Sunday, March 19, 2017

Marvel's Iron Fist Review

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   I just finished Iron Fist, and I have to say that while it wasn't as bad as the critics say (nothing usually is), it wasn't awfully good either. I have heard it compared to "Marvel's Jessica Jones," "Marvel's Daredevil," and "Marvel's Luke Cage," but this show is below the level of any of them. I'm not a professional movie reviewer, but I'll assay to explain what I am thinking here.

   "Marvel's Daredevil" has amazing fight scenes, interesting characters, and good storylines. There is no doubt that in the two seasons that Daredevil has aired, we have witnessed some of the best, most realistic and brutal fight scenes ever on the small screen - Charlie Cox was simply amazing. And when it comes to characters, D'Onfrio's Kingpin was definitely a standout in the first season - a hulking beast with a heart so tender that he'd do anything to protect it. This made him truly menacing. Jon Bernthal's Punisher in the second season was a revelation - you really felt for the guy and you got a real glimpse at why he was the unstoppable slice of criminal killing mayhem that he was.

  "Marvel's Jessica Jones" didn't have many great fight scenes, but it had many plot twists, a good storyline, and an amazing antagonist. Krysten Ritter was very believable as Jessica Jones and very vulnerable. She was a hero who had been violated, and because of this, she wasn't always very heroic. I often found myself disliking her, which means that she made me care. In the end, I really wanted her to win - she deserved that. David Tennant's Kilgrave was a proper bad guy, manipulative, conniving, attacking with well-planned schemes that used people that Jessica loved to hurt her. Kilgrave knew how to break Jessica Jones. This made for a palpable tension that ran nearly all the way through the show.

  "Marvel's Luke Cage" was unlike anything I have seen recently on TV. It's a throwback to the blaxploitation film genre of the 1970s, the genre from which the character was conceived. It was hip, fresh and energetic with a soundtrack that made your blood pump. Mike Coulter's Cage was really subdued, cool, with a simmering rage that is always ready to erupt kept under control by a guy who sought a way to use his mind more than his fists. He only wanted to fly under the radar, but life always had another curveball for him. His heart is too big, he just HAS to get involved. Why? Because Cage is a hero. A hero who just thinks of himself as a regular guy with crappy luck. Mahershala Ali, as usual, laid out a stunning performance as one of the antagonists, Cottonmouth, melding great sensitivity, and a twisted sense of honor into being a vicious bad guy. Alfre Woodard was captivating as Black Mariah, a wolf masquerading in sheep's clothing. Both Ali and Woodard have won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor - it is easy to see why in Marvel's Luke Cage. And the writers of "Marvel's Luke Cage" didn't back down from touching upon hot-button social justice issues either, which made it real art in my eyes.

  "Marvel's Iron Fist's" Finn Jones did his very best to bring a brokenness and an emotional depth to the story of Danny Rand. His effort is undeniable and should be applauded. However, the story, while competent, didn't offer many surprises other than the fact that Colleen Wing wasn't exactly who she said she was. Jones' Danny Rand didn't come off as broken, more like childish, and borderline psychotic, which is just weird, considering that his training should have centered him more. It seems like K'un Lun is a factory that cranks out nutcases instead of highly trained warriors that are in control of themselves. The best performance in the show, hands down, was by Tom Pelphrey as Ward Meachum, who garnered my dislike at the beginning of the series, and my sympathy by the series' end. When Pelphrey was on-screen, my family and I were riveted. Honorable mention goes to Jessica Henwick for providing us with a very strong, yet very damaged Colleen Wing. She has a face that can break your heart and her athleticism shined in her crisp, snappy fight scenes. Unfortunately, Jones was not able to channel the power nor skill expected from an actor playing one of the premier martial artists in the MU. Rand reminded us constantly that "he was the weapon," but his skills didn't back that claim. His movements seemed over-choreographed, hammy, timed, and ponderous with little passion - I expected a Ray Park-esque, or a Scott Adkins-esque performance, I was GREATLY disappointed that this was not the case. The end was anticlimactic and unfulfilling; I was ready for it to be over by the closing credits.

  What were Marvel and Netflix thinking? How could Daredevil's fight scenes eclipse those of Iron Fist, the Living Weapon? How could philosophical questions be handled in such clumsy, elementary ways? It's never okay to take a life? Really? But the killing is okay as long as the hero doesn't get his hands dirty? After watching "Marvel's Iron Fist," the only feeling I came away with for Iron Fist is that of all of Marvel's previous Netflix offerings, he is the LEAST heroic and most unstable. He hardly plans anything, his emotions come first with him, and he will risk anyone and anything to get what he wants - just ask the people of K'un Lun, wherever they are...If they still exist.

   So, is "Marvel's Iron Fist" terrible? By no means. The performances of Pelphrey and Henwick are bright spots, and the story itself was good enough to provide thirteen hours of escapism of which I do not regret partaking...Albeit, escapism with many groans and sighs as Danny Rand muddles his way to the conclusion of the first season of the show.

  But I haven't lost faith. Here's to hoping that the next time we see Danny Rand in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we'll get the Iron Fist we all want and deserve.

  What did you think of "Marvel's Iron Fist?" I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

  Happy trails.

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