Welcome back for another rip roarin’ week of talking about fantasy. And writing. And probably cute animals at some point.
We’re starting off with a super reactionary piece that I’m going to tie into one of my greatest fears as a writer–losing the ability to be objective.
Before getting to that though, let me explain that this is Just Watched, a series where I get to react to a fantasy-based movie or show that I just watched.
And, for this first one, I just finished Marvel’s Iron Fist on Netflix.
Now, I’m not just going to review it here, because I hate doing reviews for anything.
But . . . I wanna have a relevant rant! So, let’s jump right in!
A few weeks ago, the media received a preview of Iron Fist–the first six episodes. And reviews of those episodes were . . . universally negative.
Me, being a fan of anything Marvel since I was a kid, was worried. But I also . . . wasn’t surprised. I was there for Ben Affleck’s Daredevil. I remember the prism covers of the 90’s, Spider-Man 3, the first X-Men movie.
That is to say that I remember when Marvel was terrible. Just, non-stop garbage.
And I’ve been waiting for the first major crap fest to spoil Marvel’s streak of movies and shows.
Not because I want them to tank . . . but because I want to be sure that, when that time comes, I can see that crap fest for what it is.
Because, as a writer, I have to stay objective. About everything.
I know Iron Man 2 wasn’t great, and I know people hate Iron Man 3, but I didn’t mind the former and actually liked the latter.
That . . . has worried me to no end. Because, if I can’t be objective about franchises I love . . . how can I be objective about my own writing?
I’m also terrified of becoming the guy who forgives Batman V Superman, a movie that double abbreviates “versus” in the title. There are a bunch of Marvel movies that I didn’t like (Ant Man, for example, and I still think Thor: The Dark World was the absolute worst of the bunch [it’s boring, goofy in the worst ways, and has the premiere example of a horrible, toothless MCU villain]), but I’ve been thoroughly terrified of how blind BVS fans are. I’ve met writers who liked it.
The idea of being that blind of a writer actually fills me with dread.
I’ve listened to people balk, “Well, the fight between Batman and Superman was actually pretty good.”
Me: “No, it wasn’t.”
Them: “I mean, with those characters, that was the best they could do, really.”
Me: “No, it wasn’t.”
Them: “Well, I thought it was pretty good.”
Just the idea of having that little quality control . . . Fuck’s sake.
As I’ve told friends in the past, my intake, as a writer, matters–across all media. Being discerning of that intake is incredibly important. I have to watch and read things that I can learn from.
At the very least, I need to avoid things that are going to instill terrible habits in me.
I can’t excuse BVS having a terrible plot, because that would make it easier for me to write a terrible plot in the future.
Which is why I was immediately worried when I finished the first episode of Iron Fist . . . and liked it.
But then, relieved when I got to the end of the sixth episode and clearly saw (as with Iron Man 3) what it was doing wrong. By the end of the second to last episode, I was genuinely bored.
Thank . . . God.
Iron Fist is a show that does not understand what it’s supposed to be about. Danny Rand, the protagonist, is a sweet, loving guy who has the power of the Iron Fist–which basically means he’s the best fighter in the world.
This is not a show about that.
It’s first about him returning to New York and getting his company back, because, like countless other super heroes, he’s the incredibly rich son of an incredibly rich (and dead) businessman. Slowly, the plot builds momentum, but it always does so with regular cuts back to boardroom meetings and moments of character drama that would be great if they didn’t happen so often.
Sprinkled in, there are a few decent fight scenes, but they afford very little use of the actual Iron Fist.
It’s a strange thing to watch. I’m not adverse to the business drama side of the show–two of my favorite characters are exclusive to that side–but it’s not what anyone signed up for when they sat down for a fun, combat-oriented show based on a comic.
Especially because none of the combat delivers in a way that Daredevil didn’t. In fact, every time a fight starts in Iron Fist, I think, “Man, the hallway fight in Daredevil was so awesome. I wish I was watching that.” In part because Iron Fist returns to the highly choreographed fighting that Daredevil abandoned.
Oddly, the show also backpedals in the diversity department. And, yes, sure, I mean that the protagonist is another rich white guy. But, removing race from the equation altogether, he’s a rich male super hero who likes to listen to classic jams. Marvel’s Netflix shows were awesome because they were so different from Hollywood’s superhero formula. Iron Fist goes all-in on that formula and it just feels . . . samey.
“Why is Danny listening to Outkast?” I wondered as episode one started.
The answer: because this is a Marvel anything.
“Why am I watching a kung-fu master, trained in heaven, attending a board meeting?”
The answer: I don’t know. I really don’t.
All of that said, I don’t hate the show. Danny being a nice, naive guy at least makes for a . . . unique MCU protagonist.
But I am still really glad that I can be objective enough to see the massive flaws in Iron Fist. Its pacing. Its manic plot, incapable of deciding where it’s taking us until the very end. Its totally nonsensical moments (there’s a lot of “No, we can’t call the cops!” on this show, along with too much, “Just call Daredevil!” shouted by me, at my TV).
My point is, even though it went about it in the worst ways, Iron Fist still taught me some things:
- Sudden changes of setting and circumstances happen in real life. They also fall into the Stranger Than Fiction trap, and make for a choppy, unsatisfying plot.
- Don’t shy away from a crazy premise. Make it believable. If you avoid it, the reader/viewer will know.
- When it comes to superheroes, never, ever write a white, male orphan/heir to a multi-million dollar company. Especially if it’s a company with his last name on it. It has been done. So done.
Well, that took . . . way longer than I expected. I hope this one was interesting, and I promise that next time, I won’t go over 1000 words (ugh–why is it 1AM?). Regardless, I absolutely appreciate the read and I hope your week started off well.
My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.
But, regardless, thank you just for stopping by. And, as always, write well.
2 thoughts on “Just Watched #1 – Iron Fist”
I too am soaking up Iron Fist as he was one of my favourite characters from Marvel in the seventies. Much darker than Shang-Chi and I liked the whole mystery/K’un lun thing going on. Another writer friend of mine posted about how disappointed he was with the show and your comments seem to agree with him. I’m reserving judgement for the moment as I’ve only watched the first three episodes, but I find myself wanting to watch the next one – which is a pointer in itself. I wonder whether the whole Rand/son of rich Ceo concept might have been impossible to escape for the screen writers as it would remove Danny too far from the original concept (and Marvel fans can be pretty critical about that.) Also, for me, the characters and how they react are often a bigger deal for me than the plot. Ther are a lot of similarities between IF and a TV serial from the seventies called ‘The man from Atlantis’ which also features a mystery man appearing from a mystical place with no apparent explanation throughout the series (interesting to note that it starred Patrick Duffy of Dallas fame, who famously re-appeared after apparently dying in that notorious shower scene.) So, as I say, I’m reserving judgement but so far there are enough redeeming fatures to make me want to see it out to the end.
Yeah, originally, I was going to add, “It’s okay to change source material canon to make something more unique,” but I ultimately took it out–much for the reason you said; completely pulling the family company out of Danny’s narrative probably would’ve upset a lot of fans. And that’s always a dangerous game to play with comics. These movies and shows have to be original . . . while also adhering to stories created decades ago. That’s rough.
But, ultimately, I do think there’s a better approach to the show.
Absolutely reserve judgment and come to your own decisions on it. All I’ll say is, as a fellow fan of character drama, the show does have some great moments, but, unfortunately, none of them involve Danny.
And, despite being glad that I could see the flaws in Iron Fist, I’m still upset it wasn’t better. All day today, I had the show’s original theme for Danny on loop in my head, wishing the show matched its badass, ancient tones. As I told a coworker earlier, “He’s the greatest warrior in the world, trained in a mythical, hidden city . . . It sucks that we didn’t get an awesome show with that premise.”