Created by Scott Buck, Iron Fist is the latest addition to the Netflix’s Marvel series, following Luke Cage. The thirteen-episode season follows Danny Rand (Finn Jones), a man who survived a plane crash in the Himalayas when he was a child; a tragedy which killed both of his parents. He was rescued by warrior monks and raised in a monastery in a hidden, heavenly place called K’un-Lun. He lived there, and was trained in Kung Fu for fifteen years, before earning the title of the ‘Iron Fist’. The position came with the power to harness energy, or ‘Chi’, as strength, along with the responsibility to protect K’un-Lun. However, Danny leaves the monastery and goes to his home city, New York, to reconnect with old friends and to claim his father’s company, Rand Enterprise. Yet, he encounters challenges from the moment he enters his company’s building, for he not only needs to prove his identity, but must also eradicate a criminal triad hiding within the corporation.
One of Danny’s duties as the Iron Fist is to protect K’un-Lun from their mortal enemy, ‘The Hand’, a criminal organisation that trains their followers in martial arts. Consequently, there are many fight scenes throughout the show, all of which are well choreographed and visually entertaining. From hand-to-hand battles to melee weapon duels, we see exceptional combat scenes across a variety settings, such as dojos, office buildings, the streets of New York and warehouses in China. On top of the normal fight scenes, Danny’s superpower is occasionally introduced, when one of his fists begins to glow as he gains enough strength to punch through walls. The series managed to present enough of his superpower without overusing it and letting it replace the actual Kung Fu, giving us authentic action sequences over mediocre combat. Credit is also due to the show’s cinematic opening, for it shares an impressive and creative demonstration of a martial artist whose moves are traced with painting.
While the martial art is one of the leading strengths of the show, Danny’s relationships with old and new friends also draw interest to the story. Returning to Rand Enterprise, he finds his childhood friends, Ward (Tom Pelphrey) and Joy (Jessica Stroup) Meachum, running the company; taking over from their father, Harold, who was partnered with Danny’s father. Tension builds up upon Danny’s arrival, for the Meachum siblings are at first sceptical of his identity, believing he had died in the plane crash. They then worry about the company’s future, and how him taking over could harm the business they’ve built. The story provides an interesting contrast between Rand and the Meachums, for Danny was never after their money, but their friendship. While Joy eventually warms up to him, Ward continuously attempts to throw him under the bus at any given opportunity. The series highlights the difference between the innocent, friendly Kung Fu master, and the cold, corporate business-people.
However, Danny’s innocence causes him to be a little too melodramatic when he gets frustrated, and he becomes unreasonable and childish at times, which is a little off-putting. This is where his new acquaintances, Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), come in to ground him with practical thinking. Despite his over-dramatic personality, Danny is portrayed as a favourable oddball among those around him, even his friends; a kind, martial arts billionaire who looks like a “homeless hipster”.
Even though the show is strongly supported with fight scenes and interesting relations, there are some noticeable flaws with the story and villains. To begin with, Danny Rand’s origin bears too many similarities to DC’s Batman. They both come from wealthy families who own a family name company. Both of their parent’s deaths were caused by criminals, and they both use martial arts as a primary tool for fighting crime. They also have a ‘don’t kill your opponent’ policy when it comes to fighting. The main differences are probably personality traits, and that Danny can harness his Chi as a supernatural power while Batman cannot. Thus, the Irons Fist’s backstory is unoriginal and disappointing.
The show’s villains are also a slight letdown, simply because they are easily spotted. While there is nothing wrong with the authenticity of their criminal activities, there seems to be little to no attempt to disguise them, taking away from clever reveals and plot twists. However, the show can get a little creative with its criminals, introducing a mix of corporate psychopaths and triad masterminds for Danny to face with his friends.
Overall, The Iron Fist is an entertaining action-packed series with excellent combat scenes and interesting character contrasts. Despite its flaws, the show has a lot of room to develop the story in another season. While the focus of the first season is the fight against The Hand in New York, there is still a lot of mystery around K’un-Lun and Danny’s training, which could be revealed in future episodes. The next time we’ll see the Iron Fist will be around the middle of this year with the release of The Defenders. Aside from Danny Rand, the mini-series will include the heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.
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