Today I am going to re-open my long-dormant blog with a rant.
For those who may not recall, I am a huge Marvel Comics fan. And I have diligently watched everything they have put on screen (there’s a couple of cartoons I haven’t seen yet). For the most part, I have enjoyed the vast majority of it. But, today I want to talk about Netflix’s Iron Fist, and subsequently, The Defenders.
Let me start by saying that among the Netflix Marvel shows, Iron Fist was the weakest. It had the most issues that made it difficult to stomach at moments, and I think there could have been some better choices made in casting and filming. That being said, I still give it a solid 7/10. It had a lot of exciting moments, a few surprises, and some good action. But there are some issues that others always bring up that I just want to put my own take on.
“Danny should have been Asian.”
I hate this one the most, so I will start here. First of all, the character in the comics isn’t Asian. That in itself is reason enough. I am very against recoloring existing literary characters, personally. The only time it has ever worked in the context of comics is Nick Fury, and that is only because he is based on an alternate universe version of the character, and is totally separate from the “original” character. But, aside from that, there are social issues that make Danny being white more relevant. Danny represents the dichotomy of a privileged white kid being raised in a disciplined and Spartan environment. This plays into another point I will make later on. And finally, making him Asian would have been so stereotypical. You may as well say that only Asians can master the martial arts. By that logic, everyone in the entire show should have been Asian, and it probably should have been set in Hong Kong, rather than New York. Here’s another small tidbit: Kun’Lun is not Asian. It is an extra-dimensional location that is home to people of all colors and ethnicities. Which should have been made amply clear in the first few episodes of The Defenders.
“Danny is a whiny kid who never acts mature.”
Or some variation. This is a legit complaint on the surface, but it’s easily explained if you put the character in the proper context. As stated above, Danny spent his first years as a wealthy, privileged white kid. He had that torn away, and spent his formative years in an isolated environment that was the polar opposite in almost every way to what he knew before. That alone would cause some emotional confusion for him when he returns to the normal world, and tries to resume his former life. Add to that the fact that during his time in Kun’Lun, he was immersed in tradition, prophesy, and mysticism, and then later, once he became the Iron Fist, it was hammered into him that he had a destiny to fulfill. In his mind, that is all that matters. He is focused and driven by this “destiny” to the point where he has tunnel vision, and can’t see the realities of the outside world. The only lens he has to view that outside world is through the eyes of a small child. Given time, he will eventually reconcile the two. And you can even see hints of him getting there in The Defenders. I think in Season 2, he will be a much more relatable character.
Honestly, my complaints are mainly visual. First of all, Danny should be much more fit-looking than he is, IMHO. This IS a comic book movie, after all. I get that they were going for the sleek, slender look (probably because of Bruce Lee), but he could have done with a bit more muscle. I also wish that he could look more adept at martial arts. He looks a bit better in The Defenders, but you can still tell that Finn is pulling a David Carradine for this character. Casting a real martial artist would have been a much better choice.
The one thing that all of the shows suffer from is poor lighting. Each of them have scads of fights that happen in dark places (night time alleys, tunnels, etc.). Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to see what is going on. In the opening scene of Defenders ep.1, my screen was practically black during the entire fight. Just poor filming technique.
Am I disappointed in the overall portrayal of one of my favorite comic book characters? Maybe a little. But I also think that is partially due to the others being so well-done. Both of Daredevil’s seasons are top-notch, Jessica’s show is a great view of the darker side of comics, and Luke’s show is a fine example of updating a characters roots without changing anything about his core. Each of them had problems too, but they were far outweighed by the good. Iron Fist comes up shorter in that balance, but it’s not horrible.
In short, I enjoy the character for how he is portrayed in the context of the Netflix/marvel universe. And I look forward to finishing up Defenders this week, and to seeing the subsequent seasons already slated.