Underrated: Marvel’s Iron Fist (Yes, The Netflix One)
This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Marvel’s Iron Fist
Alright so I know this is going to be a tough sell for many of you so before we get into the meat of the column, I want to clarify my stance on this show because I actually enjoyed it. It wasn’t as good as any of the other entries in Netflix’s live action series on the whole, but it was enjoyable none the less. Taken out of context from the other Netflix offerings, this isn’t as bad as you may have heard. Now for additional context, I’m relatively ignorant as to Iron Fist’s comic history, and so I entered this show not really knowing much about him. But then the same can equally be said about Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and the Punisher.
Iron Fist debuted in March of 2017 to less than positive reviews, with one critic stating that the series “failed to grasp what makes Iron Fist interesting.” Others claimed the show missed an opportunity for diversification by casting Finn Jones as the titular character instead of an Asian actor, whereas Jones’ innocent and naive take on the skilled martial artist didn’t exactly resonate with everybody, either. Despite the criticisms of his portrayal Jones, much like the show itself, isn’t as bad as you would expect. He gives the audience a naive and overly innocent Danny Rand which is a complete juxtaposition to the troubled heroes already mentioned above. Danny Rand hasn’t been broken like Jessica Jones, he has lead a relatively sheltered life despite his extreme martial arts training, and he starts the series full of hope and optimism.
When it came to the fight scenes, they felt more elegant than the scrappy brutal action of Daredevil, even though there were (yet again) criticisms over choreography I never felt as though the action was phoned in (honestly I was more frustrated that Iron Fist didn’t seem to be as legendary a fighter as one would expect given his reputation). As someone who has trouble telling the difference between a roundhouse and a side kick, and I’m probably not the only one, the fight scenes were good. Granted I much preferred Colleen Wing’s sword play over the fisticuffs, but then I was on a Game Of Thrones kick at the time this came out.
Speaking of Colleen Wing, it was Jessica Henwick’s character that stole the show for me. Her interactions with Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple often provided some of the more entertaining and humorous moments in the show – and often at Danny’s expense. Indeed were it not for Colleen Wing and Claire Temple, one could argue that Danny Rand would have been utterly lost about half way through the series. Danny’s naivety was his biggest weakness in the series, often leading him into some dumb decisions and because of that the plot needed some strong characters to push, pull and guide the Iron Fist where he needed to go – and more often than not save him from himself. Iron Fist may have been a story around Danny Rand’s return to the world, but it’s the supporting cast who are the real stars of the show.
Iron Fist is the weakest of the Netflix Marvel shows, but when you stop comparing it to them you’re left with an enjoyable show that is, arguably, among the upper middle tier of live action superhero adaptations across the various distribution methods. However because the show is a part of the same shared universe that Daredevil, Jessica Jones et al inhabit the comparisons are inevitable (the less said the better about the seeming lack of connection to the larger MCU other than the odd mention of the Chitauri invasion from Avengers and the other plot points from the movie). Unfortunately for Iron Fist it doesn’t come off as well in those comparisons. The lead isn’t as strong as those in the other entries, but then few are. Finn Jones delivers a more than capable performance but is often outshone, especially in The Defenders, by his costars’ screen stealing performances.
All of this contributes to the general bad feeling toward Iron Fist, which when coupled with the internet’s love to hate on things (no judgement – I’ve been caught up in the wave as well before), didn’t allow the show to stand on its own legs. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a great show, but it’s better than you’ve likely heard – and that’s why I feel it’s Underrated.
That’s all we have for this week, folks. Come back next time when there’s something else Underrated to talk about.