As you’ve probably heard by now, Iron Fist, the latest and final series to debut in the Defenders quartet, was out yesterday. Critical consensus on the show was negative, but that only seemed to stoke more interest around it; it couldn’t be THAT bad, right?
Obviously, inevitably, it is. I’m no fan of superhero shows at the best of times (aside from the still-mindblowing Legion and the obviously excellent Jessica Jones), but Iron Fist usurps Gotham as the laziest, least compelling example of the genre to date.
Iron Fist follows the story (if you can go as far as to call it that) of Danny Rand, heir to a wildly successful company who was presumed dead after a plane crash that claimed the lives of both his parents. He rocks up back in the city after a dozen or so years away to reclaim his spot in the family business and return to normalcy, aside from the fact that he now has martial arts superpowers. And yes, if you’re wondering, this is basically the precise same premise as Arrow and you’d be way better off watching that show than this one.
I mean, where to begin with the problems here? I think the most egregious one is Danny himself, as played by Finn Jones; he’s that hot guy from the bar who you start talking to only to realize you stopped listening a quarter-hour ago and that no amount of good looks are going to make listening to his gap-year stories worthwhile. You’ve still got some self-respect. Finish your drink and walk away. He’s a staggeringly dull character, imbued with anti-charisma by a wishy-washy Jones, his special power apparently turning up at the workplaces of women who’ve expressed their desire to be left alone. I can handle an anti-hero, but writing your main character without a character seems like a pretty fatal error to make.
The rest of the cast aren’t much better; Jessica Henwick as the leader of a dojo comes out mostly unscathed, but Tom Pelphrey as the sneering childhood friend-turned-CEO might as well not have a face at all for all the acting he does with it. The dialogue is a disaster, reading as though it’s been plucked straight from the pages of the comic. Nothing is left unsaid, the plot beats that could have been conveyed by a look instead put across with an eye-rollingly heavy-handed line. The direction, too, is cold, with none of the flair and nuance that made the other three Defenders series at least pleasant to look at.
For a show about a martial artist, too, the action scenes are pretty uninspiring. If you look at some of the great martial arts films of the last few years- The Raid is a great example – the direction allow the fight scenes to flow, the camera acting as a delivery system for the action straight into your brainbox. The Iron Fist fight scenes stutter and stop and start, leaving the whole thing feeling like it can never get it’s feet off the ground.
I think the thing that strikes me most about Iron Fist is the fact that I can’t see Danny Rand sharing a series with Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Matt Murdoch. The Defenders series is due out later this year, and yeah, I don’t think that the set-up seasons that came before this one were all perfect, but they at least had character. I can describe the three other protagonists as people, whereas Danny Rand…has a beard, I guess? Doesn’t like shoes? Enjoys stating the obvious? He lacks anything concrete at best, and at worst, I can see him being an irritating dead weight in a show with three other interesting and varied lead characters.
So yeah, Iron Fist really is that bad – somehow, maybe, worse. And with the Defenders series on the way, it seems as though the reasonably solid franchise might have fumbled in the last over. If someone could text me a recap of this show so I don’t have to watch the rest, I’d sincerely appreciate the effort.