Like many others this last weekend, I am sure, I was eagerly looking forward to Netflix’s release of the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the arrival of the fourth Defender: Marvel’s Iron Fist.
I am going to just say this, clearly, from the beginning: I liked it. I know it’s gotten a surprising amount of poor reviews from more established reviewers out there on the internet, but, frankly and with all due respect, I disagree. That is all the attention I am going to give them, but I felt I needed to say it.
In Iron Fist, Marvel delivers, yet again, a story and a hero who are a unique addition to the MCU. Marvel tends to excel at that, have you noticed? 😉
Skating around spoilers as much as possible…
Iron Fist tells the story of Danny Rand, who carries the titular ancient mantle, “the Iron Fist.”
When he was a boy, his parents’ plane went down in the Himalayas. He was found and raised by the monks of Kun’lun, an otherworldly monastery. The Iron Fist is their greatest warrior, one who has defeated a particular immortal dragon in battle and taken his power. He is to stand at the gates of their land, guarding the pass and destroying their enemies. Or, rather, their singular enemy, the Hand, who has not come to bother them for a very long time.
Danny gained the status and power of the Iron Fist through his own efforts, but he did not stand idly to guard the pass to Kun’lun. He returned home, fifteen years after his disappearance, entering a world that is both familiar and foreign to him. He walked into the headquarters of a mega-corporation begun by his father, and straight into a vast, complicated conspiracy that has put his father’s company partially under the Hand’s control. Thus begins his quest to extricate the enemies of his people from the company that is his birthright.
That is a very basic summary.
Danny’s story is that of an epic, ancient conflict, told at a very personal level. Most of his life has been a long series of terrible ordeals, and the show speaks very much about such emotionally-charged subjects as trauma, abuse, addiction, PTSD, and the healing of both body and soul. He is from the modern world, but the product of an older world, so balancing the experiences and expectations of the two leads to some serious questions regarding who he really is. He has lived lives of both luxury and austerity, and the distance between the two is perhaps not so great as one might imagine.
The upper class of wealth, and the poverty of the streets; the worlds of modern science and ancient mysticism; the many far corners of the world; none of these are really so very far apart. Even the lines between friend and foe, good and evil, can often blur. Just because one side of a conflict is wrong does not make the opposing side right. Similarly, just because you are raised to something doesn’t make it either right or wrong.
The meaning of family is especially important. It means more than blood, and it certainly means more than having carte blanche to use each other to serve one’s own ends. As more than one person learns, being given something doesn’t mean you have to surrender your own will to whoever gave it to you.
Speaking specifically as it fits into the Defenders saga, and the MCU overall, Iron Fist actually does quite well, I felt. There are several references to the other Defenders and their friends, but they don’t overdo it. Claire Temple keeps growing as a character as well, though I dislike coupling her with Luke Cage. The antagonists, the Hand, are developed in ways which are unexpected, but which make a great deal of sense. There is an introduction of the supernatural, somewhat subtle – certainly more so than in Doctor Strange and Agents of Shield – but significant.
Iron Fist fits in very well with the Defenders, and he will certainly be a strong ally.
Which, of course, just makes me all the more excited for what is to come! Iron Fist quite blatantly ends with a cliffhanger meant to set up the miniseries that will bring all of the heroes together. I am on pins and needles waiting for the announcement of an air date, and an actual trailer to show us what we have to look forward to. 🙂
In fairness, I would be lying if I tried to say the show was perfect. There are a handful of flaws, varying in how irritating they are. One was how it kept showing us the effects of Danny’s trauma, or something similar, in a visual way. Another was Claire’s absolute insistence that they must never kill, no matter what, which is, frankly, wrong, especially when you are caught up in a war. Speaking of, the fights were less well-done than in other, and with how Finn Jones was given limited training time, well, it shows. And Danny clearly had too little knowledge and too much idealism when it came to running his company. However, those were small annoyances for the most part, and I can forgive easily enough.
Overall, I am quite impressed by this show. It starts slow, yes, because it’s more personal than violent, and it does so in an entertaining way. It doesn’t drag on and it doesn’t lose steam, which the other Defender shows all suffer from at some point. And I think Danny’s pairing with Colleen Wing just might be my favorite Marvel coupling so far. 🙂
In short: I found Iron Fist to be a gripping, personal tale of inner and outer conflict, standing strong on its own, and even stronger within the overall story of the Defenders and the MCU. It was well-crafted, well-constructed, well-paced, and powerful. I heartily approve.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.
I highly recommend it. 🙂