After 13 hours of binge-watching the hell out of Marvel-Netflix’s latest venture, Iron Fist, here I am with my honest and unbiased review. So, before I begin I am going to issue this SPOILER ALERT because I really can’t talk about this without giving away some minor spoilers.
WARNING: Major/minor spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk.
So ever since the critics review of Iron Fist came out on Rotten Tomatoes, I was actually worried that how can a Netflix-Marvel collaboration receive such a low rating. There has been an ongoing battle between the critics and the audience for a long time and after the war between them during Batman v/s Superman and Feigbusters, this looks like the next most divisive topic of 2017. I have always stood by the audience and have criticised the old,cranky critics for not being at par with today’s modern concepts and ideas. Now, after going through Iron Fist, I’ll try to take my stand by citing the facts and opinions that I have accumulated while watching the entire series. Here we go.
Billionaire Danny Rand (Finn Jones) returns to New York City after being missing for years, trying to reconnect with his past and his family legacy. He fights against the criminal element corrupting New York City with his kung-fu mastery and ability to summon the awesome power of the fiery Iron Fist.
In all honesty, this is not one of the best works of the Marvel and Netflix collaboration. Even though it has it’s moments but most of the time the series suffers from a couple of problems. So I’ll try to review it by defining the things that bugged me and the things that I appreciated.
What are the things that bugged me in Iron Fist?
My idea of Iron Fist comes from the latest animated Spider-man series and a brief read from the Marvel Wikia articles after the trailer was launched. So,my criticisms might seem a bit juvenile to hardcore fans but, in all fairness, this is not a comic-book issue. This is a t.v. show and I am reviewing it in the same way as I would review any other T.V. show that I am excited about.
- Suspension of disbelief: According to the time-line that is suggested by this articleand also here, people have already seen a giant green monster, a God and aliens coming through a worm-hole, but the number of times the people here question Danny Rand’s powers is simply irritating. Especially when Claire Temple keeps questioning him and telling him that the more he speaks, the weirder the situation gets. Even if I consider that she hasn’t seen all of the above, she has seen a blind man jump over buildings and fight ninjas, a man with unbreakable skin and a woman pick up a man thrice her weight without even breaking a sweat. By now, I think people should start accepting the crazy and get on with it.
- Everyone is an exposition machine: I was baffled at the amount of exposition that was being thrown around throughout the series. Everyone is asking Danny Rand about his parents’ death and how he became the Iron Fist. The first few times I sort of rolled with it and ignored the amateurish writing, but after the sixth episode I was boiling at every little exposition. The dialogues were also written to highlight every bit of exposition that the writers could possibly think of. That’s why the interactions between the characters never felt real and I didn’t connect with them at a humane level. Finally, Madam Gao should be renamed Madam Exposition because what is the point of her having powers when she loves the subtle art of explaining every single thing.
- Danny Rand’s tonal differences: If this guy is the Iron Fist, I do not have any hope from him when the Defenders have to go against a bigger threat. Davos even blurts out that Danny is the worst Iron Fist he has ever seen. Let me lay it out for you. Danny is a man who has been under rigorous training and discipline for 13 years! Nobody, however erratic they maybe, retains their child-like behaviour after being trained in Kung-fu for 13 years. Still, the way he mentions the stuff he has done in the monastery or the way he walks and talks, doesn’t give a portrayal of a man who has gone through such hardships. Yes, he cries and weeps and shivers and goes into convulsions at the thought of his parents’ death, but the character itself isn’t worth rooting for. Also, his powers are so inconsistent that it becomes really irritating. I am not talking about the time he was drugged. I am talking about the times he lost his focus so easily.
- The casting of Danny Rand and Bakuto was completely wrong: Now, now. Before you think that I am talking about “whitewashing”, let me tell you this. I understand what is whitewashing. I have done a bit of Wiki and Google search and Danny Rand was always white with blonde hair. So the SJW’s who are losing their sleep over it, they need to cool it down by several notches. So, I am talking about the stunt doubles of Iron Fist and Bakuto. The stunt doubles should have been cast in their respective roles because the editing was so bad that I could pin-point the moment where the double took the place of the actor. Sometimes, it looked like the DOP wasn’t even trying to hide the stunt-double. Not just that, Finn Jones isn’t as expressive as he should have been. He has a high-level and a low-level vocal tone. There is no optimum level. Even when he is not talking, his face is stuck with the last expression he portrayed and he continues that expression till he speaks again. OH! And he isn’t very good with action. Hence, the stunt-double.
- Editing and music: Sometimes the transition from one shot to another didn’t carry over the tone that the previous shot was portraying. Spoilers here: When Danny uses his power to burn the poison out of Colleen’s body, the next episode begins with the both of them naked? Did she rape him while he was unconscious? The editing during the fight sequences are just mind-blowing(sarcasm). The camera keeps shifting from a mid close-up to a wide shot, so many times that the whole fight loses any sense of coherence. And the music during those fight sequences gave me a headache. They could have just concentrated on the punch sounds or the sounds of the weapons they were using and could have turned it up in order to make it sound a bit dramatic. Instead, there is music when it is not necessary and when there is no music, the sound of the weapons is kept so low that it sounds like the sound of a fight sequence from a 10th grade school performance.
- Coincidental meetings: Most of the series is situated in New York. I have never been to New York but the city’s portrayal in other movies and t.v. shows gave me the idea that it is pretty big, but the rate at which everyone keeps bumping into each other made New York look like my hometown, Siliguri. One coincidental meeting does make for a very cool Easter Egg and I will mention it later.
- More talk and less fight makes Iron Fist a bore-fest: I’ll blame the marketing team for this and the name of the character for this. The name is Iron Fist and 80% of the time we are looking at legal proceedings instead of tons of punching and kicking. I am not saying that it’s a bad thing because once the fight sequences began, I wanted the episode to go back to conversation mode. The most irritating factor in this series were the Meachums. They were highlighted way too much. I guess this story-line could have been adapted in the second season of Iron Fist and this season could have focused on a hard-core origin story. If you’re thinking of binge-watching it for the fights, SPOILER ALERT, you’re going to get a lot of this–
What are the things that I rolled with in Iron Fist?
Now, it’s Marvel and also Netflix, so it’s not all bad. There are some redeeming factors that made for some of the better moments of the series. Here they are:
- Another kick-ass character gets included in the MCU: Due to the multiple references that the previous shows kept giving about the MCU, I am guessing that these Netflix series will eventually witness a cross-over. And when it does, I obviously want Marvel’s very own “One Punch Man” to mow down some enemies.
- The Iron Fist mythology: There was a reasonable amount of flashbacks and references to the dimension in which Kun Lun exists and I hope it is explored even more in the upcoming series or movies. Actually, I’d have really loved to see Danny’s complete training from scratch but I guess that ship has sailed. The other thing about the Iron Fist mythology is the theory about the other Iron Fists. That’s a huge canvas to do many different story-lines.
- The actor who performed as Ward Meachum: As much as I hated the over-inclusion of the Meachums, I really loved Tom Pelphrey’s performance. He portrayed the egoistic but unstable heir of the Rand enterprise very appropriately. I couldn’t find one bad scene of him. He expressed through his eyes, vocals and physicality to portray the different psychological status of the character.
- The violence and R-rating: One thing you gotta love about this collaboration of Marvel and Netflix is the use of violence and gore whenever it is required. The series kicked into gear when Harold plants his sword on the head of the guy who hit Joy. Yes, there was a spike in my heartbeat but then again we returned to Marvel’s Talking with the Meachums.
- Colleen Wing is really attractive: Jessica Henwick is a primary reason why I made it through this series. I’ll just put this photo down here and I guess it’ll do all the explaining. Also, she handles her part of the action choreography pretty well.
- The Midnight Cowboy reference: There has to be a ton of references to other Marvel properties and to the Iron Fist’s original comics and a poster of Stan Lee as a police officer but an Easter Egg that I caught(or I at least hope it was one) was in Episode 09. Danny happens to meet Joy and after a brief conversation Danny leaves and you can hear a car-horn go off and someone scream-
Who is fair? Critics or the Audience?
Actually none of them. A 17% rating is way too low for a T.V. show of this calibre. A stupid T.V. Show like Powerless has a rating of 67%. A 17% rating is indicative of a show made by kids. This is in no way a T.V. show made by kids. On the flip-side the audience rating of 88% isn’t fair either. This is, at best, an average show and a rating of 50-60% would have been fair. If I have to rank the Marvel-Netflix series in the order of best to worst then here it is: 1.Daredevil Season 1, 2. Daredevil Season 2, 3. Luke Cage, 4. Jessica Jones and 5. Iron Fist. According to me, critics who are giving such a low rating are as unfair as the audience who are rating it high, (apparently) just to defy them. That brings me to my last question.
Should critics’ reviews/ratings be released on the same day as audience ratings?
I know why critics get to see a movie beforehand. It’s so that those reviews pull in the crowds to watch that particular movie but the current situation has become very venomous. Nowadays everyone is so aware that a number instantly alters their movie or t.v. show watching experience. Nobody can stop the critics from the watching the movies beforehand because they have earned their right to do so, but I think the ratings should be withheld till the day the movie opens for the general public. Then the audience will go only on the basis of the trailers and that’s why afterwards they will give a more honest review of the movie. One which the movie actually deserves.
Now, to the final question. Should you or should you not watch Iron Fist, currently streaming on Netflix?
Yes you should. Go in with zero expectations and you might just enjoy it. If you expect it to be anywhere near the earlier Netflix-Marvel series, then you’ll be gravely disappointed. Apart from all that, you’ll get to meet a new hero of the MCU. So definitely give it a watch.
Thanks for reading.