By Dustin Cabeal
First and foremost, and I hate even to have to say this in a review, but given the site's reputation for disliking all things Marvel and given the critical reception that I’ve seen online for Iron Fist I will say this: I do not give a hot shit about anyone else’s review. I haven’t read anyone else’s review; I haven’t even read a tweet expressing an opinion about Marvel and Netflix’s newest entry into their weird subdivision of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I feel that I have to say that before starting with this review because the easier answer to everything I’m about to say is, “Oh, he’s just jumping on the bandwagon.” Let’s be clear about one thing, the first episode of Iron Fist is one of the poorest pilots I have seen in the past three years, and I don’t care what any other critic says.
Visually Iron Fist looks good. It’s almost impossible for it not to these days, but it doesn’t look as amateurish as Luke Cage did in places. The acting is decent, not great, but decent. The main problem being that there are no characters to draw out big actors to take a part of the show. Quick, name Danny Rand’s nemesis? If you said shoes, then you are correct and if you didn’t come up with anything that’s because Marvel has never been great about developing villains for their mid-card characters. They fight the main eventer’s leftovers, villains that have become too much of a joke for Spider-Man to fight anymore.
Instantly there are two problems with the story in this pilot episode. Also, make no mistake, this is a pilot; they may have named it, but it is what it is, a pilot. The first is that the villain isn’t very clear and his motivation is even less clear. Though this review won’t spoil the villain, it’s obvious in the casting. The minute you recognize an actor, that’s probably the villain.
The other problem is that the story tries to pull an Arrow, but gets stuck instantly. Imagine if you will, the first episode of Arrow in which Ollie comes back and is examined in a hospital and confirmed to be Ollie. Now imagine if that was drawn out for an entire episode and he was never confirmed to be the character that the audience knows him to be. That’s the first episode of Iron Fist. As a viewer, no one is going to doubt that this guy isn’t Danny Rand. We’re not supposed to, but the show makes us watch an hour of everyone doubting him when all he wants to do is talk.
A sub-problem with Danny’s motivation is that he wants to know what happened to the plane and himself, though it seems clear that he knows what happened to himself. Wanting to know about the plane implies that he knows something fishy happened to the plane and hey, there was. If you know one of the three important things about Iron Fist’s backstory, then you know that his plane going down was no accident. Danny shows up and wants to know about the plane that was never recovered… so why the hell would he expect anyone to know unless he knows it was sabotaged, but then how would he know that? It just goes around and around until you puke.
The episode is daunting to watch. It’s a full hour of boredom, as they display some of Danny’s talents, but never say what they are. They also never clue us into why he’s back all of the sudden or how even managed to make it from the Himalayans to New York… without a passport or shoes, but with a full charged original iPod and working ear buds.
The martial arts and stunts are the only thing visually disappointing. Not only were some of the fights scenes sloppy, but they were filmed poorly as well. At one point Danny kicks a guy down some stairs, it’s not only difficult to see the action, but the stunts themselves were clumsy. The editing ends up making it look like a jump cut, and it’s hard to care at that point. Any time wire stunts were done they too looked sloppy. Danny jumps up to the second story of a building and can see that he was wired poorly when his legs hang out more than his arms. Wait, I’m feeling the director and the internet making a shitty excuse of him being inexperienced with is powers, and that’s why he was sloppy… except for, you didn’t show or tell us that in the story. We only have what’s there, and what’s there is a wire stunt that looks like a wire stunt rather than a man making an unbelievable jump.
I’ve decided to review each episode of this series as I watch it meaning I’ve only watched the first episode. It could get better or worse from here; I just don’t know yet. I’m not looking forward to it, that’s for sure. Again, this is one of the worst pilots I’ve seen in a few years. It’s so bad that I can’t think of the last piss poor pilot I saw with maybe the exception of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, which at least was on Network TV and didn’t just have money thrown at it like Iron Fist.
As for this episode, though, it’s a tired storyline of the lost son coming home to be a millionaire only to have to fight for his city and company. The acting isn’t strong enough to make it interesting, and it follows the Marvel Netflix formula of “wait until the end to see them be the hero they are.” The problem with doing that is that it’s already extremely tired and predictable. Danny will have two love interests, one mentor and at least two secret organizations to face… it’s just Daredevil lite, but without performances.
Iron Fist E.01 – “Snow Gives Way”
Streamable now on Netflix