I finished watching all of Netflix’ Iron Fist today. No surprise, but I thought it was awful. It’s displaced the first Thor film for me as the worst thing yet to come out of Marvel Studios.

Major Sin 1: It made no goddamn sense to me. Zip. Nada. Pick any aspect of the show, big or small, and I found it nonsensical. I get the impression that no one was thinking very hard about any part of this production.

Major Sin 2: It’s devoid of artistry. Stuff happens and they point a camera at it. There’s no deeper themes being explored, no interesting use of color, music, or metaphor to make a larger statement or reveal added depths. Characters state all of their feelings explicitly. Exposition is belabored and glacial.

Lesser Sin 1: The kung-fu sucks. Danny moves like he learned martial arts at the Kun-Lun YMCA. The fights are just jumbles of people punching and kicking, hardly anyone remembers to fire their guns, and assailants always wait their turn before they attack the main characters. Even the mundane physical moves are boring. Every time it looks like Danny’s about to do some wire-fu, it ends up just being a shot of Finn Jones climbing a fire escape or forcing open a door.

Lesser Sin 2: New York doesn’t seem to matter. In other Marvel Netflix shows — DD and LC in particular — their corner of NYC was a character unto itself. Danny’s story could have taken place in St. Louis and nothing would change.

Spoilers okay in the comments.

16 thoughts on “I finished watching all of Netflix’ Iron Fist today. No surprise, but I thought it was awful. It’s displaced the…

  1. The biggest casualty of all this awfulness is Madame Gao. She was one of my favorite characters in DD, and here she’s transformed into a cliche B-movie villain.

    I could have also sworn that she was not part of The Hand, and that they were a Japanese ninja cult, but that all goes to hell in IF.

  2. I disagree on almost every point, shockingly :). I thought it was only good, rather than amazing and shocking, so my rankings are now: JJ > DD > IF > LC.

    I saw IF as relatively flawless, and comparing positively to DD in this regard. DD had quite a few little things that irked me in terms of failures and mistakes, but those were much rarer here, and when they happened, they were less annoying to me.

    LC blew me away more often (I didn’t get blown away much in IF), but it had lots of irksome flaws that kept pulling me out of it.

  3. The Hand, while a group of ninjas, are not limited to one country or another. Think of them more like Specter from James Bond.

    As to the story… it’s the same story as the Arrow TV show, pretty much.

    As to the kung-fu, my friends in the dojo disagree. I rather liked the fighting between Danny and Colleen as they demonstrated the different moves of animal Kung-Fu.

    But hey, each to their own.

  4. Robert Bohl And I disagree with your disagreement! 😄

    For all LC’s faults — which are mostly in the final few episodes — it’s light-years ahead of IF for me. Ditto DD.

    Being served up the weak-sauce kung-fu in IF is especially damning after all of the amazing fight scenes in DD. Danny wouldn’t last five seconds in a fight with Matt! IF also wins my Lamest Gauntlet™ award.

  5. Emily Vitori The Hand being a cult of stuntmen of various ethnicities diminished them for me.

    Interesting to hear about the kung-fu, though. But even if it was on-point, I don’t feel like it was filmed well. I was never impressed, as a viewer.

  6. Daredevil’s fights scenes definitely seemed more dramatic, but I think Iron Fist was good in it’s own way. Maybe it lacked the plot punch of the other series. I mean you had the weighty Catholic guilt of Daredevil, the rape survival guilt of Jessica Jones and the racial conflict of Luke Cage, but Danny Rand is just a spoiled rich-kid trying to get his name back in comparison.

  7. While not as well-done as some of the other shows, I think the “theme” stuff in the writing worked. It’s a mediation on various aspects of identity, obligation, legacy, etc. He feels attached to the Rand corporation because it has his name but he’s completely alienated from the actual business the corporation engages in. Similarly, he strongly identifies as being the Iron Fist but chafes at the expectations of what that role has traditionally meant in K’un-Lun. He was an outsider in K’un-Lun because he was some white dude from the US, he’s an outsider in the US because he’s a mystical K’un-Lun monk. He recognizes that Ward is a pretty terrible person, but still wants to treat him like a brother. His powers are keyed on being at peace with himself and who he is, so his central conflict is that various aspects of his identity are in conflict and he needs to find ways to reconcile them. Not entirely surprising themes for a show about a martial artist, but I thought they worked.

    I thought the way they used the Meachum characters was a lot more interesting — you always feel the temptation to put them in a black or white box but they always show enough nuance or humanity to keep from going all the way. Even the more overtly villainous Harold Meachum has sympathetic elements. Ward is stuck in this weird trap where to the outside world he’s carrying on the Meachum legacy but he feels like a powerless lackey. He’s addressing a lot of the same themes as Danny — whether he should do what people expect of him, whether to try to chart his own path, whether he can even figure out his own path or if he’s just running away from expectations, etc.

  8. Extremely well-said, Dan. Thanks. You pulled some of the stuff out that I’ve been too inarticulate to myself, so far.

    Another note I liked: Where Joy winds up positioned for her next appearance. I never saw that coming.

    I also like how it was this meditation on duty vs. desire.

  9. Dan Maruschak I see what you’re saying, but to me it’s a very generous reading. Characters are conflicted because the story needs them to be conflicted so they can recite lines about being conflicted. For me, it’s not insightful, it’s tedious.