Iron Fist is the newest installment of Marvel's Netflix projects, and it's come under heavy fire thus far. Much of that has to do with the the main star, Finn Jones. Jones portrays Danny Rand, heir to an empire and possessor of the Iron Fist power.
Rand has always been a caucasian character, from the moment he was introduced in 1974. But because of today's politically correct environment and the desire to see the inclusion of more ethnicities in popular Hollywood projects, the disappointment with Rand's skin color was evident from the beginning.
Considering Iron Fist is a character who excels in martial arts, many critics immediately believed Marvel should have cast an Asian actor for the role. Marvel has shown a willingness in the past to change characters, most notably with Sam Jackson as Nick Fury, and many felt the same should have been done now with Iron Fist.
But after the series dropped on Netflix, it became clear that the lead actor's cultural background was the least of the show's issues.
Iron Fist had a lot to live up to, that much was certain. Following on the heels of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Iron Fist was the fourth in the Defenders series, which will lead to the team show of the same name. Iron Fist had the potential to come in and continue the trend of smash hits for Marvel, as the last Defender was introduced.
But it's unfortunately fallen a bit short of expectations. Much of the blame has already fell at Jones' door, but that is an unfair assessment. Jones plays a character that's essentially still a kid at heart, which means he can't exactly be grizzled like The Punisher or Daredevil. He also can't be street tough like Cage, because that's not the environment he grew up in.
Iron Fist matured in a monastery that exists in another dimension; there's no template for this kind of Marvel character on the small screen.
Had Iron Fist debuted in Doctor Strange, he likely would have fit right in. The two share many of the same otherworldly aspects, and fans would probably have been much more receptive of it all. But like the aliens in Indiana Jones 4, Danny Rand does not fit in the established universe.
Comic book fans wanted Marvel Knights, and that's what they got until Iron Fist. Though Jones does an admirable job of combining his childlike persona with his Bruce Lee discipline, it just never quite clicks. He seems uncomfortable in many scenes, or perhaps the character is inserted in the wrong moments.
Either way, Iron Fist the man seems more of an eccentric manchild than a battle tested fighter.
The fights themselves are more than a little disappointing as well, as they never really deliver on the action that Marvel audiences are accustomed to. Iron Fist may have the dark and gritty aesthetic of Daredevil, but it has none of the realism. When Charlie Cox's Daredevil trades punches and kicks with thugs in a back alley, fans feel it. It's real, it's dangerous, and it's hard hitting.
But that rarely ever comes across in Iron Fist, if it ever comes across at all. Jones does not appear to be the trained fighter that Cox is, which is probably not the case, but the fight choreography is just never all that impressive. Whatever skills Jones learned for the show are really never showcased the right way.
As a standalone project however, Iron Fist may have succeeded. Despite its drawbacks, there are some redeeming aspects of the show. Chief among those is the Marvel Netflix mainstay Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple, the Night Nurse. Ward Meachum is played to evil perfection by Tom Pelphrey, and to a lesser extent the same can be said of his sister Joy, played by Jessica Stroup.
Jessica Henwick's Colleen Wing has a lot of potential, but like many other things in the series, doesn't quite realize that potential. Her chemistry with Rand is not always evident, but the two do have some good moments together in the show.
Marvel set the bar with its other Netflix projects, and Iron Fist had the unfortunate distinction of being the last before The Defenders. Maybe too much was done, or perhaps not enough was done, to really dig in and build Iron Fist's corner of the universe from the ground up. But no matter why it's fallen short, the fact is Marvel has the opportunity to get it right with The Defenders. Iron Fist is far from being a lost cause.
Iron Fist is just one piece of the puzzle, and fans should remember that. There's much more to come from Marvel on Netflix, and fans should remember that as well.