Iron Fist is such a disappointment, I'll just get that out there right at the outset. And I wanted to like this one. Iron Fist was always one of my favorite characters growing up, so when I heard they were making a Netflix series I was over the moon. Alas, the deluge of bad reviews are not wrong. Iron Fist is pretty much a mess- way too long, bad story and the casting is not great either. This is clearly the weakest of the Marvel Netflix series to date, and it's a real shame too as it leads into The Defenders, the summer crossover where all the Marvel Netflix characters get together. This review will have spoilers for Iron Fist on Netflix.
First the casting. I was skeptical about Finn Jones being cast as Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) from the outset and unfortunately my qualms were borne out. Finn Jones just does not have the physicality or the charisma for this role. In fact there is no charisma. He comes across as petulant, whiny, out of control (despite supposedly beiong trained by warrior monks for 15 years) and just not convincing in the slightest. Jennifer Henwick (also from Game of Thrones, like Jones) is better as Colleen Wing, but again looks nothing like the source material character (and I know not everybody has issues with that, but I do). She at least has a martial arts background of sorts and is thus more convincing in her fighting.
The rest of the cast isn't bad, I liked Jessica Stroup as Joy Meachum and Ward Meachum grew on me (especially with his dark comedic take at times). David Wenham as Harold Meachum just got on my nerves so much and every time he was on the screen I got bored. The plot here is that Danny Rand returns from a place called K'un-Lun after being gone for 15 years- his family died in a plane crash and he was the sole survivor. The monks of K'un-Lun took him and trained him to be a warrior, and now he has returned to New York City to find his destiny... or something.
And that's part of the problem. At no point during the series do we get any sense of who Danny is and what he wants. In the comics Danny's father was killed by his friend Harold Meachum while trekking in the Himalayas, and Danny's mother dies as a result. Danny is rescued by monks and returns after ten years in K-un-Lun to confront his father's killer. But at the moment of truth he finds he cannot kill Harold Meachum, and turns away- only to have a mystery person kill Meachum anyway. Joy Meachum then walks in and finds Danny next to her father and blames Danny for it.
The show should have went that way. Kill Harold just like in the comic, have Danny get blamed for it and go from there- creating conflict with Joy Meachum in the process. Instead in the show they have a plane crash and Danny doesn't find out until the last episode that Harold Meachum was behind it. And throughout the show he naively assumes Harold has his best interests at heart when it should be obvious he doesn't. That's another problem- not only is Danny miscast, but his character is incredibly naive and at times stupid.
The story is a mess, with Joy and Ward Meachum starting out as basically villains but redeeming themselves over the course of time, although Ward's story arc was confusing and contradictory. Joy Meachum on the other hand was a breath of fresh air and one of the better parts of the show. When I first saw the casting for this I thought Jessica Stroup would be a great Colleen Wing, but she delivered as Joy. The villain of the piece is Madame Gao of the Hand, the ninja organization we've seen from previous Marvel Netflix shows, but about halfway through she is neutered (after being built up as some kind of badass inscrutable mastermind) and replaced by Bakuto, some fringe character who takes center stage. Around this time the show fell apart for me, although it's never very good.
Bakuto apparently runs a different group within the Hand and it's pretty lame. We never really get hooded ninjas like we should have, Bakuto's group are basically kids he's brainwashing and even Gao's people are just generic martial artists. There is none of the evil ninja dread and foreboding that we saw in earlier shows. The Hand is supposed to be fearsome and here they mostly made me yawn. And Gao disappears for several episodes before showing up in the last one. She is still a strong point, and the last episode redeems itself slightly with the Harold/ Danny confrontation, but it's too late.
The fight scenes are pretty weak and again this show suffers from bad casting (with some exceptions), a muddled story and no real sense of who Danny is- or should be. And it's way too long- Netflix should really scale back the number of episodes of these shows. Just like Luke Cage and to an extent Jessica Jones, things get stale and drawn out in the middle and it's really not necessary. Shave three episodes off maybe and tighten up the storytelling.