Everyone Was Kung Fu Fighting – Iron Fist

The much anticipated fourth Marvel Netflix series is available now for streaming.  This is also possibly the most controversial series for Marvel.  There was a big push early on to cast an Asian actor for the main role, and since the release, the show has come under lots of critical scorn.

It’s hard to talk about this show without first addressing the Kung Fu elephant in the room, the initial casting choice of Finn Jones as the title character, Danny Rand.  Marvel needs to do a better job of diversifying their casting choices.  So many of the Marvel characters were created in a time when white guy was the default setting, very few of their characters race or ethnicity are integral to the character.  I did wonder about the push to make the martial arts hero an Asian actor.  In discussing this with those who would know better, I found that there is something about being of Asian descent, but distinctly American, and feeling like an outsider.  This is someone who could’ve portrayed the outsider role of Danny Rand.

Finn Jones is the Iron Fist we got, so that’s the one I’m here to talk about.  For the most part, he is the weakest part of the show.  In some scenes, he is simply an overly emotional manchild who falls to pieces at the mention of his parents’ death 15 years prior.  It takes him far too long in the show to deal with these emotions.  Not since Batman V Superman have we seen a hero fall apart so easily at the mention of his mother.  I understand that returning to the world and his old life would bring many of these ghosts of his past back up, but it pushes the level of ridiculousness that it takes him nearly the full 13 episode run to deal with his survivor’s guilt.

There is also the fight scenes.  The fight scenes in this show are a bit lackluster when compared to the other Marvel shows.  It’s not that the fights are bad, it’s just that the bar has been set so high with two seasons of Daredevil and even Luke Cage that when they fall very short of that same level it’s noticeable.  Nothing in the show compares to the hallway scene in the first season of Daredevil or the one man building raid from Luke Cage.  Several of the fight scenes felt more like cut-scenes from a video game than a dramatic television series, which you absolutely do not want in a show like this.

Now that’s not to say it’s all bad.  Honestly, I think there is a lot of good in this show.  We get several terrific villains with the Meachams and the Hand, some very interesting character arcs, an impressive cast, and a very clear direction for the upcoming Defenders crossover mini-series.  Outside of Danny Rand, the casting is the usual level of excellence we’ve come to expect from Marvel.  Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing nearly steals the entire series from Danny, and there can never be enough good things said about Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple.  It’s easy to get distracted talking about the less than stellar aspects of this show and not talk about how much of this show works.

Iron Fist is a good but flawed show, the main character is only truly the hero we expect in the last moments of the series, but he is part of a deep and rich world.  The sum of it’s parts overcomes many of the flaws.  I would suggest that Iron Fist is a victim of Marvel’s own success.  We have seen the heights that can be reached and we are disappointed when they fail to exceed what has come before.  I hope that Marvel is taking some of the criticisms they’ve received into account for the Defenders which is currently in production.

Now Marvel just needs to give us our Daughters of the Dragon show starring Colleen Wing, Misty Knight, and Claire Temple.

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