First Impressions: Marvel’s Iron Fist has a shaky first half but potential to improve

It all began with Marvel’s Daredevil in 2015, then we had Jessica Jones, shortly after that came Luke Cage. Now Netflix are about to roll out the last of their street level superheroes, this time it’s Marvel’s Iron Fist and the show takes an interesting turn in mashing the sensibilities of Eastern and Western culture. However it’s clear that this is a modern take on a collision of these cultures and bringing that to the screen is tricky and requires some patience from the viewer. We got to check out the first 6 episodes of the show and here’s some of our initial thoughts.

The Setting

Unlike the previous shows, particularly say Daredevil and Luke Cage, both of which focused their settings on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem respectively. Those shows had a much grittier and dirtier tone. Here we are thrust, mostly, into the rich shiny business district of New York as our predominant setting. There’s a play on the division between the urban ghetto streets and the rich upper classes with their condos and skyscrapers. However unlike our other heroes and the pavements which they pound, this feels a little more sterile and a bit too clean cut to mix in with our existing heroes who do more of their dirty deeds at night. Here’s hoping that the back half of the season changes up some of the locations so that we’re put back into that seedy dark underbelly of New York.

The Origin Story

From what we’ve seen thus far, the origin story for Danny Rand is a little weaker and unclear. So from the trailer, we know that Danny has “come back from the dead”. Even after watching the first 6 episodes the show doesn’t really delve too much further than a Batman-esque circumstance of his parents dying when he’s young and him being taught martial arts by a group of mysterious monks. There are intermittent flashbacks, and Danny giving us some exposition but not much else. So despite the attempts at delivering an origin story it does feel a little light on emotional weight. This also means that it gives us very little reason to want to care for Danny’s circumstances. Also the pacing of this series feels a little more cumbersome than what we’ve had in the past. We really don’t hit anything too juicy or interesting until Episodes 5 and 6. The latter of which is directed by RZA and has a distinctly different flavour to the rest of the material helmed by showrunner Scott Buck.

The Cast

The casting choices are interesting, and a mix of both weak and strong elements. Finn Jones as Danny Rand may not be as strong a fit as say Charlie Cox or Mike Colter, however he does fit the bill as a physical likeness to that of the original comic character. Frustratingly a lot of controversy about whitewashing has been raised and that the character should have been Asian. However this argument/debate makes no sense at all since the whole concept was to have this specifically white American Western-cultured character be exposed to Asian Eastern-culture and bring that back to the streets of New York.

Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing is outstanding, as a no-nonsense martial arts teacher who befriends Danny, her fight sequences are amazing to watch and far more fluid and believable than Jones’. Not to mention the fact that once again we are treated to a strong female character who on a couple of occasions bails the hero out of a tricky situation. Wing’s character is sorely under-utilised, at least in the first half of the season, so here’s hoping she has more involvement in the latter half.

Australia’s own David Wenham as Harold Meachum is a wonderfully slimey mid-level bad guy, who looks great when he’s beating up a punching bag but he does have a bit of a wobbly American accent going on. I’m intrigued to see where his character ends up as he seems to be between a rock and a hard place and as we’ve seen from the other Netflix shows this doesn’t always end well for the bad guy.

The Soundtrack

The soundtrack and scoring is another interesting backdrop to the series. Apashe feat Sway “I’m A Dragon”, OutKast’s “So Fresh So Clean” and “Award Tour” by A Tribe Called Quest are just some of the songs that have made appearances within the show or trailer. Then there’s also the scoring done by Trevor Morris who has worked on period piece tv series like Vikings and Reign. It does feel a little out of place in a series that is definitely pushing into the martial arts genre. Also having come after Luke Cage where the song choices and music in that series perfectly matched the visual aesthetic, this just feels like a neither negative or positive but odd coupling.

Rosario!

The return of the perpetually exasperated Claire Temple played by the wonderful Rosario Dawson. I think the picture below sums her up perfectly. Claire as most people should know is one of the characters who connects all of our heroes together. She also represents the grounded realist, who despite all the crazy things going on, still manages to keep her wits about her long enough to help out. Some critics have complained about her having less and less to do and not really having a purpose but I’m convinced that her inter-connectedness to all of these characters will be a big payoff for The Defenders when it eventually is released later in the year.

Credit to Tumblr and user markoruffalo

All in all Marvel’s Iron Fist isn’t quite as solid as the ones that have come before. It’s understandable that there would be a falter somewhere and this is potentially it. Some of the gripes are legitimate (casting choices, slow pacing, location/setting) however others are variables that could potentially get better (better fight scenes, potential for story to become more interesting, change of scenery). It’s also not entirely fair to judge a series based on only half of it too so I’m trying to remain optimistic that the latter half could be better.

Marvel’s Iron Fist drops globally on Netflix on 17 March.