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#TAPReviews | “Iron Fist”, The Hand and first chink in the Marvel + Netflix armour

Sex Toy jokes aside… nah, we’re not that mature
Dulani Wilson 23rd March, 2017 Comics, Reviews, TV
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With a promotion machine that lacked the vigour displayed with Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Iron Fist explodes into the zeitgeist of Marvel + Netflix’s ever-expanding universe. And with it, the last Defender stands accounted for.

The main question however still remains – has Danny Rand lived up to the hype, or is the Netflix and Marvel steam-train running out of juice when narratives force writing teams to focus on singular characters.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

Whoa, I know Kung-Fu

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Danny Rand has been missing for a while. Which is expected seeing was presumed dead along with his parents when his jet crashed in the Himalayas as a kid. But Danny is back, miraculously in New York and he somehow felt he could nestle back into his old life and inheritance with ease. But the Meachums, Danny’s childhood friends who now ran the company, don’t take too kindly to this stranger claiming to be the last true heir of the company they’ve been running in his absence / presumed death.

And though Joy has her doubts, she doesn’t hesitate drugging Danny and forcing him into psychiatric imprisonment. Some friends you have, Danny. But as it turns out, these twisted siblings also have a dead dad – David Meachum – except this dead dad is actually alive, resurrected by the occult hand of the… well… the Hand. But daddy dearest is on a strict leash with the Hand and only his son Ward Meachum knows he is still alive.

The return of Danny, who manages to escape the psychiatric ward using his powers, gives David an out to remove Madame Gao and the threat of the Hand from over him. After all, Danny incessantly reminds us throughout the series that Iron Fist is the sworn enemy of the Hand.

And with the presence of the Hand in New York, Danny finds that the dealings of Madam Gao and the Hand are deeply rooted and intrinsically tied into the daily operations of the company that bares his family’s name. Namely speaking, some new-age heroine that is undetectable by conventional policing and drug-regulatory methods.

And this all ties in with his parent’s death, so you know there’s going to be some Vendetta too…

 

The Art of the Title Sequence

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Title sequences are a bit of a fetish for me. Yeah, I have a problem. As far as the emotive impetus of Daredevil title sequence, Iron Fist doesn’t quite measure up to that but it was a joy to watch, though slightly repetitive on the roundhouse kicks. The Iron Fist title sequence has an 80’s sensibility about it. And that guttural impact sound design that came with the first punch… sweet.
 
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Not to mention the representation of the fluidity of motion via trailing swells of fabric and ink as the character executed his martial arts moves. Me thinks Street Fighter was a major part of their mood board when crafting this beaut. Although the character’s fingers seemed way too long. Not sure why that bugged me out the way that it did.

 

Mastery Of Movement

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There is much to be said about fight choreography. It is not an easy thing to pull off. The intensity of the scene is not only left up to actors. It involves fight choreographers, and Director of Photography and Editors too. Cut too soon and we miss the impetus of a punch, or the grace of a side-step / strike. Linger too long and viewers become inundated with pointless motion. And while some of this was forgivable with Daredevil, especially the first season, it becomes a bit of a sour issue with Iron Fist. In Daredevil the camera could feel a bit stagnant and distant at times, but there were more instances of adventurous, brave camera movement that made up for it.

And here you have Iron Fist. The guy that has travelled dimensions, bestowed with an ability that the highest order of holy warrior monks had to go through hell to try and attain. Having all that said, his Kung Fu had best be the baddest, most brutal, earth-defying, deadly-efficient fluency of motion. Everest. Camera distances at times felt far to deliver that impact. And I’ve seen better fight scenes in Daredevil.

Hell, I’d even opt in to give an ode to classic Kung Fu movies’ whips and pans (though this is dangerous territory as emulation and mockery are close when doing something like that in a series like this). Then again, the Drunken Master outside the door leading to the Hand’s heroine factory in “China” (felt very un-China to us [budget-whoas]) was pretty laughable… in a bad stereotypical way. But hey, who’s judging? Me. I’m judging.

 

The Slight of The Hand

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The Hand in Daredevil Season 2 was something enshrouded in mysticism and darkness, behind every dark corner and space, like the stuff of fables and the occult. It is therefore funny that in Iron Fist, where Finn Jone’s Danny Rand – who knows of this supernatural, otherworldly existence – would see the Hand as a boogie man, a children’s cautionary tale. So why all the training? And even then the Hand, their immaculate keeping of spreadsheets and records of their drug empire kinda drains the mystique they once had. Particularly seeing Claire Temple disbanding the Hand’s foot soldiers with ease. Or maybe Temple is just that bad ass. Colleen Wing need to come and teach me a few things too.

But in any case, the Hand foot-soldiers (Hand Foot, lol, hilarous) that nearly did away with Daredevil and Elektra are now fodder for Claire Temple. See what I mean? Recruitment’s gotten slow in the Hand clan nowadays it seems.

 

The Lazarus Complex is narrative’s worst enemy

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What makes for cheesy good Soap Opera watching is about to become common place in the Marvel / Netflix universe, and that is reincarnation. So Iron Fist, barring the name of a sex toy we also assume actually exists, has primed us with baby oil and vaseline for what to expect with The Defenders, or whichever coming series will see the return of Elodie Yung‘s Elektra first.

The resurrection process that brought David Meachum back to life is similar to DC’s Lazarus Pit. They bring you back to life, but “a piece of his soul” remains in the grave. Essentially, a shell tending to bend to expressing more volatile, base tendencies. Elektra was already the blood thirsty sexy-crazy type before she died. We can only imagine what she’ll be like in her second life. Under The Hand albeit.

Now we don’t necessarily have a problem with people dying then coming back to life. Well, we kinda do. It takes the gravity out of the stakes a bit. And in all honesty missing your soul in the rejuvenation process isn’t exactly a catch 22 to me. Hell, I’d rather be an eternal blood tyrant with some screws loose than… well… an ordinary human. On paper anyway.

Meachum had no qualms about killing lifelong friend and business partner along with his entire family. I don’t think he’d have a touch of madness listed as a deterrent in undergoing the life-after-death process.

And I say all that to say this. When the bad guys can’t die, and the heroes are not willing to send them to a true death via a Highlander-esque decapitation, then who’s the real winner here?

But wouldn’t it be cool if we find out that the Hand is actually run by a now rogue Jesus? Resurrecting people for profit. Okay, I’ll stop now.

 

Claire Temple, The Incident and the connected rifts in the Marvel tapestry

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Madam Gao has a point in her wisdom-laden wind-up. In episode , Gao chastises Claire by telling her despite all her efforts to align herself with powerful ‘gifted’ men, she wonders like Cain through the land of Nod bereft of purpose. She goes a step further by saying that these men left her more broken and defeated than the state they came to her in. Which is pretty fucked up thing to say. Seeing she met Daredevil in a dubster bleeding to death and Luke Cage having taken a shot gun to the head and a special new-tech bullet to the gut. But as I’ve noticed the Marvel-Netflix empire being sculpted brick by brick one thing has become apparent, Temple is the rosetta stone that connects all our current Defenders. Thus, inevitably she will be the one to get everyone in one room.

And having that said, this shows us Claire’s penultimate purpose and direction. One which I would hate to see for her. She is becoming a plot device. Something to move the story along, with the occasional sound advice. Don’t care how much training she gets from Colleen Wing or the new bear claw weaponry she wields. I think we are losing a bit of the charm we got from her in Daredevil Season 1. Now she takes every opportunity to mention “I know a guy” or “I have someone who can help”. Rosario Dawson is a crush of mine. I just hope there is more of her shining through in Defenders.

But in any case, Temple is way better connecting the Defenders’ converging paths than whatever the purpose of mentioning the ‘Incident’ is meant to do. I’m beginning to wonder if “the Incident” is actually the event in the Avengers that nearly laid waste to New York City. And here is the problem. Mention it once or twice, then we get it. Inspire a little cross-platform connections with fans, immerse them in the story and the Marvel brand. Boom.

However, it is an entirely different ballgame when you mention this ominous, far-reaching event every chance you get across the entire Netflix – Marvel canon, from Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Doing that essentially means you are crescendoing to something that would suggest the MCU and Netflix series share a common ground. But with no characters like Daredevil lined up to appear in Avengers: Infinity War or Vincent D’Onofrio’s King Pin taking on Spider-Man any time soon, it begs the question, why mention “the Incident” with such frequency? Unless they are keeping things close to the chest. Or at least keeping their options open. However, anything other than a cameo – preferably the ‘little’ guys making it to the cinematic screen – will be a heartfelt disappointment. So what if you think I’m being dramatic. Sue me.

 

Best Episodes

Season 1 Episode 6 – Felling Tree with Roots: A bit Mortal Kombat-ty without the amped crowds or the strict rules or the imaginative set design. But who doesn’t like stages testing our hero’s level of commitment especially with the cliché seductress ‘black widow’ who uses sex and poison to ensnare her foe. Pretty sure that was used in a Samurai Jack episode.

Season 1 Episode 7 – Felling Tree with Roots: Ward going off the deep end is entertaining. Son strikes the father… should have aimed for a Highlander blow, poor thing.And David’s “sex toy” line stuck with us lol.

 

Worst Episodes

Season 1 Episode 8 – The Blessing Of Many Fractures: That drunken monkey was irksome to say the least. In “China” albeit.

Season 1 Episode 13 – Dragon Plays with Fire: And here lies what we think the end script was:

DANNY stares in bewilderment through the gate to where his paradise once stood – now destroyed. Seething in rage he holds up his tightening fist as it glows yellow and trembles like an angry Homer Simpson. We track into the light of the one good arm Iron Fist has. Into his glowing fist that failed to save his home. Now the Iron Fist must learn to do what it was meant to do… to DEFEND

End

 
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Iron Fist, without a doubt, is the weakest Netflix / Marvel series to date. We haven’t connected with Danny Rand, a rich kid who became a great warrior and abandoned his duties for revenge. In all honesty, I think he just wanted to become rich again. You don’t need a flashy car to track your parents’ killer(s), son.

The living weapon should have been wielded with a bit more care. It’s not the acting, enjoyed me some Colleen Wing and Ward. Gao’s always a favourite too. But I think it’s more to do with the narrative – I don’t think they quite knew what to do with Iron Fist other than he is a part of the Defenders so we might as well give him a ‘solo’ series. He honestly doesn’t feel special, no matter how many times he says he is. Damn 1%. Loss also cements a deep, emotional connection. And so does personal sacrifice. Danny hasn’t really done any of those things, not even out of duty. And if you’re a Kung Fu Warrior of the highest calibre, why do I feel Daredevil could beat you in the fisticuffs?

And we already start seeing, based on individual characteristics, the coming dynamics that is sure to happen between the members of the Defenders. The inevitable sexual tension between Luke and Jessica. Daredevil becoming tired of Jessica’s flippant attitude and disregard for ‘morality’. Danny… well I guess other than being friends with Luke, will be looked at as a joke by Jessica and a liability and hinderance to the group by Daredevil. Danny – rich 1% warrior monk. Murdock – working man’s defence lawyer. So much inner conflict is abound.

But I wish we could have gotten more of who Danny Rand really is. As such, more time should’ve been spent in the dimension he was trapped in. Which would make a very different story. Or at least give us some insight into what is behind those streak and flashing effects in Danny’s vision. Will Iron Fist go into some berserker rage, lose control? Or maybe he’s been coming off that synthetic heroine on the low? Who knows.

But something tells me the dead coming back miraculously to life will be a running staple in things to come. And as someone who was forced to watch soaps as a kid when I was in Jamaica because we only had two television channels back in the day… that ain’t cool.

Aaaand we’ll just park this video of Bruce Lee right here…

 

 

RATING: 5.8 out of 10

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