by Coop Cooper
Tying into the Marvel/Netflix comic book franchise that started with “Daredevil”, “Iron Fist” finishes a origin story that will lead up to Neflix’s most ambitious series to date by teaming up all of the super-powered characters they have introduced so far. It’s too bad that “Iron Fist” doesn’t live up to those other series, even though it has enough watchabilty for those needing a Marvel Comics fix.
Fifteen years ago, the young Danny Rand (Finn Jones) survived a plane crash that killed his billionaire parents deep in the Himalaya Mountains. Danny is saved in by the mystical monks of K’un Lun and trained in Kung Fu to become the living weapon known as the ‘Iron Fist’ in which he learns to focus his ‘chi’ energy to punch through solid steel. Now grown, Rand returns to New York to find his family’s company is run by his childhood friends Ward and Joy Meachum (Tom Pelphrey and Jessica Stroup) who, at first, do not believe Rand’s true identity and have him barred from the premises. Rand befriends a formidable Bushido instructor, Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), and the two uncover a plot by a cult of assassins known as ‘The Hand’ to take over the Rand Corporation. As Rand and Wing fight their way through The Hand to uncover the truth, they find former allies pulling the strings.
“Iron Fist” is definitely the weakest of the Marvel/Netflix series so far. It comes down to the questionable writing, plotting and some of the action sequences suffer from a lack of excitement. We get a maximum of about a few seconds throughout the entire season to see Rand going through training in K’un Lun. This could have been one of the most rewarding aspects of the show, but the writers made a poor choice not to include it. Perhaps they felt it would be ripping off the “Kung Fu” TV show from the 70’s, but that would have been welcome as opposed to the corporate drama filler they used instead.
While “Luke Cage” reveled in it’s 1970’s influence, “Iron Fist” employs none of it. This is disappointing, considering the two characters were born of that era. That funky retro influence could have helped the lack of style pervading “Iron Fist” which offered few throwbacks to the original comic books.
Finn Jones feels mostly miscast as Danny Rand. He delivery is immature and while I’m sure he went through extensive training in martial arts to prepare for the role, he does not appear especially gifted in the art. The quick editing covers up for this only so much, but Jones may not be the only one to blame for this. “Daredevil” manages to make its fight scenes spectacular, so the real problem may come from higher up, but “Iron Fist” really could have benefitted from a martial arts prodigy to fill the role.
Henwick as Colleen Wing; however, shines in her role. Her chemistry with Jones lifts both their characters up from mediocrity and she obviously has the martial arts skills to pull off the demanding action scenes. She’s easily the most interesting character in the show and could probably hold her own in a solo series, but for now, her support on this series is more than welcome. The rest of the supporting cast, including Pelphrey and Stroup perform exceptionally well given the convoluted plot, but a lot of time is spent to over-develop their minor characters when precious time could have been spent showing us the wonders of K’un Lun, introducing us to its inhabitants and experiencing Rand’s training which was sadly absent from the plot.
Perhaps I’m being harsh because there is plenty to like in the series. The characters do become likable and there are a few terrific action scenes and character development scenes in the second half of the season. Also, this is the last tie-in to the “Defenders” Netflix series which will include Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Rand’s story needed to be told to finish paving the way for this street-crime-level version of “The Avengers” which could end up being spectacular. Skipping out on seeing “Iron Fist” might rob viewers of the full experience. Plus, if you liked “Luke Cage”, you need to know that Cage and Rand become inseparable partners – like in the comics – spawning the eventual “Power Man and Iron Fist… Heroes for Hire” superhero team. It’s hard to envision now, but I have have faith that Netflix will pull it off. If not, we at least have the upcoming “Punisher” series to look forward to.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars