March 27, 2017

Iron Fist Is Surprisingly Soft

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Every time I watch an action movie I walk out with delusions of grandeur. I’ve been a kung fu master without a shred a discipline, a fearsome swordsman without a blade and a lethal sharpshooter without a day of training. Rocky turned every mirror into a fierce boxing opponent and the top of every staircase into the end of an epic training montage. Gladiator turned every oblong cylinder I could find into a sword and every room into a colosseum. Saving Private Ryan turned literally every object into a gun — and I mean that! I used to pretend to shoot “enemies” with my cat (he didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did).

What I’m trying to say is that I’m a sucker for good action. Give me fists, swords (*cough* lightsabers *cough*) or guns — I can forget about following the plot, disregard character development and gloss over glaring imperfections. That said, it’s nice when I don’t have to.

Every so often a film (or show, in this case) comes along that delivers good action AND survives a critical microscope. Sadly, Marvel’s Netflix exclusive Iron Fist isn’t one of those cases.

The problem starts right at the top, with the casting of Finn Jones as Danny Rand, the Iron Fist. You might know Jones from his role as Loras Tyrell in Game of Thrones. After watching Iron Fist, it seems Jones is more suited to the beautiful and graceful type roles like Ser Loras, not portraying a “living weapon.”

When I first heard about Iron Fist’s Netflix adaptation, I was excited! Like I said, I’m a big fan of action, and what’s cooler than beating the crap out of armed baddies with nothing but your own magical fist? (Answer: literally nothing; that’s the coolest thing ever.)

Unfortunately, I just can’t get my head around Jones in this role. I know that comparatively, Jones’ muscles make mine look like lukewarm mashed potatoes, but since we live in a world with action heroes like Dwayne Johnson and Hugh Jackman, it’s hard to accept an “Iron Fist” that wouldn’t weigh 200 pounds soaking wet. Jones’ speech and demeanor deepen this hole. He doesn’t come across as someone who spent years training with monks to be the pinnacle of fighting prowess.

On the topic of softness, Iron Fist largely follows two storylines: Rand’s life as the Iron Fist trying to destroy the Hand, the Netflix universe’s main bad guys, and his acclimation to normal life being involved in his father’s corporation. Unfortunately, the series spends way too much time on the latter. So often I found myself wanting another kickass action (and some of the action scenes are just that) scene instead of a boring jargon-filled office scene.

Additionally, this series is extremely stretched out. It would’ve been a lot stronger if it took place over half as many episodes. So many story arcs, that I’ll refrain from mentioning for the sake of keeping things spoiler free, felt intentionally pulling to their limit just for the sake of extending the show’s runtime, with needless twists and turns culminating in unsatisfying conclusions.

I think it’s fair to compare this show to the comic book web series of years past, like Jessica Jones and Arrow. Sadly, it just doesn’t stack up. Iron Fist is Daredevil without the novelty, Luke Cage without the grit and The Flash without the emotion.

Recurring characters like Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple and Madame Gao are sure to excite long-time Marvel Netflix and comic fans, but the new series doesn’t offer much in the way of new memorable characters apart from Colleen Wing and Joy Meachum, the two leading ladies. Played by Jessica Henwick and Jessica Stroup, respectively, the new love interest and old childhood friend are lively additions to the universe.

In the end, fans of the Marvel Netflix universe have probably either watched, started watching or queued up Iron Fist, and that’s fair — it’s a necessary set-up for the Defenders (which, despite my trepidations about this show, I think is still gonna be epic). Iron Fist isn’t great, but if you’re looking for a show to power through on a rainy day, it’s not a bad option.

Nick Smith is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].