Marvel’s Iron Fist (2017): The Disappointing Defender

Firstly, I’m going to go ahead and give a spoiler warning here because there’s a lot of details about the show you might not want to know in case you’re planning on watching it. I’ll try my best to keep it as minimal as I can.

Over the past few years, there hasn’t been anything coming out from the Marvel franchise that hasn’t gotten me excited. Whether it be the shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, or the movies like Avengers, Captain America, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and Deadpool. Heck… they even made Spider-Man look cool again. And, I’m saying all this despite being a fan of DC Comics.

But with Iron Fist, Marvel seems to have dropped the ball.

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Compared to the shows of all the other characters in The Defenders league, Iron Fist didn’t strike a chord with me. In fact, I found the show to be too slow moving and predictable to the point of stretching it to boredom.

One of the biggest attractions in a superhero movie or show, besides the superhero and his/her powers, has to be the villain. The more dangerous and conniving, the better. You want it to be someone you can hate all the way to the end and someone who is stronger than the superhero itself. But that was not the case with Iron Fist.

The villain, Harold Meachum played by David Wenham, initially made a decent impression as a manipulative and ruthless businessman, but as the show slowly progressed, he just ended up becoming a low-level thug with henchmen. Even his ambitions as a villain were boring.

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He fell short when compared to other antagonists like the devious Purple Man played brilliantly by the former Doctor Who star David Tennant or the intimidating Wilson Fisk played by Vincent D’Onofrio. Harold Meachum even fell short when compared to Cottonmouth in the Luke Cage series and he is not even the biggest villain in the show.

I would have liked the show better if instead of Harold Meachum, the final antagonist would have been anyone else. His son and daughter, Ward and Joy Meachum, or Davos or even Gao. Obviously, Davos is being set up for the next season, and Gao is more of a recurring act for the long term. In which case, I would have really loved it if Joy Meachum, the love interest of Danny Rand/Iron Fist, had taken a turn to the other side. Everything was pretty much set up for that possibility and she had the smarts for it too. It wouldn’t have been too much trouble to make it happen, and a plot twist would have probably saved the show in the end.

But it is what it is, and it has to follow the comics.

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So, the villain wasn’t all that great. Unfortunately, neither was the protagonist. The show relies a little too much on martial arts and yet too little.

Let me explain, the story drags along a little too far before you get to see any action and there are long gaps between one action scene to another. There’s a lot of drama in between that is stretched for longer than needed before another conflict occurs.

So, what do I mean when I say there’s too much of martial arts then? I’m talking about the protagonist here. There are some really good action sequences, but it just gets tiring after a while, especially because of the lack of use of the character’s power. It’s like watching one of those long fight sequences in the older Chinese Kung Fu movies.

Yes, you could argue that Daredevil was equally martial arts focused, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But here’s the thing, first, those action sequences were much more well done, and second, you know the Daredevil has no powers and so he relies on martial arts. He’s blind but he uses his weakness as his strength.

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However, Iron Fist keeps yapping about how great his glowing yellow fist’s power is and how he’s destined to stop the evil organization known as the Hand (which I found humorous because it reminded me of the Foot from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and then I remembered there’s a brain-like villain called Krang and that reminded me of another brain-like villain called MODOK, and that left me wondering what other villains may be there that are named or look like organs. And this train of thought was running while watching the show and I still didn’t miss anything, so now you know how this show felt like), and yet he uses it so little.

Iron Fist’s power is… well… an iron-like fist… and that’s like pretty much it. He focuses his chi in his fist. And half the time even that doesn’t work. He uses it maybe once or twice in a fight scene through the whole season. It reminds me of a scene from Season 8 of the Big Bang Theory.

Leonard: I’m going to guess that your main concern is the time commitment of watching an entire season of a new show.
Sheldon: Oh, no, not just a season. If I’m in, I’m in for the whole run, even if the quality declines.
Leonard: I get it. Smallville almost wrecked you.
Sheldon: Exactly. You know, I waited ten years to see a guy everyone knows can fly, fly.

That’s exactly what Iron Fist felt like. You know the guy has powers and yet its use is limited to just a few instances through a very long, very slow season. Yeah, probably he needs to recharge his batteries every time he uses it, but still… he needs to use that power a little more often than that.

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Now, besides those points, there’s also Iron Fist’s background. Rich kid goes on a trip with his parents, an accident happens, parents die, boy gets stranded, learns martial arts and returns an adult. Yep, it’s Arrow with blondish curly hair, so nothing we’ve not already seen there.

So, now we have a slow moving, predictable storyline with a boring villain and mediocre superhero, and then there’s the supporting cast which was actually really good. The performance of the supporting cast from Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing (believable performance), Tom Pelphrey as Ward Meachum (reminded me of American Psycho), Jessica Stroup as Joy Meachum (well played the streak of meanness and shrewdness without overdoing it), to Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple (always a treat for the eyes) was well done and held the show together.

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Wai Ching Ho as the recurring character Gao was mysterious, elusive and dangerous as ever until she gets caught. There’s a scene in which she single-handedly flings the Iron Fist/Danny Rand away with her Chi, but the moment she gets caught, she turns into a normal woman who is limited to being manipulative. I’m not complaining too much there because she did a good performance, but the fact she couldn’t escape being tied to a chair after throwing a man twice her size without touching him seems kind of out of place.

All in all, Iron Fist didn’t live up to the expectations built up after Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. The fourth Defender might get better in the second season if what we saw at the end of the season comes out as expected.

Until then, the eagerly awaited Marvel’s The Defenders is scheduled for release this August.

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