It’s been undoubtedly a rough year for Marvel fans who’ve waited to see what would stick and what wouldn’t from showrunner and executive producer Scott Buck’s treatment of comic book property, Iron Fist. I’ve waited as a matter of maybe fifteen years since actor and martial artist Ray Park was slated to star in his own movie inspired by the character and for what it’s worth, I’m glad I lived this long to see something come of it, even if a number of fans out in the world can’t afford or simply don’t have Netflix, which sucks. I understand wholly.
The show premiered early Friday with Game Of Thrones series co-star Finn Jones starring in the title role, and as we speak, much to the chagrin of critcs from media and entertainment sites who’ve had a chance to look at a previous a handful of episodes or the first season in its entirety only to leave readers with some of the most negative criticisms that many of us read about any of the Marvel shows on Netflix so far. Opinions range from shitty fights to boring, slow-burn storytelling and a narrative that basically stands as unrelatable as trying to empathize with a white kid who comes from an affluent New York background, aided by the entertainment industry’s notorious history and penchant for committing yellowface and whitewashing Asian characters.
The list goes on, and you know this if you’ve been paying attention. Surprising amid the brouhaha, I read a few actually positive reviews and responses to the show in the same time frame, and I almost couldn’t believe it myself. I did feel optimism and hope for the show’s enjoyment and appeal as really, all I expected there to be was a good storytelling, drama, and kung fu. I told friend and contributor James Couche the same thing as well as a few others and I was somewhat surprised at the negative feedback I was seeing about the show, and similarly, the good things I was reading as well. And there are good things to take, particularly from the first episode when we first meet Jones as he sets barefoot in the middle of midtown Manhattan.
First off, the show already lets you know that this is going to be a martial arts adventure by way of its opening credits. On that, I’m sold. From there, and as much as I remember with respect to the other Marvel/Netflix programs, I expected this to take off to some degree with a bit of tension, drama and action, and it does so accordingly, save for the first fight scene which didn’t really hit the right notes with me as it looked a bit more rehearsed than anything. The rest of the episode committs itself to establishing an origin perspective with flashbacks throughout, with Jones in the role of Danny Rand as he struggles to rekindle his past with former childhood friends, sibs Joy and Ward Meachum (Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey), now acting CEOs of his late father’s company…and they, so far, are not good people!
Things get even more interesting as the conspiracy builds up toward the second half with Rand having to dodge bullets as well as try to find way to make it in the city he once called home fifteen years before being presumed dead in a plane crash with his parents. That eventually includes a chance meeting with Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) a female Kung Fu teacher struggling to keep her school open and that’s something we’ll explore later in the series as well. The static notwithstanding, Wing’s chemistry with Rand is a healthy one, bookended by an air of humility and graciousness, and signals as probably the only real and lasting potential friendships thusfar that Rand finally makes.
Indeed, you’re left with a cliffhanger that nods with more to come for the show, and I’ll be the first to agree that it’s not perfect. However, I am drawn in by the intrigue and mystery of things to come, and for what it’s worth and despite most of the faces being made by people reading this, I have to tell you, Jones sells it. As far as a 12 or 13-part Netflix series goes, I don’t expect instant gratification with each episode giving me a fight scene every five minutes. What I do expect is what I have always expected from a Netflix show: a good storytelling, good drama, and fun action. And for the record, things do eventually pick up some. Brett Chan serviced the fight sequences for this show and I loved what he offered on Netflix series, Marco Polo, so I’m mostly optimistic.
The first episode settles you in nicely, and I’ll be looking forward to the rest of the series throughout the weekend if I’m not burnened or pulled away by anything thereafter or between. That said, I want to speak a little bit about the dialogue in recent, and in large part, it’s been pretty fucking crazy. Nasty even. Ugh…
I’m not a huge comic book nerd. That’s kind of a no-duh moment for anyone who has been reading my blog and knows likely that any info I get when I talk about comic book or manga adaptations that I, like most film and TV writers who run similar sites, can’t do it without Googling and skimming Wikipedia. One thing is certain though – and I welcome your feedback if you have something to offer in this regard – and that is I’m glad that the series is doing what it is so far supposed to do, which is sticking to the source material. And that ultimately includes keeping the character White. Because he is white.
OBVIOUSLY HE IS WHITE, and while the anger surrounding this fact is not entirely without its merits (see the second paragraph), the solution to the proliferation of Asian roles in film and TV is not the solution that Hollywood and mainstream television has been utilizing when it comes to the treatment of Asian characters. I’m sorry, but no. Stop that. It is hilarious in thought, and similarly in its silliness, to draw up a white character as Asian just to right a longstanding wrong in Hollywood, and especially when the entertainment field has far from gotten itself together in its approach toward minorities. That has been, and continues to be, a matter of statistical fact, and one that opponents are protesting a problematic. Thus, assimilating into the problem to combat it is not the solution.
If anything, I reckon there are some small things I’ve missed in the first episode that may have otherwise been worth critiquing, and I welcome anyone with an open mind and some insight to comment below and share their thoughts about this show in its current existence. Besides, I’m only about an eighth Mongolian from my African American father’s side and I’ve always identified myself as a light-skinned black person be of my father’s race (so said the government prior to 1989, and that’s how you know I’m old) and so I’m not about to speak on behalf of Asians over this whole issue. Nope, nopity nope, currently living Nopetown, USA on the corner of Nope St. and Fuck No Blvd. next to lake NoNoAndUhNo.
Alas, you might have guessed that I chose not to say anything about this show until it came out. People have been vociferous about this show and knowing the internet in its toxicity at times, things often fall into entropy. At any rate, Iron Fist is here as will be The Defenders soon enough and with a dozen more episodes in tow, here it is. My two cents!
If you have something in mind you think fans should take into consideration from a cultural, ethnic, or even just a critical viewpoint for this series, let us know in the comments below. As for me, I have taxes to do today, after which I will be spending my weekend working my day job as well as on content for the site, as well as watching Iron Fist, with a few episodes of Saint Seiya in between… and peeing. Because bathroom breaks are nice.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.