in New York City, but you can only be so menacing as a 5ft 2 elderly Asian lady with a motive. The relationship between Harold Meachum and Rand is a relatively healthy one until he discovers that he was the architect of his parent’s death somehow three-quarters of the way through.
Then there the factional leader of The Hand in Bakuto with a gang of faceless followers to round out the rest of the villains. That is it. Every antagonist in this series is either dead or disappeared into obscurity.
Daredevil had Kingpin and the anti-hero Punisher. Jessica Jones had Kilgrave. Luke Cage had Cottonmouth. Iron Fist regurgitated a sideline player from another show.
4 Doesn't Suck - One Step Closer To The Defenders
August 18th cannot come soon enough for those that want to see the awesome foursome team up to kick some serious ass. Everything has built up to The Defenders as characters are crossed over and teased to build up to the main event everyone came to see.
By right, Iron Fist was the final hurdle to get to this point and unfortunately, the show really did feel like a hurdle to jump across. But this cannot take away the excitement to see how Danny Rand will fit into a team that boasts Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Matt Murdock/Daredevil in an 8-episode miniseries that should pack in the quality from start to finish.
In an unintentional and obscure way, the disappointment of Iron Fist from fans and critics almost makes The Defenders more eagerly anticipated, as it will be interesting to examine how the character will integrate with the rest of the crew.
3 Doesn't Suck - Easter Eggs
Planting seeds are all part of the program for Marvel. They have an MCU world on the big screen and a spinoff series that delves in one direction courtesy of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and another direction with The Defenders. They all form under the one banner but in different sections. Confused yet?
These little winks and nods serve two main purposes. The first and most obvious of which is to get people interested in one show or movie to tune into their other intellectual property. The second is to underplay the link for those that want to stick to one character or one arm of the body.
Granted they are few and far between, yet there are short references to Stark Industries and The Avengers among others for those with a keen eye and ear. They are not groundbreaking but do serve as a reminder that Iron Fist can be good in the knowledge that it is building towards something bigger.
2 Does Suck - Martial Arts
For a show that boasts an expert protagonist taught the ways of fighting by Monks in the Himalayas, the pacing, and execution of the fight scenes are comically bad. Such is the movement and awkwardness of the entire production, it appears as though the actors have been allowed to practice the sequences without realizing they will make the final cut.
Perhaps the fault for this problem lies with what has gone before courtesy of the change in direction and sub-standard acting that never fitted the characters. Whatever the case may be, the encounters between Danny, Colleen and The Hand were vastly inferior to memorable moments in Daredevil; where Charlie Cox would take on a swarm of bad guys down a staircase in a single take; or Luke Cage – seeing the hero infiltrate a mini army through an entire barricade.
The martial arts in Iron Fist might have been at a decent standard for a basic cable series 15 to 20 years ago. Today it comes across as tacky.
1 Does Suck - Danny Rand Played By Finn Jones
Prior to Iron Fist, 29-year old Englishman Finn Jones had a small body or work that he was looking to build upon. His breakout performance came with his 21-episode stint in HBO’s Game of Thrones, playing Loras Tyrell.
While he attempts to make the most of a limited script, both Jones and the character of Danny Rand struggle to maintain the viewer’s interest throughout the 13 episodes. Most of his screen time is spent looking on confusingly or frustrated. If only he knew what it was like to watch him from this side of the screen!
Rand is Marvel’s version of Batman and Arrow. Son of a billionaire family – tick. Orphan – tick. Seeks vengeance – tick. Wants to save his city – tick. What makes him unique is being able to call upon a fist that demolishes his enemies. Outside of one sequence in the Rand building, there was never a time which he used it in an interesting way.
Fingers crossed that Rand works well with The Defenders as a supporting member. But judging by season one of Iron Fist, this is a superhero that requires a ton of work to be a success.