In the month since Iron Fist first began streaming on Netflix, it hasn’t gotten a whole lot of praise – but does it really deserve a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes? Now that any initial disappointments have subsided, let’s take a step back and look critically at Iron Fist, on its own merits.
I say “on its own merits” because the biggest reason Iron Fist received bad reviews is simply because it didn’t live up to its siblings: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. And those are tall standards to live up to. The success of Daredevil‘s first season is, like the original Iron Man, the reason we’re able to have more Netflix/Marvel collaborations. And Jessica Jones is simply a masterpiece of a thriller. (I will never look at David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor the same way again.) Iron Fist has some flaws, I won’t deny that, but if you stop comparing it to golden apples, you’ll see that it’s still delicious on its own.
Does it stand on its own?
First off, let’s look at the story. Rich white kid comes back after fifteen years of intense martial arts training, only to find out evil ninjas are ruining everything. Okay, it sounds corny when you put it like that, but it is a great set-up for a great kung fu story. And it still maintains a serious and realistic tone despite everything that should make it ridiculous.
Finn Jones’s performance as Danny Rand perfectly shows the conflict between wisdom and knowledge; he’s mature and wizened from his time in K’un-L’un, but when it comes to the real world, he’s still a bit of a child. Of course he feels he can come and go where he wants, because who was going to stop a ten-year-old billionaire kid from skating in the halls? Of course we should produce medicine at-cost, because the money will come from somewhere else, right? Everything he does that seems juvenile or idiotic is just that – he’s coming from a place of only ten years of real-world experience.
Harold Meachum, business partner of Danny Rand’s father and inevitable final antagonist of the series, is a textbook sociopath (and not a high-functioning one, for that). He’s got the charisma to twist everyone into his control and the morals to kill them as soon as they break out. Imagine Luke Cage‘s Mariah Dillard, but with the natural charisma of Jessica Jones’ Killgrave. Not a great combination for the heroes, but a perfectly chilling performance for us to watch.
Ward Meachum deserves a special mention too. Not because he’s the “jerk with a heart of gold” trope, but because he’s actually far from it. He’s a scummy human being, always has been, and at the end of the day he’s thinking mostly of himself, but the fact that we still want to root for him is a testament to his writing. Maybe he’s a bad person, but not nearly to the point of deserving what life – and Harold – throws at him.
Is it ‘Marvel Quality’?
Marvel holds itself to very high standards. Whether that’s because they’re owned by Disney or simply because they love their fans, we benefit from it. This “Marvel Quality” often leads to skewed judgement, because we fans hold what they do to be better than everything else. But we have to remember, even the “bad” Marvel movies are considered better than the average blockbuster film. Just look at Thor: The Dark World, with the lowest rating of all the Marvel movies on Rotten Tomatoes, but only at 66%.
Iron Fist may be ‘bad’ compared to the other Netflix/Marvel shows, but it’s still a GOOD show, and worthy of your binge-watching.
All images from IMDB.com