Netflix and Marvel have released the fourth series in their superhero show partnership, Iron Fist, which tells the tale of the mystical martial arts comic character Daniel “Danny” Rand/Iron Fist. He returns to New York 15 years after apparently dying in a plane crash with his parents, and seeks to reclaim his company and his identity while battling the evil supervillian organisation The Hand and a nefarious businessman.
The previous Netflix/Marvel shows all received great acclaim but not Iron Fist. It got a controversy jab, some fan right hooks and some critic uppercuts. Indiewire.com described it as “incredibly skippable” while USA Today slammed it as a “super fail”.
But is it really that awful? Like Ben Affleck Daredevil movie awful? Actually it’s not that bad. Here’s my review in four punches:
#1 Game of Jones
Rand is played by Finn Jones (Game of Thrones) and the only good thing about him playing Iron Fist is that he looks like the character – face wise. There were people complaining that was he was not an Asian character but Rand is white in the comics so I disagree with that argument. What is an issue, however, is that Jones lacks the physique and physicality of a martial artist. His moves looks like he is at his first Tai Chi class at the YMCA and the show keeps the lighting dark to better hide his stunt double. There is one scene in the first episode where he flips over a car which is utterly ridiculous and does not even make sense with his power set.
On the acting side Jones lacks drive, passion and is not very believable. He plays Danny as childish, irritating, naive and unlikable though the last two are more a fault of the writing than Jones’ acting. There is one scene where he brutally hits a boy with a training stick that made him look douche bag of the year. Rand is supposed to be haunted and suppressing his anger but his freak outs actually looks like he is having a really bad ice cream headache. Jones does have a few cool moments when he is in Iron Fist mode though and I believed him when he declares “I am a weapon”. But Jones, sadly, needs to sharpen his acting and martial arts chops and his miscasting drags down the entire affair.
#2 Enter the Dragon Daughter
Thankfully the supporting cast of Iron Fist do a much better job than Jones. Fellow Thrones allum Jessica Henwick is strong and fierce as martial arts dojo runner Colleen Wing, and you can cut the sexual tension between her and Danny with a katana. Rosario Dawson is also back as nurse Claire Temple – she appears in and ties together all the Netflix/Marvel series – and her character brings a lot of energy and humour. Carrie Ann-Moss also returns as steely attorney Jeri Hogarth and she is again very solid. Wai Ching Ho is also back as heroin dealer Madame Gao and she kills every scene she is in.
Among the newcomers David Wenham (Lord of the Rings) is so brilliantly fun as unhinged, Machiavellian presumed-dead businessman Harold Meachum. Tom Pelphrey plays his son Ward who has an interesting character arc that I liked. The villains overall were very good, maintaining the trend from Fist’s sister Netflix shows.
#3 K’un-Lun Fu
As one of the few martial arts comic book characters the expectations for sweet fight scenes from this show were quite high. The fights, though, were hit and miss (no pun intended) and were clearly hampered by Jones not doing his own stunts. The show wants to be a love letter to old school Kung Fu moves but it does not land the punch. I still had fun with it though and I liked the various ways they incorporated the Iron Fist move. There is one scene where he punches the ground that was spectacular.
On plot the pacing of the show is not the best and the first three episodes where Danny is whining about being the real Danny Rand is a slog. Thankfully the show gets a lot better after that and there are twists and some extremely dark moments. There are also numerous tie-ins to the other Netflix/Marvel shows and the MCU as well which fans will enjoy.
In terms of quality Iron Fist is a few notches below the other Netflix/Marvel series but still a good watch. Hopefully Jones ups his game when he appears in the Defenders series, which features a Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron First team up later this year, and for a possible season 2 of his own show.
Rating: 2.5/4 glowing super punches.