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Mid-Season Review: Netflix’s “Iron Fist” [2/3] – How Netflix Could Have Made It Work



What’s A Geek welcomes guest contributors who are game to discuss geek topics. Our writer this week goes into his initial impressions of Netflix’s newest contribution to the Marvel Universe – “Iron Fist”.

This article is part two of a series. Read part one here.

Warning: This mentions spoilers for the first half of the series. If you haven’t seen it, you might want to skip this part.

In my last post, I put forward three points that I felt would address the issues in Netflix’s Iron Fist:

1. No badly executed, semi-amnesiac angle, please. Scott Buck’s preference for a slow-reveal mystery angle has only served emphasize Netflix’s awful pacing issue.

2. Embrace the comic mythos completely. Adapt it in a manner which is friendly to both old readers and new viewers alike. There is enough source material (over 40 year’s worth, in fact) to refer to. Crafting Danny’s introduction to the shared universe shouldn’t have been that hard. And finally;

3. Actually keep the core of the stories and character intact (Read: Don’t Do A Bendis.) Respect decades of hard work from other writers. I don’t see either of that in the first 7 episodes.

Now that we’ve established those points, here’s how (I feel) Netflix could have made “Marvel’s Iron Fist” work:

The Opening Act.

As a good friend once said: How the hell do you screw up how cool a guy fighting a dragon is?

Contrary to the “film/series critic” view on how superhero films are better when they don’t follow the comics, Marvel’s Iron Fist IS a superhero adaptation. It is meant to be speculative fiction – particularly of the fantasy epic kind. The pilot episode should have followed the formula applied to Daredevil and the Marvel Cinematic Universe: throw people into the thick of it right away so they get to know who the hero is, before throttling down into narrative.

Overall feedback on the series has been confusion over who Danny Rand – the Iron Fist – is supposed to be.

To paraphrase the words of another friend: “While I knew Daredevil was the blind lawyer with extra-sensory capabilities, Jessica Jones was the physically augmented, alcoholic private investigator, and Luke Cage was the bulletproof man of muscle; all I saw was a barefoot, amnesiac hobo claiming to be some great martial artist while being called crazy be everybody else.”

How do we fix that?

Start the first 5-10 minutes of the pilot episode with the quintessential Iron Fist Origin – show how Danny beat Shou-Lao.

For those who thought that it might be some figurative creature: No. Shou-Lao is an actual East-Asian dragon. Danny is also one person in a long line of people who have shoved their fists into Shou-Lao’s open chest to gain the dragon’s power and become the Iron Fist. The mythic dragon in all its glory should be left for a climax in the middle or latter part of the series. So I would have shot the first scene mostly in low light.

Picture this: lighting for the scene comes mostly from dragon fire, torches within a cave, and the open chest of Shou-Lao the Undying. Throw in flashes of Shou-Lao’s scales as it whips its body, tail and maw at Danny who dodges, weaves, and strikes back in a fashion that is just as impressive (if not more) as action sequences executed in the MCU, or in acclaimed martial arts films.

iron fist

Have Danny do the moves we see in the show’s opening credits. That opening sequence is the most epic we’ll probably ever see martial arts get on Netflix. Seeing it with context is much better than just leaving it as, say, an intro sequence.

Have Danny side-step Shou-Lao’s attack before the beast devours him. Watch him deliver a well-executed (and surprisingly powerful) chi-enhanced kick to the side of its face. Then show him running straight up to Shou-Lao’s chest, before zooming in as he shoves his fist (remember: he’s trained for this for years) into the dragon’s shining heart.

Thereafter, in a blinding flash of light as Shou-Lao’s chi explodes outward and floods into Danny, burning the mark of Shou-Lao onto his bare chest, cue the intro sequence after sufficiently piquing the interest of viewers.

Use Danny’s own thoughts, or a voice-over from any of the following to provide context:

1. The Lord of K’un-Lun, Tuan who is “Yu-Ti the August Personage in Jade”. Have him describe immortality and a place in Heaven to Danny if he defeats Shou-Lao and becomes the Iron Fist.

2. Danny’s Master Lei-Kung, known as “The Thunderer”. An immortal warrior and who has trained almost every Iron Fist that came before Danny. Have him urge Danny to be stronger. Have him stress that Shou-Lao will be merciless and that entering the cave and that facing K’un-Lun’s guardian ends only with death or ascension.

3. Davos, Danny’s best friend (actually Wendell’s best friend in the comics) and the son of Lei-Kung. Davos was his rival and brother in almost every sense – screaming at him for stealing his birthright.

4. Have Danny hear the voices of his father and mother, whom he watched die 15 years earlier. Their deaths were his what drove him forward all those years.  Have their words sound sharp in his memory, making him believe that foul play was involved – foul play that has his “Uncle” Harold at the center of it.

5. Hell, use Danny’s own voice. I don’t know about you guys, but the idea of hearing Danny go: “Undying Shou-Lao, guardian of K’un-Lun, grant me your strength that I may find my way home,” would be an amazing tease to kick the series off.

THEN you can cue to barefoot hobo in New York scene to jar the viewers into screaming Wait, I want to know more!

Nate Pico

Occasional Contributor. Also known as "Galaktor, the Barbequer of Worlds", a.k.a. (Not so) Blind Justice, a.k.a (I wish I was) the Captain. In a perfect world, he would've found a Cosmic Cube or the Miracle Machine and proceeded to procrastinate between a Messiah Complex and shenanigans. All around geek and lover of all things speculative, fiction or otherwise.

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