Remember when you binge watched Daredevil and Jessica Jones and kept telling yourself “Just one more episode” because it was so damn good? That’s probably not going to happen here.
Let’s recap: 15 years ago, Danny Rand (Finn Jones, the once and former Ser Loras Tyrell) was the only survivor of a plane crash that killed his (very) wealthy parents. Rescued and taken to the (yawn) mystical city of K’un-L’un, he trains in (double yawn) martial arts and learns to wield the supernatural power of the Iron Fist.
Fast forward to present day New York City. 25-year-old Rand returns to New York for some reason or other, looking very much the college student who like, took a vacation in the Orient and is TOTALLY enlightened now, dude. He’s hoping to reclaim his name and his parents’ legacy in the Rand Corporation, but three pesky things stand in his way: His father’s former business partner Harold Meachum (a not too bad David Wenham) and his children, Danny’s childhood playmates Ward (Tom Pelphrey) and Joy (Jessica Stroup).
Not to mention the small matter of a certain ninja organisation called The Hand, which is waiting in the shadows to make its move. Cue lots of mystical mumbo jumbo and fortune cookie wisdom, all centred on Rand’s white saviour.
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While the previous Marvel Netflix series – Jessica Jones, Daredevil‘s second season and especially Luke Cage – have all had pacing issues, Iron Fist proceeds at a glacial pace that leaves you fidgeting in your seat and checking your watch constantly. And while Jessica Jones took on powerful issues of abuse and consent and Daredevil grappled with Catholic guilt, Iron Fist is concerned with um corporate responsibility. Which is undoubtedly an important issue, but doesn’t make for riveting stuff in a superhero drama.
Pacing issues aside, Jones’ charisma-free performance doesn’t help in the least. There’s very little about Rand that an audience can root for. He is at best pleasant and inoffensive and at worst puzzling and yawn-inducing, which is a strange description of the supposed lead. In fact, the best adjective to describe Danny Rand is bland: Like soggy ramen in a diluted Tonkotsu broth kind of bland.
But perhaps the biggest indictment of Iron Fist, ostensibly a TV series about one of the greatest martial artists in the world, is that its lead can’t fight. Or at the very least, has been poorly trained and/or prepped by his fight choreographer. Watching the early action sequences, I couldn’t quite believe how slowly and tentatively he was moving. I kept waiting for the action to improve, but it never does. Which is a crying shame when you consider what we’ve seen in the likes of Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
Iron Fist‘s sole saving grace may be fellow GOT alumnus Jessica Henwick, who plays Rand’s ally Colleen Wing. Henwick does very well with the American accent and gives a fiercely spirited portrayal, but she is hardly any more impressive a martial arts exponent. At one point, Wing makes like Spider-Man and goes cage fighting for money so we can all see just how badass she is. Sadly, she isn’t.
And of course, we have the hilarious, cringeworthy sight of Rand, a man desperately in need of kung fu pointers from any of a number of action stars, let alone Lei Kung The Thunderer, lecturing Wing about martial arts. Sure Bland Rand, tell us again about what you learned from watching kung fu movies.
As you’ll be aware by now, this is hardly the first negative Iron Fist review out there. Which begs the question: What consequence will Marvel’s first misfire have for The Defenders, where Iron Fist plays a key role? Some quickfire re-writing may be needed, or perhaps a reduction of Danny Rand’s role.
Who knows: Marvel may just recast Rand. After all, they did it with Terrence Howard and Rhodey, and that dude was a way better actor.
Iron Fist premieres worldwide on Netflix on March 17.