article by Connor Behrens for ArtsEarth
Marvel’s latest Netflix show, “Iron Fist,” is a supernatural martial arts series that features Finn Jones as a man with superhuman abilities.
“Iron Fist” tells the story of Danny Rand as he resurfaces to New York City after being absent from society and the spotlight for 15 years, aiming to regain his family business. But when a dark danger arises, Rand must pick between his family’s heritage and his moral obligations as the Iron Fist, a hero with unbelievable kung fu skills and ability to call on supernatural powers to his disposal.
Audiences have seen the premise of “Iron Fist” multiple times. Whether it’s CW’s “Arrow” or Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins,” the plot of a wealthy man going into hiding and training to become a hero is a tired trope at this point. Because this story is one viewers have seen over and over, it ends up becoming clichéd. “Iron Fist” unfortunately does not try to execute anything differently with this story of the wealthy man training with an ancient organization. The pilot episode plays like a limp handshake.
“Iron Fist” is the last show before Marvel’s “The Defenders” – the Netflix version of “The Avengers” films. Boy, did Marvel save the team’s worst character for last. Danny Rand is clearly set up to be sympathetic to the audience. He lost his parents at a young age and is attempting to get his life back. However, the character ends up uninteresting by the end of the first episode – giving no reason for potential viewers to care about the character’s future arc.
But what’s worse than the uninspired story is the execution. From the opening minutes that showcase how far the famed Rand has fallen, the implementation is formulaic and out-of-date. The scenes of Danny going into the company building of his parents and breaking into his old house are intended to showcase how skilled the man is in his athletic abilities. Sadly, they just play like a fatigued montage.
But the show is not all dark and rotten. The pilot episode features glimpses of excitement. A particular scene features Jones driving erratically around a parking garage as he tries to get answers from a former associate. Another sequence features the character evading company assassins in a busy crowd in New York. These sequences are tensely edited and, for a brief moment, offer audiences somewhat stimulating scenes.
But what is truly fueling all the attention towards “Iron Fist” is less about execution and more about race. Users online have complained about Jones’ casting due to him being Caucasian and the fact that the comic character’s foreign background is in martial arts and kung fu. Danny Rand has been Caucasian in the comics, so one can understand why Marvel decided to cast someone like Jones in the role.
However, while it’s not certain if an Asian-American actor would have elevated the show’s content, isn’t it about time that other minority groups are given a chance to identity with superheroes? This could have been an opportunity to update the character of Iron Fist for modern audiences.
Overall, “Iron Fist” lacks any bite and compelling characters. While the series may improve in further episodes should users wish to continue, the pilot simply is not persuasive enough to garner any need to continue the story of Danny Rand and his battle to reclaim his company and heritage. Hopefully “The Defenders” will be a superior show for fans later this year.