Iron Fist: Marvel’s first weak hitter

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Since 2015, Marvel’s adult-oriented Netflix Originals have landed punch after punch with their hard-hitting, gritty and visceral superhero series. Unfortunately, their latest contender, “Marvel’s Iron Fist,” fails to strike a solid blow. Spoilers to follow.

The biggest mistake in “Iron Fist” is the tone. All of the previous Marvel series have dealt with adult tones and subject matter too dark to show on the big screen such as hard drugs, abusive relationships and police brutality. “Iron Fist,” however, could fit in with the family-oriented “Avengers.” Besides a few bloody executions and the occasional heroin use, “Iron Fist” just doesn’t fit in the same universe, and when those few dark instances occur, they clash drastically with the rest of the show. Even the main character, Danny Rand/Iron Fist, changes drastically from innocent man-boy to wizened warrior from scene to scene.

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Danny Rand is also relatively unrelateable as a character. While Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are all underdogs, Danny Rand is a billionaire white kid whose only adversity is being burdened with his Iron Fist responsibilities. In fact, the most entertaining parts of the show are in the first two episodes. In them, Danny is living as a vagrant among the other homeless and then fighting to prove his sanity when he is put in a mental institution against his will. These moments stand out because Danny is a victim–trying to prove who he is and regain his fortune. He has nothing and must fight to get it back. Unfortunately, he succeeds pretty early on and then proceeds to do very little using his regained power, negating the impact of him losing his position later in the series.

The overall plot is also a bit confusing with plot-lines floating in and out without much consequence. The first few episodes follow Danny as he returns to New York after spending 15 years being presumed dead. He then has to prove his identity to regain his right to his father’s fortune. This plot is quickly resolved, and the rest of the show is weighed down by Danny’s mission to defeat “The Hand,” which is an evil secret organization of ninjas that have been hinted at in previous Netflix series. Disappointingly, this problem itself isn’t even properly resolved as it is probably a lead in for the upcoming team-up series, “Marvel’s The Defenders.”

What we are left with after all this is a sporadic mess of a superhero story with characters that don’t feel important enough to root for, but the series isn’t all bad. In fact, the best thing about the show is its homage to kung fu movies. The villains are over the top and eccentric much like comic book villains and kung fu antagonists. There’s a gang of hatchet-wielding mobsters that feels ripped straight out of “Kung Fu Hustle,” and a series of duels with gimmicky villains with names like “Bride of Nine Spiders” and “Scythe.” These moments are genuinely fun, although, the fight choreography is a bit lacking.

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In general, “Iron Fist” has fun characters that are never challenged to show us their full potential. The characters don’t really evolve, and the plot meanders aimlessly. There is no weight to the story that really grounds it, which makes “Iron Fist” the first ugly stain on Marvel’s and Netflix’s previously shinning record.

Hopefully, “Marvel’s The Defenders” returns the franchise to its previous glory when it premieres later this year. Another spin-off, “Marvel’s The Punisher,” is also slated to premiere this year, which will mark the return of Jon Bernthal’s beloved anti-hero.

For more on Marvel’s Netflix series, check out our reviews of Daredevil and Luke Cage.