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After a rash of bad reviews for Netflix's next original Marvel series Marvel's Iron Fist hit the internet, series star Finn Jones did the same thing the cast of Suicide Squad did: he claimed that "these shows are not made for critics, they are first and foremost made for the fans." Which is a likely defense, but I have a simple question for Jones: what group of fans is he referring to? This self-professed Marvel stan could take him on a journey through his life, going all the way back to grade school with Marvel Comics trading cards and the like, but this isn't going to be a take down of how those fans turn into these critics.
I'm just trying to understand how Jones, Marvel, and Netflix felt that Iron Fist was a fitting entry into the Cinematic Universe they've helped nurture with their original series. In a world where we already have the depressed white guy with Daredevil (although he gets mad points for being blind AF while brutally beating people down), a snarky white woman, and the indestructible black dude, what in Marvel's right mind thought that the next step would be two steps back, with a calm heir to a corporation that also dabbles in kung fu? In Trump's America, do we really need the rich, white savior as our next Marvel superhero series?
Warning: Mild 'Iron Fist' spoilers ahead.
For heads who look to Marvel Comics and, thus, their series and films for escapism, Iron Fist is way too 1%-y for many. To keep it a buck, Marvel and Netflix did keep Danny Rand's story true to the comics, but why? It's not like Iron Fist is a Daredevil-level hero. Hell, even in the comics, it's not like Danny Rand is the first Iron Fist! There was definitely ample opportunity to switch things up, whether it be an Asian character as Iron Fist or something else entirely. After being able to see a badass drunk woman getting her detective on followed by a real Black American hero, Marvel and Netflix had a real opportunity to do something...and they went with the Buddhist white guy who spends way too much time chasing after his name and his father's company (along with the fortune that comes with it). Maybe they wanted to make sure one of the Defenders had limitless funds so the other three (who are abundantly broke in their respective series) didn't have to worry about money while getting their superhero on? Whatever the case may be, there's way too much in the way of corporate f*ckery in Iron Fist to make even the biggest stan stay awake.
There's also the problem with the action—or lack thereof—in Iron Fist. For a series that's based around a Buddhist monk-trained "living weapon" who has literally-lit fists, it feels like we're treated to less action than normal. I wasn't the biggest fan of the fight scenes in Luke Cage (although he did have his moments), but it's hard to go from Daredevil, where we saw Marvel up the ante on that season one one-shot hallway fight with an insane stairwell brawl, to Iron Fist, where even the martial arts scenes feel tepid. Dude's a master of the form, and yet every time he's in a scene, it feels like he's in slow-motion. Plus, the Iron Fist can make his fists glow. How is this not used to greater effect in the series? How is he able to use his glowing fist to break some dude's brass knuckles, but isn't also crushing the hand holding the knuckles? Daredevil would've broken each and every bone in dude's hand just for living!
One particular fight I can't wrap my head around is the battle Netflix has with making shorter seasons. If we learned anything from Stranger Things, aka the smash Netflix hit, it's that a shorter season can be just as adept—if not more adept—at telling a complete story. Ten episode seasons work for FX (arguably the illest television network out); why do we need 13 episodes for each of these Marvel series? It's one of the major problems with Luke Cage: once you hit the pivotal moment midway through the series, the energy of the series is zapped from it completely. Netflix shows seems to always have trouble meeting this odd 13-episode quota in a creative fashion, and when coupled with a story like Iron Fist's that's both uninteresting and incohesive, watching it becomes a chore.
That's not to say the show is without highlights. Jessica Henwick's take on Colleen Wing is intriguing to see, even if she's a somewhat reluctant ally of Danny Rand's in the first chunk of the series. She has one particularly dope battle where she gets to let her rougher skills come to the surface, but without the proper storyline, she ends up becoming a sidekick with no forseeable motivation. Also, kudos to Carrie-Anne Moss and Rosario Dawson for resurrecting their MCU roles (lawyer Jeri Hogarth and nurse Claire Temple, respectively) for this series, but at times it feels like this was done solely to show how interconnected these larger characters are for future reveals.
It's as if Marvel and Netflix knew who the Defenders would be, but instead of fully-realizing what they could do with Iron Fist, they rushed, creating a series of unfortunate events that net them the first overall fail in the MCU (Thor films notwithstanding). That's not to say that everything Marvel has done on Netflix has been rosy; the aforementioned second-half of Luke Cage can be an issue, which is the same with season two of Daredevil. But at least those series tried to do something. We're not saying that Iron Fist could have (or should have) been the sprawling, violent epic that Logan was, but there's a lot to learn from Fox's experiment with a hard R rating. You can try and widen the scope, telling stories that wouldn't have been seen as doable even five years ago, and have people flock to it.
Ultimately, it goes back to the question I asked in the beginning: who in Trump's America needs the Iron Fist right now? With Ghost Rider being properly introduced in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this could've been the perfect time to throw that character into the Netflix fire (pun intended). Is that too satanic/way too much for a street-level hero? Do you what they did with Luke Cage and fast-track a Misty Knight series into play, so we not only get another minority in The Defenders, but another woman. Truth be told, that could've made way more sense than dragging out a seemingly-uninteresting "living weapon" who we rarely get to see use his powers to full potential. A rich, white one at that. Especially when the best parts of Danny Rand's story (being rich af and being a skilled hand-to-hand combatant) are already covered in the Marvel films and Netflix series (by Iron Man and Daredevil, respectively).
Marvel truly had a chance to flip the script and move to the next level, but with Iron Fist they took the easiest, richest, whitest way out.