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Marvel's Iron Fist (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Film & Television' started by FifthView, Apr 9, 2017.

  1. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Might as well launch into a mild rant. Mild, because I think the show is a good example of what not to do, but overall I'd give the show a 5/10. Humdrum, mediocre, but far from the worst television show ever made.

    Fair warning: There'll be spoilers in this thread. That's probably the best way to address various problems with the show. So don't read on if you haven't watched it and don't want it spoiled for you.

    First, some words on the "whitewashing" controversy that has attached itself to the show.

    I really don't want this thread to turn into a heated debate about this; but that seems to be a real issue with the show so....

    I'm ambivalent.

    The original comic featured a white, heterosexual man orphaned as a child in a plane accident in the Himalayas, discovered by monks from a mystical city, and trained in the martial arts. So the show stays true to that origin. Plus, the idea that martial arts is "an Asian thing" and therefore the character should be played by an Asian/Asian-American actor seems to me to be inherently racist: martial arts are an art, and anyone can learn the art. There's a scene where Danny Rand "teaches" the character Colleen Wing, a Japanese-American master martial artist, in her own dojo—some think this is rubbing salt in the wound, but I'm thinking this is Iron Fist, supposedly the or one of the best martial artists in the Marvel Universe, so yeah, he should be a better martial artist than just about everyone he meets, regardless of the ethnic or racial backgrounds.

    BUT on the other hand...One could say that Marvel's original comic creation was a case of whitewashing, itself, so the fact that this show follows the original is not much of an argument. One could also say that the issue isn't about race so much as culture; i.e., the martial arts Danny uses have an Asian origin, and it'd make more sense to have an Asian-American play the role rather than have a white Westerner co-opt the cultural element. I would still quibble—martial arts is an art, and the ability to be a great martial artist is not something genetically encoded, and the art has crossed national and regional boundaries already—but all-in-all I kinda wish Marvel had foreseen the controversy and had used someone other than a white character for Iron Fist. Marvel has diverged from its comic origins before and could have done so now. But a part of me wishes they'd not only foreseen the controversy, they'd decided to go with a Latino, Samoan, or Native American actor, heh.

    For me, Danny Rand's race was not an issue, although I do regret the controversy.

    The actor's acting chops were not an issue ultimately.

    Mediocre Fighting

    But his lack of martial arts skills was an issue—a major issue. Not being in the movie industry myself, I can't really say whether this is more of an issue with cinematography and choreography instead. But the fighting in this show was mediocre at best, and rather silly at worst.

    So that would be point one for me against the show. This is Iron Fist, fer goodness' sake, and he's supposed to be a great martial artist. He killed a mythical dragon bare-handed....sometime before the show even starts. I've watched so many martial arts movies, one of my favorite genres, and most of them featured much, much better fighting than Iron Fist. Look, there's something great about seeing Spider-man swinging for the first time, Daredevil overcoming incredible odds in clever and stunning ways, etc. That's what you are supposed to do with these characters: Make them incredible-but-still-credible. But the fighting in Iron Fist sucked. What I wouldn't have given to have the choreographers from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon work on this show; or, just about anyone from the Hong Kong industry. Gosh, I'd even have been happy with Quentin Tarantino directing, because at least he understands the need for spectacle and thrilling fights.

    So I think that Finn Jones's lack of martial arts training & proficiency was a major issue, but I can't really lay all the blame on him. Casting director gets that, maybe, or some combination of that and director/cinematographer/choreographer.

    Who're we fighting?

    Point two against the show, and I really, really wish Marvel would hear this: Don't change the villain or primary antagonist during a 13-episode show. And please, please don't change this twice, as they did here. There was Madame Gao. Then, nope, nope, she's just going to give in and disappear after the buildup, and then it's going to be Bakuto and a different (primary?) sect of The Hand. But, nope, nope, he's going to be killed by Colleen Wing—nothin' to do with Iron Fist, eh?—and just disappear. And at the very end it's Harold Meachum after all.

    In my opinion, the first season of Daredevil got it right: You pick your villain, introduce him early, and work the whole season to build up to the final showdown. Jessica Jones also got this right. But Luke Cage didn't; had to have a mid-stream switcheroo. And Iron Fist got it so, so wrong.

    My impression is that the creators of the show thought they'd be clever in doing these switcheroos. But it really saps the energy, the momentum, and....

    What kind of show is this?

    Heck, the fighting, hero-antagonist struggle, etc., are really, really beside the point after all. This is a character story, right? So that's why Colleen Wing had to kill Bakuto: her character arc herp derp. And that's why Danny Rand had to be mopey, display uber amounts of internal turmoil (real "martial arts master" there, eh, heh heh), and why the show couldn't make up its mind about whether its title was truly Iron Fist or instead Rand Corporation or maybe Kun Lun or....The Danny and Colleen Love Show.

    Also, this lack of focus is the origin of one common criticism that critics have made: The show goes nowhere, just stumbles along, starts lethargically and still manages to peter out.

    OK. So those are my biggest problems with the show.

    I could add the campy factors, like those three silly/ridiculous opponents Gao had Danny fight or, later, the Drunken Master nod. But a part of me kinda liked those, or could buy those no problem had everything else been better. (Secretly, I enjoyed the Drunken Master nod, heh.)

    But there were some things I liked about it. I think I enjoyed Ward Meachum the most in the show, and a part of me wishes this Netflix exclusive had really been called The Rand Corporation. Heck, it almost was.

    And Iron Fist benefits from association. The Defenders* and all that. The inclusion of Claire Temple and Jeri Hogarth. (I almost want a miniseries featuring all, and only, the female characters from Netflix's Marvel series.) So it was mediocre, overall, but not absolutely wretched, imo.

    ______

    *Honorable Mention Rant: Seriously, someone tell Marvel we simply don't care about The Hand. DD S2 suffered from having a mysterious "group antagonist" also. Give us a solid villain, someone with character and menace, not a shadowy organization.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
    Gryphos likes this.
  2. Why didn't Claire Temple try to contact DD when she saw and knew Rand was fighting the Hand and DD fought them too? So stupid
     
    FifthView likes this.
  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Yeah I noted that at the time also.

    I liked her allusions to Luke Cage in the show. Obviously, he's still out of commission. But she could have contacted DD.
     
  4. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    I totally agree: Iron Fist was extremely disappointing, in several areas.

    I think the core problem is that the story lacks focus; the plots are too fragmented and don't have any combined payoff. Take Daredevil season 1: that story was clearly structured around taking down Fisk. The early episodes established the main villain (Fisk) and the sub-villains (the Russians, Nobu, Wesley, etc.), and over the course of the season, the sub-villains were progressively defeated, leading to a climactic final showdown with Fisk in the last episode. There is, as Aristotle would say, a unity to the story; everything builds up to a single point.

    As for Iron Fist, there's no such unity. There are two main subplot here: the Hand, and the Meachums. These two subplots each have a main villain, Bakuto and Harold Meachum respectively. The problem this leads to is that you end up having two climaxes: Colleen's fight with Bakuto, and Danny's fight with Harold. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in this case, it means that neither climax has the same emotional payoff as the climax in DD. Had the show focused itself entirely on one main villain, it would have been far more satisfying. Just think of how 'F*ck Yeah!' it was the moment when Jessica Jones snapped Kilgrave's neck. There's no such moment in IF.

    I also have a huge gripe with the climaxes themselves. This is Iron Fist, the hero of which is the epitome of the kung fu master character, the opening credits of which show a dude doing kung fu. And yet the ultimate climax of the show is ......... Danny having an incredibly slow, dull fight on a roof with Harold Meachum. Wat? Who the hell thought that would be a good final showdown? And generally, the fighting in the show was disappointing. The only memorable fight was with that drunk guy, and even then, it was only because that drunk guy had more charisma in that one scene then Danny in 13 episodes. The fights in DD are far superior, which is a shame, because fight scenes should be the one thing Iron Fist does best.

    I also don't give a shit about the Hand anymore. They've become so nebulous and ill-defined that they're just not compelling. And it sucks that the Hand is probably going to be the main antagonist force in the Defenders.
     
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  5. Edgewalker

    Edgewalker Acolyte

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    I have only seen the first episode of Iron Fist, but I may have to diverge here and say that I actually enjoyed it. Maybe it's because I haven't read the comics or seen more of the show, but I still thought it wasn't a terribly bad show. Not sure if my opinion will change, but there it is.

    Oh, and I just have to say that your mentions of how the fighting could have been better because Iron Fist is the best ever made me think of Tsunade from Naruto:
    "One finger. That's all I'm going to need to defeat you."
     
  6. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    @Gryphos:

    Your description is helpful, and I think the problem with subplots and climaxes explains my own reaction to the show, the absence of "unity."

    That reminded me of an old Writing Excuses episode I listened to last week. They were talking about subplots, and one of the cautions was to be careful not to elevate your subplot above your main plot or make it more interesting than your main plot.

    That's what the creators of IF did. ER, I mean they were not careful, heh. Actually, I'm not sure that a main plot can be isolated; it feels almost like "only subplots."

    A side note that might be related: Am I the only one who felt that Danny Rand's reason for returning to America was weak, maybe even fake? I understand wanting to discover what really happened on the plane, but this motivation was kinda just mentioned a few times, glossed over, and didn't have much effect as a focal point for the plot. Sure, the question is answered, "by the way," through other developments. But his motivation throughout the whole show seemed wishy-washy, unclear, as he drifted through the various subplots.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2017
  7. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I'd read some reviews before watching it, so I went in with lowered expectations and more than a little curiosity. I, also, was surprised (or at least relieved) after watching the first episode. But for me there's no ultimate great payoff for having watched that episode.

    There are still aspects I liked, which is why I've given it a 5/10. I came close to making that 6/10 just because I liked some of the acting–but thought better of it! Heh.
     
  8. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    I am passing on Iron Fist. Was never interested in the character, even when I read comics, and there are just too many superhero things floating around in the movies and Netflix to keep up with them all.

    Edit:

    I would add, I have not heard good things about this show either, so that also makes me unlikely.

    The question about as to whether they should change the racial aspect of the character. I would vote no. Most of these characters were created in a very different time, and so most of them correspondingly are white. But that ship has sailed. Keep the characters as they are please, and make new ones if they need to be more diverse.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2017
  9. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    The poor quality of this show was enough to pretty much drag down how I feel about its predecessors.

    For me, I don't care if Danny Rand is white. It's the way it was in the comics, so I don't have an issue with it in the TV show. Just use some common sense and make the show good. Do that and any quibbles with be forgiven.

    Where I do take issue is with is how much they didn't even try to be sincere and do even the most basic homework on Asian culture. To me, the way they handled it was like something out of a 70's TV show. They just grabbed what looked and felt Asian put it into a blender and vomited it out on to the screen to provide an Asian feel.

    People spouting Bushido code and quoting Sun Tzu from out of the blue, but then pausing to let everyone know they were doing so, because you know, Asian. Danny Rand speaking in Orientalisms. It was like F-off, nobody talks like that. All that stuff was about as genuine as a fortune cookie and egg foo yung.

    And then there was the martial arts. All laughable. And the fact Iron Fist throughout the season had difficulty summoning his Iron Fist, to me, felt like a veiled allusion to male erectile dysfunction.

    This show is an example of writing at its poorest. Things happen a certain way because the plot demands it, not because the genuine actions of a character lead them there. Danny Rand is the friggen Iron Fist, with or without his powers, he's a master martial artist, but yet he struggles with fighting henchmen. But then when required kicks a master's ass.

    The shear ineptitude of this show sours my view of everything that came before, and doesn't give me high hopes for the Defenders.

    A side note, I found out after finishing Iron Fist that the show runner for it was the same guy who ran the last three seasons of Dexter, and turned that great show into a hot mess. It explains a lot. I've never shouted F-off at the screen as much as I have with these two shows. Doesn't bode well for the Inhumans TV show, because this guy is doing that as well. Sigh.
     
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  10. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I agree. This was something else I noticed. But a part of me was thinking, comic book!, so I let that slide. I was irritated enough by other things in the show, I forgot that.

    Thanks a lot. Now I won't be able to rewatch it without thinking about that, heh. Not that I plan at this point to watch it again.

    I would add that this show seemed like it was written by someone who only had a passing acquaintance with the kung fu genre and tried to insert what he thought were the necessary tropes, but made them silly.
     
  11. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    They had a slim chance of being able to slide pass doing things the way they did, but that chance rested on the shoulders of the story. If they at least did that really well, I think many would be willing give it a slide for now. But as is, bad story just magnifies the bad everything else.

    If you want notice more of that kind of stuff keep reading. By the half way point, it got so bad for me, it kind of actually came back around and became kind of good again, because I started to see unintended connections and began to create my own ridiculous plots based on what i was seeing, especially when his friend Davos showed up.

    As soon as that happened, it created a love triangle between Danny, Colleen, and Davos. Davos was the spurned lover. Every time he walked into a room and saw Danny and Collen together, you could see the seething, jealous anger in his eyes. It finally comes to a head after they kill Bakudo, and Davos accuses Danny of being unworthy and they fight. The fight on the surface seems to be about Davos thinking Danny is unworthy of being the Iron Fist, but then it all comes out when Danny says to Davos, "This has nothing to do with K'un Lun. It's because I left you." Hhahahhahahahah.

    After that, every piece of awkward dialogue before where Danny talks about him and Davo's adventures in K'un Lun gains unintended subtext. The one that stuck out like a sore thumb was when while having dinner with Colleen and Claire he tells them that they mainly ate vegetables at the monastery but once in a while used to sneak out to eat 'donkey'. Riiiiighhht. Eat 'Donkey'. *wink-wink* hahaha.

    Sorry, I know it's childish, but I have to try to reclaim some of that time I spent watching this mess. :p

    Yeah, I don't understand why they didn't hire a consultant that could educate them about the genre.
     
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  12. For the same reason why, after the Star Trek Voyager people accidentally hired a complete fraud to educate them about Native Americans, they included the false information anyway?
     
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  13. Alora pendrak

    Alora pendrak Scribe

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    My biggest problem with iron fist was the main character. Dany Rand was irritating to the point where i found myself rolling my eyes every time he was on screen. We're supposed to see the Mechum's as the bad guys but in episode 1 from their perspective it really does look like Ward and Joy are being harassed by a scam artist who stalk's joy and hides in Ward's car makeing him look unstable and dangerous. Dany exspects to pick up right where he left off with people he knew as kids even through they've clearly grown apart. He forces the Mechum's to give him part of the company basically forceing himself on them just becuse the company belonged to his dad even though its clear Dany has no clue how to run a company and basically makes morally self rightious choices without knowing the facts and nearly costs Joy and Ward their jobs not to mention he refuses to forfil his obligations to them even though he claims to want a relationship with both siblings. He wouldn't lisen to Joy telling him to make a public statement and wouldn't even show up for meetings even after makeing Ward a promise the worst part is Ward went with Dany forfilling his end of the deal but Danny refuseing to honor his end. It got to the point where Ward telling Danny he's not wanted actually comes across as well deserved instead of tear jerking.
    Also Danny being niave makes no sense raised in a monk temple or not flashbacks reveal he was abused to make him the greatest warrior. I know its a superhero show but Danny should be way more emotionally and phycologically shattered then he came across as. i mean there was that one scene where Danny hit a kid for not takeing the class seriously but they never made strict disipline pushing people beyond their limitations a part of Danny's character. its even more annoying becuse the abuse storyline was done so well with Ward. With smarter writeing Danny and Ward could of been foils to each other based on the abuse thing since i assume they wanted Ward to become the bad guy in the future.
    Coleen was awesome and i loved her story about realizing she was a part of a cult but how much better would the series have been if Coleen was right about lady Gau and her people being radical corrupt members of the hand and it being a movement about helping those who could not help themselves used for great evil. Danny Rand haveing to deal with the fact that he cann't just point the finger at the hand being all evil which leads to him learning a lesson about apperances which leads him being wary of Harold but no this show isn't smart enough to challenge the heroes world view.
     
  14. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I'm glad you bumped this because I finally saw it just before Defenders came out and wanted to comment on it. It was mostly mediocre, but sometimes it could be downright awful. The acting was fine, but the writing was painful. There were points in the story where I didn't even like Claire Temple - how is that even possible?
     
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