Weekend Superhero: How to Fix Iron Fist
Iron Fist sucked. This much everybody knows. From the very first episode it was clear that Marvel was about to have its first huge misfire in a long time.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy watching this debacle. I actually had a really great time laughing at how terribly inept it was, the way one enjoys a bad movie like The Room or Troll 2. Even when they fail, Marvel manages to make a mildly entertaining product. Still, this was not the ideal result, and Marvel needs to fix Iron Fist badly. Here are some things that went wrong, and what they can do to fix them.
What Went Wrong – Every Actor is Terrible
If a group of high schoolers got together and filmed a no-budget fan project and called it Iron Fist, it would feature performances at least on par with what the actual show produced. Finn Jones is horribly miscast as the titular hero. Danny Rand is a character that requires levity and a bit of a smartass attitude, and Jones doesn’t seem capable of emitting that persona. Every line he delivers is sincerely serious, which clashes horribly with how laughable some of the dialogue is. Jones also shows no real aptitude with martial arts, leading slow, unimpressive fight scenes that leave the viewer cringing. The worst performance on the show belongs to Tom Pelphrey, who plays Danny’s childhood “friend” Ward. I don’t know where this Pelphrey guy came from, but he seems like a perfect fit for a leading role in a Skin-emax movie. A total non-presence, Pelphrey seems incapable of conveying the simplest emotions. His bad performance also affects Jessica Stroup, who plays his sister. She shares most of her scenes with him, and it must have been so difficult for her to react to another actor giving her absolutely nothing to work with.
The only passable performances on the show are from Jessica Henwick who played Colleen Wing, and David Wenham who plays Harold Meachum. Although, I enjoy Wenham’s performance not for its genuine quality, but for how appropriately nonsensical it is.
How to Fix It – Recast Danny Rand
Sorry Finn Jones, but you need to go. I know they’ve already finished filming The Defenders, but they really need to get Finn Jones out of here. As long as he continues to play Danny as a dour idiot, he’s never going to work. Cast a new actor that actually has a background in martial arts, and is capable of being snarky.
What Went Wrong – Everything Involving the Plot
A true antagonist doesn’t show up in Iron Fist until about 5 episodes in. At that point, we see that Madame Gao and The Hand are going to be the enemy Danny faces off against. However, that leaves 4 excruciating opening episodes with absolutely no conflict whatsoever outside of corporate legal proceedings. Wow, I can’t believe the Marvel audience wasn’t thrilled by that. Once Gao is instilled as the main antagonist, things get better, but they’re still not great. By then we’ve already grown frustrated with Danny, who runs a business like the 10-year old he disappeared as. He consistently makes bad decisions – not just regarding his business – and ultimately we just don’t care if he succeeds. Especially since we know there are at least 3 other heroes in Manhattan that can take care of The Hand on their own.
How to Fix It – Make the Show about Colleen Wing
The only part of Iron Fist that I really dug was Colleen Wing. Played well by Jessica Henwick (you may recognize as Nymeria Sand from Game of Thrones), Colleen comes off as the hero that we deserve to be watching for the entire show. She begins as a struggling martial arts instructor, offering a safe haven for wayward youths with her teaching. She doesn’t take to Danny right away, and even kicks him out of her dojo several times. At her lowest point, she begins entering illegal cage matches to make rent – and also satisfy an urge to kick ass. At a certain point, she realizes she can use her skills to fight bad guys on the street, and becomes a hero in her own right, without any superpowers. The “Iron Fist” would just be a supporting character that helps Colleen get there. That sounds way more interesting to me.
What Went Wrong – The Tone
Iron Fist tried to be as serious as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, but somehow forgot that the character does not lend itself to seriousness. When your main character gets his powers from fighting a dragon but then relocates to modern New York City, you need to lighten up a little. I think a lot of his has to do with Jones’ performance, but in his defense, the dialogue didn’t leave him much room to have fun. Everything in this show was written with a straight face, and that’s a huge issue.
How to Fix It – Get a New Showrunner
Find someone who actually understands the character and his role in The Defenders, and re-tool the show accordingly. Lighten up the dialogue, quicken the pace, and make the action fun again.