With Iron Fist, Marvel faced a challenge. The extended universe that appears on Netflix is grittier and more grounded that it’s cinematic cousin. With no worries over ratings, showrunners and writers had more scope to explore the darker side of their characters, with their flaws laid bare. The violence and adult themes present in Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage gave the shows an edge and, let’s not forget, a high standard to live up to.
So, a challenge indeed, and in the first few episodes at least, it’s one they’ve not quite lived up to. So, is Iron Fist worth your time?
Well, yes. Let’s be honest, if you’re already a fan of the Marvel Universe, and of the Netflix shows, then nothing anyone says is going to make a difference. The issue is with the casual viewers; those fans of the shows who may never have picked up a comic book in their lives. As the final member of the Defenders (with that show coming in the Autumn) Iron Fist is key in bringing the four characters together, and therein lies the problem.
There seems to be a lack of focus on, and some confusion surrounding, the character itself. It’s fair to say that origin stories are becoming slightly tedious, but for Iron Fist one is essential. In introducing an other-worldly element, more exposition is required to give the character depth, and while there are snippets and flashes of what it means to be the Iron Fist, and where Danny Rand has been in the fifteen years since his disappearance, there is simply not enough magic, mysticism and martial arts. Doctor Strange proved audiences were open to something different from Marvel, but here it feels a little like they’ve wimped out. The character is too grounded for his own good.
The fight scenes are another issue. While the moves are quick and the bad guys impressive – especially one section involving Danny duelling with an interesting quartet – they pale when compared with the balletic brutality of Daredevil. Equally, the focus on corporate shenanigans is too much to the fore, with Danny returning Bruce Wayne-like to his multi-billion-dollar company just to get involved in a series of real estate deals. Jessica Jones did the private detective-noir better.
In short, there is not enough originality or interest to a character that on paper is considerably more so than his fellow Defenders. Finn Jones is charmingly likeable as Danny, and seems comfortable in the part, but he is overshadowed slightly by Jessica Henwick as potential sidekick Collen Wing whose own story plays out slightly more interestingly in the first few episodes.
The implication is that more is to come, and certainly a series should not be judged solely on its beginning. There are numerous nods to what might happen, or more precisely who might appear, and given that Iron Fist needs to end with a lead into the Defenders, the second half will certainly be interesting.
But here is the problem. With the other three characters firmly established, and with their shows hugely popular, Iron Fist feels like a bridge to the next stage rather than a standalone series of its own. We’ll watch it, you’ll watch it; in fairness, it is good - we should watch it. But it will always be with an eye on what’s coming rather than what’s actually happening.
IRON FIST (FIRST SIX EPISODES) / CERT: TBC / DIRECTORS: JOHN DAHL, TOM SHANKLAND, UTA BRIESEWITZ, RZA / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: FINN JONES, JESSICA HENWICK, DAVID WENHAM / RELEASE DATE: 17TH MARCH (NETFLIX)