Long before anyone had seen a single episode of Iron Fist, comic book fans were rolling up their sleeves, ready to knock the shit out of Marvel's latest show for its supposed cultural appropriation. Amidst controversial accusations of cultural appropriation and whitewashing, things took an even more sour turn for the Last Defender when critics got their hands on the first half of Season 1.
Scoring a dire 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Iron Fist was denounced long before the show became available in its entirety. Based on just the first six episodes, critics argued that #IronFist was punching far below its weight, paling in comparison to each of Marvel's previous Netflix offerings, including Daredevil and #LukeCage. One critic from the Telegraph even decided to select this damning title for their interview with #FinnJones:
"Iron Fist star Finn Jones: how does it feel to be the world's most hated superhero?"
We're here to tell you that most of this negativity is misplaced. Sure, Finn Jones's #MCU debut isn't perfect, and sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but when the internet got ready to gun down Iron Fist faster than The Punisher at a rifle range, we felt that it was time for someone to step up and defend the last of #TheDefenders.
The Cast Of 'Iron Fist' Is Chi-t?
"Jones is so bland and charisma-free in the lead role that one longs for scenes in which Jessica Henwick turns up as a martial arts instructor. Why couldn't Henwick be the star of Iron Fist?" [Variety]
Aside from Jessica Henwick, whose role as Colleen Wing is destined to become the breakout performance of the show, the rest of Iron Fist's cast are being slammed for lacking the charisma of their fellow Netflix performers.
This must come as a punch in the gut for everyone involved in the project, particularly as the majority of actors involved would probably have not received the same criticism had they appeared on #Daredevil or #JessicaJones first.
Aside from popular MCU mainstays such as Rosario Dawson (Claire Temple) and Carrie Ann Moss (Jeryn Hogarth), Jessica Stroup perfectly straddles the line between charming and loathsome in her portrayal of Joy Meachum; Lewis Tan excels as a servant of Ch’i-Lin; and Finn Jones himself? Well, the former Game of Thrones star carries the weight of the show admirably, drawing focus as the awkward man-child forced to reacclimatize following his prolonged absence from the world.
While the other Defenders are all dealing with their own demons with dour faces and grim outlooks, Danny is remarkably optimistic and youthful in comparison, despite suffering his fair share of childhood trauma too. This doesn't mean that Iron Fist doesn't touch on equally important issues, though.
There's Not Enough Dragons?
"Instead of kung fu adventure, the first six episodes have a strange preoccupation with corporate manoeuvring, as if that is the reason we’d be watching a show about a martial arts master who can summon the power of an ancient dragon." [Polygon]
There's a part of us that loses our minds at the very prospect of seeing Iron Fist's origin play out in full on the show, complete with that moment where Danny punches a dragon called Shou-Lao in the heart... so yes, we were saddened when Finn Jones revealed that this won't appear in Season 1.
Let's get real though. #Marvel's Netflix shows have always remained the most grounded aspect of the MCU, and are usually lauded for this very fact. Did people complain when Marvel didn't show Matt becoming an actual demon onscreen or include that time when Luke Cage was hired to destroy some robots by Dr Doom?
Some moments are best left in the pages of our favorite comics, even if the idea of seeing them in live action sounds great in theory. Daredevil spent a number of episodes based almost solely in courtrooms; Jessica Jones explored the private investigator business in more detail than expected; and Luke Cage spent the first few hours in a hairdressers. Thus, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Iron Fist also has its fair share of scenes that focus on "corporate manoeuvring."
Is Iron Fist Fighting Or Practicing Yoga?
"Iron Fist is a hero whose main power is punching people really hard. Buck and company have done a decent job of making Jones’ hand glow in the dark and punch through walls. But more often than not, Danny comes across as a college student come home from studying abroad, perplexed as to why no one gets his newfound love of yoga." [The Verge]
Those who are used to seeing Daredevil brutally dismantle a man's face with his billy-club may have been taken aback at first by the surprisingly chilled approach to fight scenes in Iron Fist. It's easy to see why the admittedly amusing yoga comparisons figure into some appraisals of the show. In reality though, this specific form of choreography is remarkably faithful to the essence of the character.
While it's never specified exactly which fighting style is employed by Iron Fist, the moves on display are clearly derivative of Kung Fu, flowing with a zen-like rhythm which incorporates meditative practises during training. Rather than just see Danny Rand punch his enemies mindlessly, using brute strength like Luke Cage or Jessica Jones, Iron Fist utilizes a unique approach to choreography which is entrancing to watch.
Anyone who argues that the fight scenes in Iron Fist are too slow or boring need only turn to Colleen Wing's cage fight sequence in Episode 3, 'Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch', to see that they were perhaps too hasty in their judgement.
'Iron Fist' Is, Like, Way Too Chilled Out
"Iron Fist’s glacial pace forces plot points and character interactions to be drawn out to a ludicrous degree." [Collider]
"Netflix drift" is a problem that's not just unique to Iron Fist. When given free reign to extend the length of episodes as far as they like, show runners often drag out their stories unnecessarily on the streaming service, freed from the usual restrictions seen on #TV.
However, Iron Fist actually suits this style of pacing far more than the rest of Marvel's Netflix shows. After all, classic Kung Fu shows from the '70s utilized a similar, leisurely approach, which is all in-keeping with the philosophy of the central character.
Besides, the slow burn method of storytelling also has its merits, allowing each of Marvel's Netflix shows to explore their adult content in more detail. Following the close examination of issues such as disability, rape trauma and racial prejudice through the lives of the other Defenders, Iron Fist takes a powerful look at PTSD, flashing back to the tragic plane crash that changed Danny's life forever.
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Iron Fist isn't perfect. Tom Pelphrey's portrayal of Ward Meachum couldn't be less charismatic if he tried; the personality of Iron Fist isn't as well defined as the other Defenders; and it's easy to see how Jones's defence of the show has rubbed people up the wrong way.
However, taken on its own merits, it should be clear that Iron Fist certainly doesn't deserve a measly rating of 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. Hell, Ben Affleck's Daredevil movie is still sitting pretty with a 44% rating, and you'd have to be blind to ever consider that superior to Marvel's latest Netflix outing.
An Iron Fist show may not seem necessary to all of the comic book fans out there, but it's impossible to imagine The Defenders defeating The Hand without him. Give Finn Jones and the rest of the cast a chance. You never know — Iron Fist may sucker punch you and turn out to be the knockout show that we all hoped it would be, after all.