Marvel’s Iron Fist is almost here. But is it any good?
Enter the Dragon… or in this case, Danny Rand. The young son of a billionaire tycoon, Danny’s origin story has been seen many, many times before. It has all the hallmarks of your standard rich-guy-turned-action-hero. That is, until a plane crash leaves him stranded in the Himalayas to be raised by warrior monks.
And so begins his path to becoming the Iron Fist.
Not that we get to see much of it in the first six episodes.
After the likes of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, it’s clear that Marvel is trying something a little different with Iron Fist. Sure, we’re seeing Danny Rand (played by Finn Jones) develop into the street-level hero he’s about to become. But this time, our hero comes with an impressive power.
And annoyingly, it’s being kept just out of sight.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a handful of impressive fight scenes in the first few episodes. In fact, the season premiere gets off to a great start as we watch Danny fight his way into Rand Enterprises – his fight skills showing finesse as he kicks an automated switch to close a door behind him.
But then it begins to stall.
I’ll be frank – for a show about a martial arts superhero, Iron Fist has a surprising lack of decent fight scenes. The action is mostly snatched moments, with the odd extended scene almost showing what the Iron Fist is really capable of… before stopping a little short.
Of course, Colleen Wing (played by Jessica Henwick) manages to pull some of that back. But there’s already been some criticism of how Danny treats her. At one point, he swaggers into her dojo and schools her on the martial arts she already knows. That’s right – a white man explaining martial arts to an Asian woman. It’s an awkward exchange, but I can’t help thinking some critics are missing the point here… that’s it’s supposed to be awkward. Danny knows martial arts like the back of his mystical hand.
But he doesn’t know people.
Still, Colleen’s time in the dojo has clearly worked wonders, and she proves herself time and time again to be just as capable as Iron Fist. A rather brutal cage match shows her completely losing herself in the moment. It’s visceral, it’s bloody and it’s downright scary.
In many ways, she’s far more eager than Iron Fist to take on the bad guys.
But perhaps that’s the point.
Subtly, Iron Fist tells us something I wasn’t expecting – that even a martial arts superhero show doesn’t have to be all about fighting. Instead, Danny’s time at the monastery has taught him something else – it’s better to find another way.
When you stack Iron Fist up against the likes of Daredevil or Luke Cage, you might be tempted so say he comes up short. Sure, they get into way more scrapes and are quick to solve their problems with their fists. But perhaps that’s the point. Iron Fist has the most powerful punch in Marvel’s Netflix universe… but he knows he can’t use it all the time.
Thankfully, there are a few kick-ass moments that highlight Danny’s power and fighting prowess. One scene depicts Danny using the Iron Fist to literally punch his way out of a building – punching a heavy steel door so hard that it bursts out of the wall.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Marvel Netflix show without the obligatory hallway fight scene. This time, the gritty, guttural fights of Daredevil are replaced with a more upbeat, frantic and fun kind of fight. It’s great, but it’s sadly nowhere near as ballsy as Daredevil. Perhaps it will pick up towards the latter half of the season, as Danny takes his fight to the enemy. It makes a lot of sense… but perhaps he should have shown off his skills a bit earlier, too.
Either way, I can’t help thinking that the choice to make his martial arts skills take a back seat in the early part of the season was a rather bold move. Instead, we get lots of character development as Danny is forced to win round his long-lost friends and family… none of which are willing to believe it’s really him. Then there’s the subject of his mental health. Nobody believes it’s really Danny Rand, and those who do won’t believe he’s the Iron Fist.
It’s an interesting internal conflict… and it fits the character.
But perhaps we need a bit more external conflict, too. And let’s face it – Iron Fist’s comic book origins are amazing. He literally punches a Dragon in the heart to get his powers. I just hope we eventually get to see something even remotely as cool as that in the show.
Marvel’s Iron Fist heads to Netflix on 17 March 2017.
Are you looking forward to Marvel’s Iron Fist? Do you think it’ll show Danny Rand’s impressive comic book origin? Leave your comments below… and follow Ryan Leston on Twitter, and Facebook for more on the latest TV shows.