Saturday, March 25, 2017

My Review of Marvel's Iron Fist on Netflix: Impurities of the Iron

Marvel's Iron Fist, or simply Iron Fist, is an American web television series created for Netflix by Scott Buck, based on the character featured in Marvel Comics. This superhero is the most mystical entry into the list of the Defenders, which consist of Daredevil, Jessica Jones (a.k.a Jewel), and Luke Cage which debuted not long ago.

Finn Jones stars as Danny Rand (a.k.a Iron Fist), a martial arts kung-fu expert with the ability to call upon the legendary power of the "Immortal" Iron Fist. Rand is the son of a rich Caucasian businessman, who is found by a monastery after his private jet crashes into the mountainous region of the Himalayas. He later returns home to only to discover that 15 years after his disappearance, he must now fight an evil syndicate within his own company, a common theme which takes several notes from Batman, Green Arrow, and even Doctor Strange.

Rosario Dawson reprises her role as nurse Claire Temple, (originally from Daredevil) and acts as a voice of reason (once again), this time for Colleen Wing (portrayed by Jessica Henwick) and for Danny Rand as they come to terms with the notion of potentially killing members of the criminal organization, the Hand.

Now as a side note, it is perhaps worth mentioning that Steve Buck has been accused of "whitewashing" the character "Iron Fist" in choosing Finn Jones to portray Danny Rand over, say, another equally capable Asian or Asian-American actor, but these arguments seem rather petty overall, especially when one thinks about the alternative of stereotyping a racial background for the protagonist depicted. This is especially true when one considers that the source material, written in the ’70s, is rampant with Orientalist stereotypes and racist remarks. I also feel that Marvel probably would've gone with a non-Asian actor to depict Danny Rand anyway as they did so in the Ultimate Spider-man Animated Series, but that's not really an issue in my mindframe. They have a reasonably experienced and moderately known actor. That's all one really needs.

Finn Jones performance isn't terrible (although the fight scenes seemed to leave much to be desired despite being incredibly gruesome at times... The actions choreographed seem sluggish and stiff, not nearly as fluid as one might expect), However, a more conducive script is probably what could've really been improved upon. The narrative is severely lacking of any innovation or emotional impact.

This unfortunate problem is further enhanced due to the fact that all three villains (Madame Gao, Bokuto, and Harold Meachum) were constantly tackled head-on with little to no tact, and only the last of whom had any real closure or afterthought. (This is partly why I enjoy Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple because she seemed to be the more level-headed and pragmatic of the three protagonists, trying to persuade Danny Rand NOT to rush into dangerous situations with half-baked plans).

Arguably, there is a consistent issue of contradictions in character developments. For example, Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) is Danny’s childhood friend, and her position at Rand Enterprises makes her one of the series’ more intriguing characters as a woman of respectable standing (especially as she's rediscovering her moral conscious). Yet, her executive decisions never make any logical sense for her character. One minute she’s cautiously optimistic at the prospect of the return of Danny Rand, then the next, she's tainting his tea in order to promptly stuff him into a mental institution. In addition, she's constantly at odds with trusting her brother and father (both of which make a rather toxic family to be honest), and then the audience ultimately witnesses her consulting the Hand to have Danny Rand killed. At this point, I'm rather confused as to whether Joy is supposed to be a savage ice queen who embodies hatred, or an emotionally broken individual.

Danny Rand's character development contradicts what his training encompassed in that he vehemently reminds those closest to him of his years of training which aided the forging of his mental and emotional fortitude yet, despite this, he is STILL prone to fits of rage and violence. The internal struggle is briefly mentioned with Danny's friend Davos in the car towards the end of the season, but it doesn't feel nearly as compelling even with Davos trying to find his own "center" during every interaction he has, especially with those people reminding him that he was not the chosen one to fulfill the role of the Iron Fist. Granted, one has to believe that "training never truly ends" but, it would've been better had someone actually stated something like that in dialogue. There are plenty of words of wisdom that this series could've benefitted from, manly quotes from Confucius, the Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher. These could fit with the Mandarin Chinese spoken throughout the series. Shoot, we could even have the Thunderer return as a mental mentor or another equally important character remind Danny of focus.
  1. "The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence."
  2. "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
  3. "Wherever you go, go with all your heart."
  4. “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” 
  5. “Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others.” - (When Danny is angry at Colleen for the betrayal)
  6. “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” 

I felt a complete lack of tension or surprise when *SPOILER WARNING* Harold Meachum turned out to be villainous and it was utterly predictable that the timid, (but ultimately forgettable) assistant Kyle, wouldn't make it to the second season. To me, it seemed similar in many ways to DC's The Arrow.

Not really changing up the formula and as a result, suffers from predictable tropes leaving the audience feeling empty.