Early reviews for Netflix’s highly controversial fourth Marvel series, “Iron Fist”, are already out and things aren’t looking so great for the hard-punching hero.
Set to officially arrive next week (March 17), the 13-episode show stars “Game of Thrones” alumnus Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist, a plane crash survivor who returns to New York City after 15 years in a bid to reclaim the family business.
Even before the show’s production, fans had already expressed frustration over the show’s possible portrayal of Asian culture, especially after casting Jones, a white actor, instead of an Asian-American.
Now, critics and fans who have seen the initial 6-episode screening are unanimously calling it the most boring and uncompelling Marvel series yet. Most have generally agreed where the show’s problems are: the bland story and characters, terrible action sequences, and miscasting Finn Jones as the super-powered martial artist. There is, however, one shining star of the already troubled franchise: Jessica Henwick.
On Metacritic, the show has a weighted average score of 33 out of 100, which indicates the show has “generally unfavorable reviews.”
Meanwhile, Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus on Iron Fist reads, “Despite some promising moments, Iron Fist is weighed down by an absence of momentum and originality.”
It currently has a 14% approval rating at the review aggregator website.
Comparatively, previous Netflix/Marvel offerings have fared significantly better, with Daredevil’s first season earning a 98% score on the Tomatometer, while Jessica Jones scored 93% and Luke Cage, 96%.
The Verge called it Marvel’s weakest TV production yet, noting that: “As far as diversity, representation, and appropriation go, the series fails in a number of ways. But, over the course of its first six episodes, it also manages to fall short on basic levels like storytelling. Its creative laziness bankrupts the entire show.”
Similarly, The Hollywood Reporter has dubbed the show as Marvel and Netflix’s “first big misstep.”
“Iron Fist feels like a step backward on every level, a major disappointment that already suffers from storytelling issues through the first six episodes… and would probably be mercifully skippable in its entirety if it weren’t the bridge into the long awaited Defenders crossover series,” it added.
And while the review criticized the show’s main protagonist for being bland, it praised Jessica Henwick for her role as Colleen Wing.
“With all of the initial concerns about appropriation and the whitewashing of Asian themes at the center of the story, it isn’t surprising that Jessica Henwick is exactly good enough to make you wish that Colleen Wing were the focus of the series.”
The review from Screen Crush also did not veer too far off from the popular consensus: ”Iron Fist starts to show signs of life in its sixth episode… but the slog in getting there is too great an ask, especially when the vast majority of the principal characters feel so spectacularly underdeveloped.”
It also praised Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing being “the most fully-realized character” with “a rich supporting performance”, but pointed out that she was overlooked in the early episodes.
Variety‘s critique is equally fiery, calling the first few episodes “frustrating”, “ferociously boring” and “inessential”.
“Not one element of this plodding piece works. The action scenes lack spark, snap, and originality. None of the flat, by-the-numbers characters makes any lasting impression.”
It also questioned why Henwick is not the star of the series, stating that she was “underwritten” as Colleen Wing.
The review also pointed out that the show could have benefited more if Henwick or another Asian actor was to stand out, along with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage where “the distinct identities and concerns their protagonists carried into battle… Those kinds of social, political, and moral clashes among specific characters and cultures could have amped up the drama”.
Polygon agrees: “Iron Fist’s problems with its portrayal of Asian cultures and Asian-Americans are embedded throughout every episode. It’s just that its problems with delivering exposition, crafting consistent characters, and even basic dialogue writing run right alongside.”