Iron Fist is now streaming on Netflix, adding a new chapter to the Marvel Netflix saga. However, unlike Daredevil, Jessica Jones, or Luke Cage before it, Iron Fist isn't an immediate critical or fan-favorite hit. Iron Fist has courted divisive reviews from viewers and plenty of controversy from minority advocates, who feel that the show/character's "white savior" approach to Eastern culture is offensive.
Even though there's been a lot of negative buzz about Iron Fist, there's also been fair acknowledgement that the show has its good points! In the spirit of that fairness, we've stepped back to take a look at the all sides of the Iron Fist Netflix series, and broke it down into three categories of discussion. Here is the good, bad, and ugly of Iron Fist.
Iron Fist is one of the cooler and more interesting concepts that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has offered; unfortunately, the biggest propulsion through season 1 is the overall intrigue of the Iron Fist character and mythos.
Daredevil seasons 1 & 2 built the initial mystery of The Hand, but Iron Fist really opens that door much wider. Moreover, the show layered a new mythos on top of The Hand's dark supernatural influence: that of K'un-Lun, The Iron Fist, and Shou-Lao, the undying. In a lot of ways, Iron Fist is the Netflix series best what a TV show should: introduced a mystery and story and world that can be developed across multiple seasons.
Along with that intriguing mythos are some equally intriguing characters. We may only get the introductory dimensions of our main characters (Danny, The Meachum Family, Colleen), but the actors playing them do (in general) a good job of selling some subtle and layered character arcs. As for bad guys: the Meachums might be a confusing gray area through most of the first season, but The Hand masters (Madame Gao and Bakuto) are dynamic fill-ins that keep that Marvel Netflix villain streak going.
Iron Fist has potential to be one of the best transformations of a lower-tier character into a top-notch franchise - if some season 1 flaws can be corrected.
While Iron Fist is, in many ways, the most ambitious and intriguing of the Marvel Netflix shows (so far), it is, without doubt, the worst paced show of the bunch. By far.
There is simply no way around the elephant-sized criticism in the room: Iron Fist season 1 uses up its thirteen episode span without doing anything more than spinning its wheels, narratively. Sure, there are things that happen, but most of it is really prelude to a bigger story to come - be it in The Defenders or beyond, in Phase 2 of the Marvel Netflix saga. Asking fans to sit through thirteen hours (or more) of setup is a lot - even for a Marvel Cinematic Universe property - and Iron Fist has the added drag of plotlines that get lost in the shuffle (Danny's fight for control of Rand Corporation), or character arcs that never give real payoff (all of them).
The lack of strong story might've been less noticeable if there were more exciting set pieces and fight moments on the show - but Iron Fist, unfortunately, lacks in the action department, as well. It's not that the cast don't deliver (actors like Finn Jones and Jessica Henwick definitely commit to the fight choreography); it's just that most of the episode directors (with the exception of maybe RZA) don't really frame or sell the action in an exciting way. For being one of the most fantastical MCU properties out, Iron Fist is also one of the most boring, creatively speaking.
With little in the way of forward momentum or memorable action, Iron Fist stumbles in two of the most important areas of a MCU property.
Okay, so getting brutally honest, here's the "ugly" that goes along with this Iron Fist Netflix series:
The Costumes: The show is probably the biggest disappointment in area of bringing the colorful Marvel Comics Universe to life onscreen. It's not that the Marvel Netflix shows have been all that colorful (Jessica Jones didn't involve any elaborate costumes); but whereas Jones and Luke Cage come from characters who never are that costume colorful on the page, Iron Fist is a much different story (literally). The Netflix series simply chooses to bypass that extravagance, at the cost of fan enjoyment.
The Opening Credits: Going into Iron Fist's every episode, it's hard to tell if you're about to watch a Marvel series, or a TRON TV series. Seriously, there is no other Marvel or DC TV show that has an opening credits that's more mismatched to its hero and world. Iron Fist is not who fans think of when they hear a thumping Daft Punk-style techno track.
Danny Rand: Iron Fist is the biggest miss for the Marvel Cinematic Universe in terms of selling viewers on a principal character. Even when projects miss the mark (Ant-Man), the main characters are still a hit enough to be welcomed back into the larger MCU at a later time. Iron Fist makes a big mess out of its depiction of Danny Rand, and its an ugly thing to see. The character is childish, pedantic, damaged, powerful, soulful, compassionate, stubborn and often obnoxiously naive. Actor Finn Jones makes the most of what he has to work with, but Danny's importance to The Defenders storyline is pretty much the only reason to follow him through the dregs of Iron Fist - or want to invest time in the character ever again, really.
Diversity Controversy: This one is... messy. While Iron Fist does try to honor the legacy of the comic books, there is a valid argument to be made to how the show handles Eastern culture and philosophy, in conjunction with the character of a so-called "white savior." It's not as cut-and-dry as most Internet chat threads would make it, but it's a complicated issue that has plagued the show and its cast throughout production - and perhaps fairly so.
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Iron Fist currently holds a 4.30/5 with our Comicbook.com users - despite all the controversy surrounding the show! Do you agree with that rating? Vote your answer in our anticipation rankings below!
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