My review of Iron Fist will be primarily spoiler free, however I cannot promise everything won’t lead you to conclusions of your own. I will start of by saying, I am a big fan of all things Marvel, and so when Iron Fist came out I had a chance to watch it immediately. I tried to make my own judgements on the show, and shut out the negative reviews. Full Disclosure: I am not familiar with Iron Fist as far as the comics go- so I cannot remark on this shows faithfulness to the source material.
Enter Danny Rand, our Kung Fu master hero. Within the first few minutes of the show, we are introduced to him as he walks around New York city barefoot, and looking much like a homeless art student. The first few fight scenes really leave something to be desired as he is almost too good at fighting, and is usually able to beat just about everyone. In other words, when no one in the series can match his skills in fighting, it becomes mundane as we know he can beat just about anyone without having to tap into his Iron Fist powers. My largest complaint is the pacing and I think I was just spoiled from the amazing fight scenes from Luke Cage, and Daredevil. With the other shows in the Defenders prelude, I could see how each character fit into the team- two super strength metahumans, and two men who learned martial arts from a young age.
The fan service wasn’t really there with this entry as a whole, and frankly, I tried my hardest to like this show- and this isn’t me saying it’s a bad show, it’s just not as strong as other entries in the Marvel Netflix originals. Each show had their own flavor if you will, Danny Rand and Iron Fist leave little to taste, and even less to desire. I would say that the villain(s) in this show really fall short, with Madam Gau reprising her role as the leader of the Hand. These are the Ninjas that tore up Claires (Rosario Dawson) work in Daredevil. Ultimately, Danny meets Coleen Wing, who has the most character development, besides Ward Meachem, and she has no interest in talking with him. As the story progresses, we get a better feel for how Danny became so out of touch with reality when we take a look at the context of this long 15 years of training. Many of the primary complaints critics have had stem from Danny, and how he is not a character that we can relate to. The thing is, this show has ALL the variables to make a great and amazing show, but ultimately falls short of connecting the dots in a meaningful way. For example, with shows like daredevil, it plays around the fact that he is a blind attourney who is as capable as any person who can see. With Jessica Jones we get the sort of private investigator, and it unfolds like a mystery show- and directly ties with Luke Cage, in Luke Cage it plays very much like a gangster movie and deals with various issues, delves into his past, and wraps it up nicely between past and present. Iron Fist, had potential to play out like a Kung Fu film, and could have included that sort of campiness. If you want a good martial arts film, be sure to check out Ip Man! Largely, there was a large opportunity to channel the ways that martial arts films make fights fun. It seemed like all of the fight scenes in Iron Fist were dulled down, and just kind of didn't strengthen Danny Rands character.
A better way to have tied in Danny’s story to the other Defenders would have been to include Elektra as a Villain, or someone other than the Rand Corporation and the Hand. The idea that I like about Daredevil is that it finds a way to hold together all the moving pieces through it’s fluid and dynamic characters. The pacing in Iron Fist also has no structure. One minute we are in a fight scene, and the next we are in a boring dialog about Rands holdings. The show loves to remind you how much money Rand corporation has made. Again, I feel that Iron Fist has the potential to come back a lot stronger for Season 2. Daredevil had the formula that really broke the mold and made the audience relate and empathize with Matt Murdock. Danny Rand has PTSD, and that trauma is what makes him human. As an audience most people can relate as more often than not we have traumatic experiences. Danny struggles throughout the show to come to terms with his trauma, but never really lets it go. He just pushes it within, and tries to ignore it. Growing up in a monastery he was afforded few of the modern mental health commodities that we all take for granted, and the trauma was basically “beaten out of him” and so that kind of makes Danny a loose cannon. He is headstrong and impulsive, but he is a good man. Danny really has all the makings of a character who could have benefited from some solid character development, as aligning his Chi could have been blocked by his emotions. He had issues during parts of the show summoning his inner chi to use the Iron Fist. We also never see Danny in his traditional costume or anything like it(SAD!) he just looks like a homeless person throughout the show. Later in the season we see a previous incarnation of the Iron Fist in a black and white film sporting the traditional garb of the Iron Fist.
Again, I won’t tell you NOT to watch this show, as it is important context for the Defenders series coming to Netflix later this year, but I will tell you, watch it with the things I mentioned earlier in mind, and you will probably get more enjoyment out of it. It falls short in that it has all the workings of a truly amazing show, but makes the audience work too hard to even notice, let alone piece together those subtle tones and messages hidden within.