Netflix Iron Fist Review

Iron Fist is the final member of upcoming Marvel team The Defenders to have his own series. Said series has been steeped in controversy centring on accusations of whitewashing and reviews of the first six episodes have painted it as, in a word, bobbins. As my first review of something other than a videogame on this blog I’m taking a look at it, having finally made myself finish it earlier today. For the record I know nothing about the comic on which it’s based, but I loved the previous three Defender series Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.

The series focuses on Danny Rand, basically Bruce Wayne but with magic powers, who after spending the fifteen years prior to the story learning martial arts in a hidden city called K’un L’un returns home to take over his Father’s company. Danny has been declared legally dead however, thought to have been killed in the plane crash that killed his parents. The result of which is said company is now run by his childhood friends;¬†Ward Meechum, a sweaty man with a drug problem channeling the villain from an 80s straight-to-video PSA about workplace conduct and his sister Joy, a straightwoman of sorts who believes and supports whomever the script needs her to. Herein lies the first major problem with Iron Fist: the dreadful, thinly-spread “Mr Robot”-lite corporate intrigue. See, Danny wants to take over his company and fulfill his identity as Danny Rand, head of Rand enterprises. He apparently wants this so much that it interferes with his destiny (a destiny he spent years working towards and fought for) as the Iron Fist- defender of K’un L’un. He even abandoned his post for it. So you may be surprised that apart from a few brief appearances early on once he regains control of the company he completely ignores it. Its primary function is to give Ward and Joy something to do, largely cleaning up the mess made by Danny when he decides Rand should focus on helping people over profits (this lasts a few episodes before being unceremoniously dumped) and to give Danny Intel on The Hand, who are using Rand as a front for heroin distribution. The Hand, last seen in Daredevil Season 2, are an evil ninja group who Danny, as the Iron Fist, is the sworn enemy of and has been trained to destroy. They also have a potentially interesting subplot involving a sect of The Hand apparently working for the betterment of New York and battling the more malevolent main group, but this goes literally nowhere when the very next episode it’s revealed that they’re just as evil. Plot holes and muddy characterisation abound, especially with whom the final villain turns out to be, and worst of all the times when Danny either doesn’t use his martial arts skills or, worse still, does use them and gets knocked flat on his arse. It’s compounded by often poor writing, with characters boldly claiming something along the lines of “No wonder [plot point]” when another character needs to know something. At one point when asked to form a team of warriors to fight evil, Danny replies “C’mon, I’m a billionaire!” despite having spent the previous nine episodes telling everyone he meets that he’s “The Iron Fist, sworn enemy of The Hand/defender of K’un L’un”.

The other main problem is the baffling lack of fight scenes, and the general poor quality of them when they do turn up. The titular Iron Fist is a weapon formed by Danny channeling his Ki into his fist, causing it to glow and become super strong for one hit, whether it be something hitting said fist (a bullet or melee weapon, for example) or Danny punching something. He barely uses it, and when he does its impact is on par with Luke Cage’s skin, but only for a split second. The rest of the time he relies on wushu mixed with various animal style stances, which mainly comes across as impractical compared to say, Daredevil, who brings out flips and spinkicks as finishing moves and when he needs extra power, and leads with more practical punches, knees, throws and the like. It also only works some of the time, as best exemplified by a fighting tournament Danny enters with a swaggering confidence that is almost immediately knocked out of him, only bringing it back at the end after stumbling through two fights he barely wins. Finn Jones handles himself fine, but does look a tad unnatural when compared to Jessica Henwick as Coleen Wing, whose fights have a lot more weight to them. Also it becomes increasingly obvious as it goes on that fights take place in dark locations to hide Finn Jones’ Stuntman/men. Occasional fun fight scenes like the one against a bodyguard proficient in Drunken Fist shine brighter still when contrasted against the usual fight scene structure of Danny versus a goon or two, after half an hour of corporate shenanigans.

It’s not all bad though. Wai Ching Ho’s Madame Gao plays a prominent role in the series, taking the main villain role until the very end when a far inferior option takes her place for a woefully bland finale. Ahem. Sorry, back to positivity. Gao is easily the best thing about Iron Fist, running rings around far less intelligent, less prepared characters with a sinister, reserved confidence. The change in tone from Daredevil works surprisingly well in her case, as if she understands she’s in a different world and adapts so as to better get inside people’s heads. Jessica Henwick is solid as Coleen Wing, Rosario Dawson is always good as Claire but her character transitions less easily than Gao, and it’s clear this material isn’t nearly as good as the previous Defenders series. Finn Jones does a decent job as Danny, but of all the characters hampered by the writing he arguably fares¬†the worst due to being the protagonist.

Overall Iron Fist is really rather bad. It has its moments, and Madame Gao saves every scene she’s in, but all the corporate intrigue involving Rand enterprises, Joy and Ward is a pointless, boring waste developing characters I don’t care about, and Danny’s character is in a tug-of-war between business man and martial artist that results in him doing little of either, with not a lot of that being particularly interesting. The worst of the four Defenders and a big misstep for Marvel, it’s unfortunate that the best thing about Iron Fist is what it does to build on Season 2 and set up Season 3 of Daredevil, and not anything it does for its own character.

By James Lambert

@jameslambert18

The Reviewing Floor is changing

For the better, I like to think. Depends on your viewpoint. Ahem. Anyway to the point: unfortunately Reuben’s parted ways with the blog to pursue his own writing opportunities and I wish him all the best, obviously. That’s not the change for the better. What is changing for the better is that now I’m the sole provider of written content I can write about whatever I feel like, and in short: I’m expanding The Reviewing Floor’s coverage to include Anime, TV Series and Films. Possibly comics and manga, I’ll consider it later in the year. For TV shows I’m starting a new series I’m calling “In for the long haul”, in which I have an open article on here with opinions on each episode as they’re released, followed by a review of the whole season. I’ll be doing that for Attack on Titan Season 2 and Berserk Season 2 when they start. On the review side first up in this new scheme is Iron Fist sometime over the next few days, as well as a “Thoughts on…” piece about the first season of the new Berserk anime. I’ll also be reviewing the Netflix Death Note film, but that’s not out until August. Hopefully this will all fit into the current scheme nicely, and it’ll be fun to write about things I enjoy other than video games. Video games will still be the focus, but will be talking a break for a while because I currently don’t have the money to buy them. But I will be reviewing Mass Effect Andromeda, Nioh, Nier Automata and Horizon Zero Dawn at some point this year, hopefully sooner rather than later.

By James Lambert

@jameslambert18

DLC Review: Resident Evil 7 Banned Footage Volumes 1 and 2

DLC time once again, kids. This time it’s Resident Evil 7, with two collections of mini games and story parts Capcom are charging for on the run up to its big, free story DLC “Not a Hero”. Broken into two packs of three it contains Bedroom- an escape the room puzzle featuring Marguerite, Nightmare- a wave-based survival mode against Molded and Jack, Ethan Must Die- a remixed area of the game with ramped up difficulty and very limited items, 21- a surprisingly violent game of blackjack featuring Lucas, Daughters- a prequel story about the night the Bakers turned bad and Jack’s 55th Birthday- a fun breather mini game in which Mia has to run around grabbing food for Jack.

Given the amount of variety in the modes it might not come as a surprise that it’s a mixed bag, though it skews differently to my expectations. Daughters, the one piece that’s definitely canon story DLC has some promise but squanders it in frankly spectacular fashion. It shows what happened when Evie first turned up at the house and turned the Baker family into murderous cannibals, which sounds like a winner but unfortunately buggers it by having them IMMEDIATELY turn and then the whole thing is over in about twenty minutes. What should have been a tense, drawn-out experience with time jumps like Firewatch, as Jack and Marguerite slowly but surely grow more unhinged and hostile until you have to escape is instead about a minute of them being nice, friendly people then BAM! They’re evil now, run away from them and escape but not really. It does have one of my new favourite Resi lines though: Jack trying to kill Zoe because in his words “When I ask for rope I expect to get rope!”. If nothing else it’s more Jack Baker and that’s always a good thing, it’s just a shame it’s so rushed and lacks any sort of punch. Well there is a brief line from Jack pre-possession about how he always wanted to run a B’n’B, but that’s about it. Ethan Must Die might well be good if you’re into that sort of thing, I can only get a few minutes into it before dying and as such have made very little progress. You start with no weapons in a hellish dimension with a red sky and have to go through the main house and towards a fight with Margeuerite in the greenhouse. Weapons/items and their locations are random and enemies kill you in two hits. That’s about it really. Moving on.

Nightmare is a surprising standout: a wave-based survival mode in which Clancy Javis (he of “Derelict House” and “Happy Birthday” fame) is trapped in the basement of the main house and using a steady, replenishing source of scrap from three machines in the map can buy weapons and set traps to kill a whole load of Molded and two incarnations of Jack. It’s quite tough, but despite just being a fight against waves of enemies it’s really enjoyable, particularly as you unlock new weapons with increasingly high scores and, learn how best to use resources deal with everything efficiently and feel like a badass. Similarly of high quality and starring Clancy is “Bedroom”: Marguerite has you handcuffed to a bed in the bedroom directly off the balcony in the main house, you have to solve a load of inventory puzzles to escape from said bedroom, and at multiple scripted points Marguerite will return to check on you, everything needs to be put back where it was or she’ll attack you. Bedroom is easily the best part of the DLC; its puzzles are cool and make excellent use of the limited space and the atmosphere is tense to the point where on my first attempt I got out of bed and almost immediately returned because I was scared Marguerite would come back. Jack’s 55th Birthday is fun but largely throwaway: you’re against the clock and have to run around small areas finding food to give to Jack and fill a hunger bar until he’s full. Shooting Molded stops the clock for durations dependent on where you hit them, and the whole thing is decent but didn’t particularly draw me in. Last but not least is 21- a surprisingly grim and gory game of blackjack in which Lucas forces Clancy and another man to bet fingers, electric shocks and finally the threat of a sawblade made of kitchen knives being rammed into their faces. There’s not much to say for this one- it’s blackjack. If you like blackjack you’ll enjoy it, I thought the blackjack combined with the dark tone, gore and Lucas being Lucas made it rather good.

Overall Banned Footage is excellent, though it does stumble at times. Daughters is far too rushed, Jack’s 55th Birthday is fun but throwaway and Ethan Must Die is, for me at least, depriving potentially better content of a place in the DLC, but Bedroom, 21, Nightmare are all great, I’m keeping with the high standard Capcom set with the main game. It’s a shame the content is mixed and has a good/bad blend over the two packs, otherwise I’d recommend the one with the good DLC. As it stands I recommend both: if you enjoyed Resi 7 this is a no-brainer.

By James Lambert

@jameslambert18