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‘Iron Fist’ deserves to flunk out of the TV dojo: EW review

Marvel’s Iron Fist isn’t just the wimpiest punch ever thrown by the world’s mightiest superhero factory. The new Netflix binge swings and misses so bad that it spins itself around and slaps itself silly with a weirdly flaccid hand. But even that might be generous. “Swing and a miss” implies effort. Iron Fist — devoid of vision, lacking in executional chops — barely even tries. It assumes its own marvelousness and proceeds tediously from there, offering few satisfactions for any possible audience. The media was only given six of the season’s 13 episodes for review, but I was snoozing after two and ready to check out after three. This is yellow belt drama that deserves to flunk out of the TV dojo.

The biggest problem with Iron Fist might be the property itself. With all due respect to character’s creators, comic book legends Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, Iron Fist, at least in my humble opinion, just isn’t all that interesting, and the show’s creator and exec producer, Scott Buck (Dexter), and his team fail to unlock any hidden potential or enhance the material to convince me otherwise. The storytelling formula they’ve been given doesn’t do them any favors, either. Iron Fist introduces its protagonist with the kind of season-long origin story common to Netflix-Marvel shows, in which an adult with extraordinary abilities and painful backstory works out issues and slowly develops a costumed vigilante identity. Daredevil forged the mold. Jessica Jones perfected it. Luke Cage did it well. Iron Fist just does it, lazily going through the motions like a bored tai chi artist.

Iron Fist has been described over the years as Iron Man with martial arts, but the series is a wannabe Batman Begins and a few other things, too, stretched way too thin. Danny Rand (Finn Jones from Game of Thrones) is an orphan who lost his billionaire parents when they all crashed in a suspicious plane accident in the Far East. Found and raised by monks who reside in a wintry Brigadoon known as K’un-Lun, Danny spent his formative years learning a mystic type of martial arts. Along the way, he acquired and honed a magical stroke of channeled chi called the Iron Fist, which causes his balled hand to Flame On! and obliterate anything with Hulk Smash! force.

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All of this hoo-ha is doled out in bits and drabs of flashback. Like all Marvel-Netflix shows, Iron Fist wants to be an adult-skewing neo-pulp urban crime serial, so it downplays the supernatural aspects as if terrified of them. Danny’s blazing balled fist? It’s used sparingly. (As usual, the connections to the broader Marvel Universe, with its thunder gods, sci-fi monsters and radioactive spider-men, are conspicuously minimized.) More so than any other Marvel series, the concept is beholden to the mandate of “the produceable premise,” and the producers have limited imagination for fulfilling it. Anyone wanting Fists of Fury in the City should table the expectation, and modern comics fanboys should abandon all hope of anything resembling the celebrated, stylish run of the comics treatment by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and David Aja that leaned hard into the fantastical.

Iron Fist — which, like Daredevil, aspires to be one half workplace drama, one half action-adventure show — spends the first half of the season slooooooowly developing the first half of this hybrid personality. The series proper begins with Danny — presumed dead by the rest of the world — returning to New York to reclaim his life, fortune and place within the massive corporation started by his father and pursue his do-gooder destiny. In a refreshing change of pace, Danny is no dark knight, though his reverse negative formulation isn’t all that compelling. He’s an elevated man-child, light of spirit and movement, lit with a simpleton’s purity, a hippie-dippy Chauncey Gardener. He re-enters Manhattan on bare feet, gawking at skyscrapers; he shows up at Rand Industries naively expecting to be recognized and greeted like the prodigal son. This could be interesting and it should be funny, but the writing and directing don’t know how to make it so. Jones nails the earnestness, but that’s all he plays.

Danny, an overtly spiritual character, adheres to some form of generic, modulated Buddhism marked by a disinterest in worldly attachments (like, you know, shoes) and a remove from anger that doesn’t detach him from a want for justice. Some have criticized Iron First sight unseen for cultural appropriation, and they’re not wrong. The show validates the complaint by being both slavish and shy about Danny’s purely fantastical K’un-Lun origin story. The character has always been white in the comics, but who cares? Ultimately, I don’t see why Marvel couldn’t have cast Danny with an Asian actor.

The enlightened individual Danny has become contrasted with two childhood friends who initially present as antagonists, but really represent the people he needs to save: brother and sister Joy and Ward Meachum (The Following’s Jessica Stroup and Banshee’s Tom Pelphrey). They’re now soulless suits who manage Rand Industries on behalf of their puppet master pops, Harold Meachum (David Wenham), a ruthless, reclusive mystery man. He has a love interest — and, presumably, future partner in ass-kicking — in the form of Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick, also from Game of Thrones), a tough and lonely martial arts instructor. (Let me note here that all of these actors are very good, but their characters are skimpy and boring.)

Pacing issues hamper so many Netflix serials. In the Marvel shows, the lag hits around mid-season. Iron Fist is sluggish from the get-go. At first, Joy and Ward take Danny to be a crazy man and treat him as such: Episode 2 traps him in a psych ward, an idyll that immediately sidetracks the narrative when it should be settling into a premise. Eventually, the Meachums come to accept that Danny is Danny and begin to wrestle with the implications, which prods them to confront their own waywardness and set them on track to go from foes to allies. By episode 6, Iron Fist gets Danny into a suit and has him helping people — but it’s a three-piece business suit. His heroism consists of saving the soul of Rand Industries, from trying to make things right with a family devastated by Rand’s toxic pollution, to investigating a plot by Japanese ninja gangsters known as The Hand (introduced in Daredevil), to use the company as a mechanism to sell drugs in Manhattan.

I think Iron Fist wants to be some subversive scold of capitalism or secularism. Rand Industries is monolithic big business as super-villain — the Evil Corp. of Mr. Robot (but without any of the personality or true menace imbued by Michael Cristofer’s Phillip Pryce or Martin Wallstrom’s Tyrell Wellick) — with Danny functioning as a redemptive agent, facilitating change from within, not with subversive hacking but with his love-thy-neighbor conscience and atoning activism. I’m not going to dump on those values; I just wish they were played bolder and with more imagination.

The alt-New York that the Marvel-Netflix shows is interesting, at least in concept. You got Luke Cage up in Harlem participating in the redemption and reconstruction of a struggling community. You got Daredevil and Jessica Jones down in Hell’s Kitchen, looking out for the poor and for women and everyone who would exploit and prey upon them. Now, somewhat above them all but also among them, we have Danny, a billionaire suit with a heart of gold, exercising a liberal social conscience in the board room and on the streets. My theory about Marvel’s The Defenders — the forthcoming team-up show — is that it’ll be a superhero remake of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

Whatever they do in The Defenders, whoever the heroes battle, I hope the fights are better than ones we get in Iron Fist. For starters, there aren’t many of them in the first six episodes. But the ones we get are shockingly lame, from the choreography to the performances to the way they are shot. They’re yoga fu.

I think the idea is that Danny is so disciplined in his technique, so mature about his use of violence, he can dispatch opponents with a minimum of moves and with the precise amount of force necessary for the situation. But the show’s ambition to produce an illusion of effortlessness results in fight scenes that look like no effort was put into them at all — as if they shot the dress rehearsal and moved on. All of this said, great fight scenes take time to produce, and in Hollywood, time costs money. I’ve often suspected that Marvel-Netflix shows are made on a tight budget, and it could be that Iron Fist is saving all its pennies for the second half of the season, which promises to have more action as conflicts start to boil, bad guys make their moves, and Danny moves into masked crime-fighter mode.

Yet I can’t say the first half of the season does anything to make me care enough to stick around and find out if I’m right. Iron Fist is pure kung-phooey. Make him number 100 on your list of TV super-guys. D

Iron Fist will be available for streaming Friday, March 17 on Netflix.

Dance With The Darkness

TITLE: Dance With The Darkness

CHAPTER NO./ONE SHOT: Chapter 2: Nightmares and Daydreams

AUTHOR: ara-toa-min

ORIGINAL IMAGINE:

Imagine you were in a relationship with an incubus before you met Loki and you somehow managed to escape him. You and Loki steadily date for a while before he invites you to a ball where in a big grand performance, the incubus shows up saying “Miss me, cuz I missed you.” He kidnaps you and Loki vows to get you back.


Loki eventually does find you but you are back under the control of the incubus. Can he break you free?


RATING: Teen+

NOTES/WARNINGS:

The room was spinning. Too fast…way too fast for you. Clenching your eyes shut, you couldn’t help the whimper that escaped your lips as your feet finally touched down onto solid ground. Looking around, you realized that you were back in his domain. A large tent, accompanied by several smaller tents, littered the little oasis. You were back in the middle of the desert…back where no other could possibly hope to find you. You raised your head to stare up at the man who had abducted you from the ball.

Braxis smiled down at you, large pearly white teeth, compete with two fangs, shining at you. “Welcome home, Aşkim. It has been far too long since I have had you home with me.” He leaned towards you, trying to press a kiss against your lips. Quickly, you raised your arms up, pushing hard against his toned chest.

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Hello it’s 2017 can we for the love of God stop putting women super heroes and protagonists in fucking HIGH HEELS already? They are completely impractical and not at all appropriate for the action adventure workplace.

sincerely, someone who is concerned about how painful all these ladies feet are gonna be at the end of a long day of kicking ass, running and doing world saving shit. Y'ALL GONNA GET SERIOUSLY PAINFUL BUNIONS IN LIKE 20 YEARS.

Today in labor history, May 13, 1913: 4,000 dockworkers and members of the predominantly African-American Marine Transport Workers’ Local 8 of the Industrial Workers of the World begin what will be a successful strike in Philadelphia over wages and union recognition. Through strikes, slow-downs, and other workplace actions, Local 8 secured raises for all dockworkers – even those who were not IWW members – well into the 1940s.

Reflections on our Die-in

At what age does a black boy find out he’s dangerous?

Today was our Chicago white coat die-in. This fight is not a one time deal. It is not over, not by a long shot. We did this two years ago with our hoodies and our white coats when Trayvon Martin was murdered. We spoke out, we fought for justice. We made sure we were heard. And yet, two years later, we have a surprising unfortunate feeling of deja vu. It’s happening all over again, and this is just what the news has shown us. 

Tamir Rice, Akair Gurley, Mike Brown, Eric Garner. 

Unfortunately, the list will go on. It isn’t nearly as extensive as it could be either. It will continue to grow. Unless we do something about it. We’re the future healthcare providers of the nation. We decide what happens in our tomorrow. We have that unique perspective, experience, and opportunity to do something about it. With that, this cannot end here. While it’s great that this rally and die-in helps to spread awareness, the energy and feeling of it all can go away just as quickly. This energy needs to be harnessed into something for the long haul. Marching silently down the streets of Chicago with our signs held high we were met with looks of agreement and support. A silent protest. A silent rally to showcase the silence after someone gets shot eight times, or when someone stops breathing. For that one day, people will remember the white coats walking down in solidarity. They will go home, they may or may not discuss the events, and inevitably Ferguson, New York City, or Cleveland will come up. The following day it may still be on their minds. But what about the next day? And the week after that? People live their lives with these thoughts, while the majority of everyone else gets caught up in their own microcosm and work and this energy and talk gets forgotten and lost in the 24-hour news cycle.

The conversation and awareness should continue to spread. Hopefully out of these thousands of conversations, we can help to devise a solution. Sometimes the solution is as simple as acknowledging that there’s a problem in the first place for some people. Sometimes it’s as difficult as even talking about it. It can be uncomfortable. It can be difficult. But the more you do it, the better you will become. This is our problem. We are all accountable. If we’re bystanders, we’re all part of the problem. Get out there. You’re important. You may not believe it, but so is your white coat. It may seem like it’s an old way of thought, but it still holds true. People respect the white coat. They know the hours you’ve spent on studying and on treating people to make them better. They know that you’ve seen things other people haven’t. Use that to your advantage. Talk to your administrators and deans at your schools to have this conversation. Not just once. But every week. Every month. Constantly. This prejudice in our workplace exists everywhere. Take Action. 

“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” - Lily Tomlin

There’s a reason that the Bernie Bros are all for tanking the election and letting the GOP win if Secretary/Senator/First Lady Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination. Even if the Republicans control the White House, in addition to both houses of Congress and (in short order) the Supreme Court for four to eight years, the Bernie Bros will be just fine. They’re white dudes. Oh sure, conservative policies will offend their political sensibilities, but what actual harm comes to them? The cops won’t beat or kill them on a whim. The bro’s won’t get deported, or placed on a watch list, or have their home countries invaded. And when the last women’s health clinic is shut down, the Bernie Bros won’t even be inconvenienced. 

In fact, given the Republican Party’s policies on equal pay, affirmative action, and workplace discrimination, you can make a strong case that the Bernie Bros will benefit financially from a GOP win. 

I don’t trust people who claim to be arguing principles when they’re actually acting in self interest.