Samuel Brace on Marvel’s Iron Fist…
Iron Fist is not good.
That’s what you’ve been hearing in the build up to Netflix’s new Marvel series. You’ve been hearing that it is the first misfire from Marvel’s Netflix venture, a flop, a bag full of nothing good. Reviews have been indifferent to bad, its metacritic score currently sits at 37 with not one review getting into the green. This to me is absurd. This to me does not make sense. The show I’ve been watching does not reflect the abysmal scores thrown its way. Frankly, I just don’t get it.
Now, is Iron Fist a great show? No, absolutely not. But is it straight trash as the vast swath of reviews suggest? Hardly. I normally try and binge these types of shows as soon as they come out, spending a weekend devouring the content available. I haven’t done that with Iron Fist, the reviews did indeed put me off, though without deterring me forever. You see, I wanted to see for myself; surely it couldn’t be this bad? And guess what? It isn’t. Not even close.
After only four episodes, Iron Fist is proving to be a thoroughly enjoyable affair. Of course, I can’t comment on the entire series, I suppose it is possible for the show to dive off a cliff, or at least slide into nothingness like Luke Cage managed after its own sterling start, but I have no evidence of that happening as yet, and I can only comment on what I’ve seen. In an ideal world, this piece would be saved until after I’ve seen the entire thing, or at least significantly more than what I have now, but I felt, and deemed it imperative, to add a reasonable voice to the vitriolic noise surrounding this very reasonable show.
But let’s start off with the negative, as there are some very real problems, problems that we can’t ignore. Such as the acting, a lot of which isn’t very good, not very good at all. The show is replete with planks of wood reading lines off a page — definitely hindering the series’ appeal and digestibility. When you see good acting, you often don’t notice it, but when bad acting rears its ugly head it is incredibly vocal, and can bring one out of the fictional world the series is trying to create. Unfortunately for Iron Fist, this happens quite often. Except for Jessica Henwick who plays Danny’s ass kicking dojo host Colleen Wing, the rest of the cast isn’t up to scratch.
A less than desirable supporting cast could be levelled out with a dynamic and capable lead; this however isn’t the case with Iron Fist. Finn Jones is easily the least capable leading man/woman in the Netflix Marvel-verse so far. He isn’t terrible, he isn’t detestable to watch – let’s be clear, there are far worse leading men out there – but he’s no Charlie Cox, and Danny Rand is no Matt Murdock. It’s not even a contest.
This all would be a little more palatable if the actors at question were working with a dynamite script. A great script can make a bad actor look good. Unfortunately, that isn’t what is happening here. As wooden as the majority of the cast are, the script is equally clunky. The dialogue doesn’t flow like the other Netflix series, and certain plot points are jarring, and even at times baffling to see play out on screen. Again, like with the cast, there are far worse out there, and there are far worse shows receiving significantly better scores for their work. Unfortunately for Iron Fist, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it must be compared to shows like Daredevil – a comparison that won’t ever be kind. However, when putting it along side shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Fist comes out looking quite good indeed.
With all this being said, the show is immensely enjoyable. Yes, it is all a little Batman Begins in terms of its makeup, nothing new is being attempted here. But come on guys, a 37? That’s asinine. Don’t be silly. It certainly doesn’t correlate to what I’ve seen thus far. The good definitely outweighs the bad. The show comes alive during the many fight scenes that it contains; the fluid fighting style of Danny is great fun to watch and a nice distinction from the brutal, clubbing attacks that are found in Daredevil.
The way this origin story is presented isn’t egregious either; far from it. Danny’s journey from plane crash victim to bad-ass warrior monk is slowly fed to us from the present day, giving us just a little bit more as the episodes tick by. Which is a probably a smart way to go as the trials and tribulations he underwent probably aren’t that interesting. However, by attacking things this way, one finds themselves at least interested in seeing what actually went down, and this might be a good solution to the notoriously thin plots of these Netflix Marvel shows. One can already tell there isn’t much here, so perhaps dripping out the details will help pad things out a little.
Thought it must be said that the drama of Danny, his childhood friends, and his business, isn’t particularly interesting, and frankly confusing why he even cares about it, the larger story that is laced into events — the shadowy presence of The Hand lurking behind the scenes — helps to drive forward these moments, reassuring us that there are bigger things to come, and more important battles to fight. And while this war with mysterious ninjas is the least interesting aspect of Daredevil – that show has far more going for it on a personal dramatic level – this is undoubtedly the biggest appeal for Iron Fist. It is only alluded to, and hinted at in the first handful of episodes, but it’s there, and it is coming, and it helps of course to connect the show with other series in its Netflix family, adding a level of importance and significance to otherwise drab proceedings.
Could the show be better? Of course it could. But even with the issues that exist, Iron Fist is no doubt a thoroughly enjoyable affair, with enough compelling elements and exciting components to show you a good time. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but so far at least I am pleasantly surprised. So perhaps I should be saying thank you to the bad reviews. By going in with rock bottom expectations, the series has only served to exceed them. I am looking forward to continuing with its story, and suggest that if you are like me, and decided to stay away because of the reception it’s received – think again, just give it a go. You might like it more than you think. At the very least, its first four episodes are at least comparable to Luke Cage.
What do you make of Iron Fist? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…