Monday, March 20, 2017

On the Air: Iron Fist (2017)

To the uninitiated, Marvel & Netflix's latest, Iron Fist, may be slow and plodding at times, but that is by design. On the other hand, the plot that has been presented at the beginning, that of a corporate heir who supposedly died with his parents 15 years ago, only to return to discover that his late dad's business partner has taken the firm over completely, screams out, "Rip-off!", because it certainly does draw its influence and inspiration not so much from the source material itself, but rather the CW's Arrow, whose protagonist returned to general civilization after 5 years on a deserted island. In the case of Daniel Rand (Finn Jones), those 15 years, mostly formative, were spent in a mystical dimension known as Kun Lun.

Rand was introduced to Marvel Comics readers in 1974 in the pages of Marvel Premiere, the latest martial arts hero that the company had developed in the wake of movies like "Enter the Dragon" and David Carradine's seminal series, Kung Fu. Like the latter and Arrow, Iron Fist indulges in short flashback sequences to try to piece together the story, despite the fact that the memories bring back a fair amount of psychic trauma for Rand.

Time and time again we are reminded of how Daniel's mother was sucked out of a plane, to the point that it became an annoyance within the first two episodes. Nothing says sledgehammer of plot like replaying the same footage in every flashback. We find that Harold Meachum, business partner to Daniel's late father, has some ties to the Hand, the sinister ninja clan from Daredevil. Meachum's son, Ward (Tom Pelphrey), who bullied Daniel when they were kids, recognizes that Daniel is a big threat to his personal plans. The Meachums took over Rand Enterprises, assuming the entire Rand family had perished in the Himalayas. As they will soon discover, they presumed too quickly.

[It should be pointed out for the record that in Roy Thomas' original concept, Ward Meachum is actually Harold's brother, not son, meaning that Joy was actually an only child. Take that for whatever it's really worth.]

The inevitable appearance by Hand ninjas ties Iron Fist to the rest of the line that will lead into The Defenders, due later this year. By then, perhaps Jones will have figured out the missing ingredient in his performance. While he may have found inspiration in Carradine's quiet, solemn Kwai-Chiang Caine in Kung Fu, he lacks the charismatic presence, and comes across as a little too vanilla, although the first manifestation of the titular power he carries will remind some of the bazillion transformation sequences from The Incredible Hulk (1977-82). You'd almost swear Rand was, ah, hulking out.

Here's one of the trailers:

The critics that have hated on Iron Fist had perhaps expected nothing but action right from the jump. Their lack of patience defines them as ill-informed on the subject matter. Over the next 11 episodes, I think we'll find that their premature haterizing was unjustified.

Rating: B+.

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