Thursday, April 6, 2017

Defending The Final Defender

Let me get this straight.
Viewers and critics complained that Iron Fist isn’t good enough, for reasons that seem directly connected to the show following the character’s comic book history?

It’s clear that the makers of this series fully realized that the “rich white guy who comes into a foreign country and becomes the greatest ever at their art” is an overused cliché that isn’t worthy of having the origin story be the major focus of a miniseries.

Iron Fist as a comic almost got cancelled, when the Seventies Kung Fu craze was dying out.  That’s why he was paired up with Power Man, whose own title was dipping as well when a similarly timed Shaft related film genre was slowing down.

The success of these types of movies is why Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun were made back to back.

It was the combination of Luke Cage and Danny Rand that brought both of them more success than either ever had, therefore the Netflixverse had to make the combination happen.

More importantly, no one would have tuned in to watch The Hand- The Series.

That’s what Iron Fist is.  It is a much needed fleshing out of the antagonist that will drive all of the Defenders together.

Marvel’s street level heroes have always fought against corporate corruption teaming up with super villainous organized crime. This series spends most of its time setting that up, and juxtaposing real world business shenanigans with real world violent transgressions, and joining it with Marvel Universe supernatural stuff.

We get the final character pieces for the Defenders in Iron Fist and Coleen Wing, to complete the Heroes for Hire and Daughters of the Dragon respectively.

Finn Jones is suitably earnest, naïve and determined which will provide superheroey motivations to the team.  It’s also the kind of boyish simplicity needed for the “white guy masters the Asian martial art” set up that keeps him from coming off as a jerk.

Jessica Henwick gives a fantastic turn as Colleen Wing, who gets almost equal time as a protagonist.  Her background and allegiances provide a story with more twists and suspense than Danny’s.  Her knowledge will be as much of a benefit to the Defenders as Danny’s attitude and powers.

The entire Meachum family provides examples of Marvel’s ability to create depth to their characters.  There were virtually no points during the entire series where I was a hundred percent sure that any member of that family was truly Danny’s enemy, or ally regardless of how they appeared.

Bakuto and Davos started as enigmatic.  They were both worthy additions, but their intentions for good or ill resolved pretty quickly.  I’m still unsure about most of the Meachums.

Rosario Dawson has moved Claire Temple past the “Phil Coulson role” and has built her up to likely become a Defender herself.  That’s the one advantage of no one on the team (except Daredevil) taking a code name and a costume.  We’re not sure who counts on the “active roster.”

Then there’s Madame Gao.  Wai Ching Ho was awesome, and simultaneously admirable and terrifying as this leader of the Hand who must be far more than she appears.   She was, as she stated, completely honest with Danny, and sometimes played the role of wise elder and teacher, yet also ran a deadly criminal empire and struck fear into the likes of Wilson Fisk.

Having her be a shapeshifted Dragon does match a chunk of Marvel history, but that’s too obvious for one of my normally insane guesses.

I say she’s really Loki.

Having other characters from the previous series helped build the universe further. This especially goes from the welcome return of Carrie Ann Moss to play the cynical and ruthless lawyer with a compassionate side for her friends- Jeri Hogarth.

Now the stage is fully set thanks to this series.  A complete focus was not needed on Danny’s overused origin, allowing for an awesome and in depth introduction of Colleen Wing.  She was the connection between Iron Fist and the Hand which is where the show truly stood out.

The Hand’s powers, reach, methodology, corporate connections, special members, practices and internal conflicts have been revealed in a manner filled with suspense, thrills and surprises. 

Now we can have a Defenders series focusing on what the Hand’s main goal is, and how our heroes can stop them.

Bonus shout outs:

Lewis Tan was Zhou Cheng, a one hit wonder who will hopefully return. Not since the golden age of Kung Fu movies has a Drunken Fist expert been simultaneously that deadly and that silly.

Clifton Davis as Board Member Wilkins excelled as the voice of standard corporate reason in a world of magical ninjas and long lost altruistic chosen ones.   We saw him sing fantastically a year and a half ago on Broadway as the sultan in Aladdin.  This completed some kind of McGinley family “theatrical circle of life” since my parents saw him in Two Gentlemen of Verona back in the early Seventies.  Mom often played the soundtrack infused with the guitar laden musical style of the period while cleaning, mixed in with her Elvis, Grease, Chuck Berry, Motown and similar albums. 

That song, “Your Mama Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock ‘n Roll?”

Yeah, we don’t sing that in our family.

Iron Fist did have one huge negative.  It put me into an old school king fu mood which kept me from noticing that the new Power Rangers was a pretty decent film.

I was expecting a short, kind of goofy adventure, with a large amout of over the top ninjaish action and some giant robots fighting monsters.

I did get that near the end, but it took a long time to get there.

I didn't notice the film doing an excellent job of what I always felt the Breakfast Club failed miserably at,  showing teens are more than stereotypes and crafting a story built around friendship.

I also hated that Eighties film for being all talk about how they were equals, then leaving the "nerd" alone to do everyone's homework while being the only one without a date.

But enough about my teenage personality issues:

The core of this film is the bonding between the five teens, and how their friendship gives them purpose and strength more than the powers do.

I'd still recommend seeing this one in 3D though. We saw it in standard, and the cinematography is obviously leaned toward 3D, meaning it looks choppy and disorienting flat, even in the non Ranger action scenes..

This is probably why my daughter, as the target age audience,  realized the quality of the film way before me, as a fan of old, ridiculous martial arts and monster films.

Still, I'm looking forward to much more "Go go Power Ranger"ing in future sequels.

No comments: