Review: Welcome the final-yet-weakest member of The Defenders – Marvel’s street level vigilantes who fight criminals around New York City – Iron Fist! What I am saying in this opening isn’t exaggerating, although Iron Fist is often associated with martial arts master who owns iron fists that, if done properly, can break everything. However, in Netflix’ latest outing, what he breaks is his own potentials.
Prior to Iron Fist, we’ve fought with other Defenders meaningfully – Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil deals with laws and disability; Jessica Jones over empowerment; and Luke Cage over black people issues around Harlem. Danny Rand (Finn Jones, Ser Loras Tyrell from Game of Thrones) found his way back to New York from his alleged death (which isn’t real; since he’s been residing and training in a mythical town K’un-Lun) in a similar fashion to Oliver Queen a.k.a. Green Arrow (DC Comics represents). Danny also fights, but what he fights isn’t as influential as his other comrades. At first, he fights for his fortune that has been usurped following his ‘death’; later, he fights against a familiar, evil organisation that has leeched upon his father’s legacy, Rand Enterprises. He fights for himself.
Iron Fist (2017) – Finn Jones | Image via IMDb
The first and ultimate gripe in Iron Fist is surprisingly the “Iron Fist.” His character is confusingly written (I’d not say ‘thinly written’ ‘cause, in fact, he isn’t) to be an unsympathetic, misled man-child with questionable motivations. Danny Rand starts off as a hobo trying to claim his own rights from the his company – now managed by The Meachums: Joy (Jessica Stroup) and Ward (Tom Pelphrey). On his run, he encounters Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), a dojo owner. After learning the truth about Meachums, Danny becomes obsessed in challening The Hand – an evil organisation who also appears in the second season of Daredevil – led by Madam Gao (Wai Ching Ho). From there, we learn that Danny has abandoned his post as the guardians of K’un-Lun’s gate; only to return to K’un-Lun in the end for a surprising revelation. As you can say, Danny barely fights for common justice; he often talks about compassion and selflessness, but in the end, his fight is merely about himself.
Identity crisis is the real problem of Iron Fist – on-screen and behind it. Same as Danny who keeps blaming himself for causing trouble to trouble for his unfocused plans, the series also keeps trying to be something it isn’t. Dealing in underground levels, our Danny ventures like Oliver Queen in Arrow; the difference is: Oliver always knows what he’s doing however campy it is and Danny doesn’t. This series also tries to hard to be on the same plane as Daredevil’s second season (which was criticized for being unfocused): going on stealth mode at night with a love interest, attempting to unravel an underground conspiracy, and betrayals. And yet, it pales in comparison with the Defenders predecessors.
To add up, Iron Fist is unconvincing in terms of action. Being a martial arts master, the fighting choreography in this series is mediocre at best, even compared to Luke Cage’s street brawl mode. Strip off the glowing iron fist, then Danny Rand is not even a match to Jessica Jones. If you’re expecting rapid close quarter combats and dynamic melee, you are wrong; there’s barely fighting scene that matters (unless it involves Colleen Wing and Lewis Tan’s drunken master character). The fighting editing is quick and often using long shots to cut between Finn Jones and his body double. Compared to those in Daredevil (who has similar fighting style), the ones in Iron Fist is almost nothing.
Plotwise, Iron Fist has three major arcs condensed in a 13-episode unison, which somehow is handled effectively by sacrificing character’s motivation. Same as the second season of Daredevil, this series develops multiple pinnacles which unfortunately are uneven. I wouldn’t dare calling them dramatic climaxes since there is practically no resolutions to those cripply elevating conflicts. The first three episodes feel desperately mediocre despite our familiarity with the following issue. Starting from episode four until seven, things get elevated and, in fact, spark some hopes, which free-dive in the next two episode. The ‘main plot’ gives in too easy and at the same time, an additional arc is inserted – an arc from Danny’s tenure in K’un-Lun. While it gives some “there’s something Iron Fist could do beyond K’un-Lun” moment, it instantly negates Danny’s saintly motivation exposed earlier. Reintroduction of some factions in The Hand also hinders the plot from reaching its ultimate pinnacle (although it indeeds gives Danny one of the most explosive fighting scene in this series). When you reach the finale, I can assure you that more questions/doubts emerge than satisfaction.
Iron Fist (2017) – Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick & Rosario Dawson | Image via Collider
Even so, Iron Fist manages to open possibilities for The Defenders to open in a favorable way; and it really depends on Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) on putting up the puzzle pieces for a confrontation. Judging from the characters’ relation, Iron Fist might be on opposing end to other Defenders in the beginning (reflecting from his relation to Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss) who stands on different ideology to Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil (Charlie Cox)). Possibilities are open; but what we hope is this identity crisis would’ve been solved before or during The Defenders’ tenure; therefore, Iron Fist might venture further with upcoming season.