Is Netflix’s Iron Fist really that awful?

Marvel, Netflix, Superhero, The Defenders, TV Series

I regret one deed when it comes to anticipating the Iron Fist, that is watching it unravel before it showed itself. The excitement got me carried away and caught me pandering through the pre-screening reviews. The whole act turned out to be a huge bummer. The unanimous premature verdict on the series was apparently unconscionable looking back at the Netflix-Marvel team up that got us the vigilante Daredevil torn between killing and sparing, the PTSD-trodden PI Jessica Jones who uses her heavyweight strength to guard herself against misogyny, and the fortuitously bulletproof-ridden, wrongly convicted black American Luke Cage. And Iron Fist, the fourth and last tributary to the Defenders later this 2017 couldn’t have conceivably gone sideways. So what went wrong?

Maybe, critics just got it all right that the Iron Fist got itself all wrong.

On its substance:

Vox disses that Marvel doesn’t get its hero and went on to declare it a life-threatening malaise to a superhero genre. Vanity Fair feels sorry for its trying to be all cool and edgy, branding it a regression, aimless and dull. IGN lambasts it the Marvel’s most notable misfire on Netflix. Enough said: laughably bad, racially uncomfortable and boring show.

On its storytelling and structure:

The Verge cites it as a case study for studios to try harder to tell difficult stories well. Not only does it fail to champion diversity, representation and appropriation, it also screws up the basic levels like storytelling – which from this point heads on to be consistently incongruous.

Self-doubt can’t possibly trouble the Iron Fist having had trained for the towering 15 years and won it by plunging his fist into the molten heart of the immortal dragon.

Neither the rest of the main casts were spared. Why and how the Maechums treated their long-lost best friend is contrived in complexity; overly addressed and incoherent. Even the transplants Madame Gao and Claire Temple do not get away triumphantly.

Just as why they are granted with such stark inclusion if they have had their substantial roles in Daredevil, especially Temple, who is now the officially the only crossover character in the Defenders subsidiary, is not to let pass.

Why doesn’t the Iron Fist carve itself its own private, standalone narrative is an apparent rhetoric to pull out the fillers in those wide, lengthy chasms that reveal its structural vulnerability.

On its fight scenes:

Uproxx disappointingly remarks that while it isn’t a sin the two leads Danny Rand and Colleen Wing to be not good at talking, its supposed jam-packed nerve-wracking fight exhibitions fall brief and unconvincing. The heavily bathed conversations do not make up for it, being the most of them are painfully dull. It goes on to zoom in on how Danny’s already sporadic action scenes are choppy and murkily edited that it’s hard to tell what Danny is doing.

Iron Fist, a mystical warrior and latest-in-the-line protector of K’un-Lun, is logically a formidable kung-fu expert, yet his busting of this martial arts is neither compelling nor hair-raising. Devoid of ensuing any real danger and fails to deliver real punches.

On its casting and relevance:

Right at its Netflix inception, it has been swarmed with relentless fan protests to cast an Asian actor for the Orientalist title role to eschew the whitewashing trope. The production slate, however, decided to stick with the source material in this regard. The Verge puts that when Iron Fist was announced, fans feared the worst, that all came true when it was released.

Landing the titular role to a Westerner in the personification of Game of Thrones laureate Finn Jones – to Vanity Fair – is not the best look. The character was created in response to the growing interest in the Kung Fu martial arts in 1970s, coincidentally during the heights of cultural appropriation, that the original material, unaware of its faults, needed updating, as Vox posits it.

The actor is panned miscast for not being able to elicit the character’s inner turmoil. Compared to Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock, his portrayal of Danny Rand is lacking and flat.

Forbes, The Telegraph and The Guardian see some strong points and take some different stance

Forbes, however, gives it a Grade B:

Out of 13 episodes, five are very good, three are good, two are mixed, and three are bad. Numerically, it manages 8 episodes in the B or A range, two in the C range, and three in the D or F range. Within the bad episodes, there are a few moments that are okay or even work well, and within the best episodes there are a few moments that fall flat.

The Telegraph’s Rebecca Hawkes admits that while it’s the weakest of the four Defenders, it wasn’t a total letdown. The casting serves as its ultimate saving grace. She commends Finn Jones caught-between-cultures portrayal saying that

He’s no heroic saviour figure, but a vulnerable and childlike man, struggling to find his identity and connect with the boy he was when he disappeared.

The rest of the main casts reap similar acclaim

Jessica Henwick makes a cool, self-possessed Colleen Wing…Tom Pelphrey and Jessica Stroup impress as brother and sister Ward and Joy Meachum…(Ward in an murderous way; Joy in a more conflicted way; both in a stylish business attire way).

Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple and Carrie-Ann Moss’s lawyer Jeri Hogarth inclusions equally please.

The Guardian while chiding with what it calls “mighty whitey” trope, dismissing it a pitiful blunder, acknowledges that it has some moments and cracking fight scenes.

Bashful criticism and the series’s simmering flaws say a lot, yet not enough of an impedance to bar entertainment

Overwhelmed by reviews, my expectations plummeted. I have eagerly been looking forward to the Iron Fist since its announcement, but my enthusiasm was cut short before it was even made available to public viewers. Within just the same week, it was an exponential meltdown. The one left reason I went on was the Defenders.

Having been a big fan of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage toggled me compelled to grant it the same empty prejudice and attitude before and while watching it – at least fake them.

Saddled with dribs and drabs of advance scrutiny, eventually, I was caught in awe to find myself forgetting the bitter lash outs. And again, I found myself in the middle of a genuine Marvel-Netflix calibre: lengthy monotony, emotional and identity crises that are pleading for endearment, and illogical narrative. Where it may impetuously have steered astray is in its pretty straightforward, hackneyed plot drive and stilted trajectory. The rest is nitpicking.

White man for the lead

Danny Rand/Iron Fist in a white man persona intensifies the drama of losing the sense of belongingness. If he were an Orientalist, what’s the point at all of shoving himself to the people of different citizenship or to a country he doesn’t ancestrally belong?

The cringeworthy ‘white man saviour’ conceit may now have been both politically and socially irrelevant, but to lay it upfront as the series’s thematic pivot is sore and inappropriate. The drafting of a blond, white man for the lead was instrumental to invoke that poignant estrangement from home and family and to evoke the longing and desire of coming to terms with the past, filling the emptied heart, and whole-ing oneself.

In the show, it is addressed particularly by Danny’s unabashed pining to be reunited with the people closest to the Rands, the Maechums – who he considers a family – and to establish himself as Danny Rand, the sole and rightful heir of Rand enterprises. All of them would have been more unfounded and ridiculously irrational if one who so does them is an Asian.

Honestly, the barging of the noise about Hollywood’s proclivity to white-washing Tilda Swinton received her fair share of bashing is subtly another condescending propaganda. Insidiously, another embodiment of a white man saviour trope, with white men trying to be heroes – again and again – this time through racial inclusion into  – what they think – their culturally and economically superior artistic industry.

Interestingly, a different race Iron Fist, protector of K’un L’un is ideally unitary as it insinuates that time has come when race no longer matters.

In the 1950s, when the eminent American pianist Van Cliburn snagged the gold medal – at the height of Cold War – in the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, where the judges were predominantly Russians, Russians didn’t give a damn. What’s all this buzz now?


Finn Jones didn’t kill it? Character ill-conceived?

Finn Jones may not be as appealing as Charlie Cox (Daredevil), Kristen Ritter (Jessica Jones) and Mike Colter (Luke Cage). But when you see how crisply vulnerable he is and when while watching you feel that sorrowful pinch of being denied, it all signals he’s on the game right and well.

Introduced as a vagrant and orphaned, assaulted, drugged and sent prisoner to a mental ward, he was sympathetically reminiscent of the blind, moneyless Matt Murdock in Daredevil being orphaned too and troubled by his unsettled personal issues when Stick left him when he was young.

Like Matt Murdock who holds a law degree, summa cum laude, from the Columbia University, the character Iron Fist, even as a monk isn’t infallible and devoid of self-doubts. This dilemma is always the main conflicting point in all of the Defenders superhero so far. Thus, any preposterous weakness the character possesses cannot be taken to debase the series’s integrity.

This latest showcase may have been the weakest in the brood of four and it is for a reason. It’s the lightest so it doesn’t live up to the complex, dark, brooding canvas Netflix-Marvel has its audience conditioned. It isn’t to concede to its inferiority. It only shouldn’t come as a surprise granted that Dany Rand is the youngest of the four frontrunners. Although his struggle ordinarily wrestles on piecing together his broken sense of identity, the series wasn’t anything as trashy as the negative review aggregates will prod anyone to think.



2 thoughts on “Is Netflix’s Iron Fist really that awful?

  1. I see it a little bit differently. For one, I got exactly the Iron Fist I wanted. I wanted a somewhat naïve character who would serve as a counterbalance to the other three, more cynical, defenders. Two, I actually don’t think that this is necessarily the weakest entry of the Netflix shows…it is just the entry which does the worst job concealing the weaknesses the shows already had (low budged, pacing problems, cutting corners left and right) by actually having less of them on a narrative level. It does a way better job upping the stakes step by step and having a proper set-up and pay off than the other shows do, but it doesn’t have their “style.

    Also, I actually like Danny better than either Matt or Luke, who are both pretty one-note leads…I also felt that Charlie Cox’s acting is incredible overrated. He gets a boost because the kid-actor for Matt does a way better job than him and manages to make the character likable in the first season (with Iron Fist it was kind of the opposite, the kid actor didn’t do a good job at all).

    About the “White man” problematic: Just because the Mighty White trope is a thing it shouldn’t mean that we never should have white people learn about different cultures again. In this case, Iron Fist had one or two scenes which were cringeworthy out of context but at the end of the day I would argue that it doesn’t fall into the trope for two reasons: One, he is only one of a long string of Iron Fist’s, so it is not like he managed something nobody did before him and two, the main point of the story is that he abandoned his job. He didn’t save anyone, at least not in Kunlun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that the the Iron Fist – with its ensemble of actors portraying their characters with cogent conviction, not least Jones – is entertaining and worth the time just as its 3 predecessors. I think the critics were quick to succumb to the underside because it affirms their cognitive bias they have long been keeping since the emergence of its hounding controversies right at its small-screen inception.

      Just because the Mighty White trope is a thing it shouldn’t mean that we never should have white people learn about different cultures again.

      Exactly, at this point, this shouldn’t be a big deal; an Asian into a western culture and a Westerner into an oriental culture or any race into anothers race’s culture. Just as we welcome people of a different race into a white man culture, white people should also equally open themselves to the outside of their confines.


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