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Is Netflix's new superhero show 'Iron Fist' actually worth watching?

Written by
Tom Huddleston

The final piece of the Netflix-Marvel project slots into place today: like 'Daredevil', 'Jessica Jones' and 'Luke Cage' before it, 'Iron Fist' is based on a relatively obscure comic-book hero and set in a New York City still reeling from the alien attack seen in 'The Avengers'. Our hero this time is Danny Rand (English actor Finn Jones, aka Loras Tyrell in 'Game of Thrones'), the son of a billionaire businessman whose plane crashed in the Alps when he was just a boy, killing both his parents and stranding little Danny high on a remote mountainside. Conveniently, he was found by an order of local Buddhist monks and trained to be the Iron Fist, a key weapon in the fight against an ancient evil known only as The Hand.

Early reports on 'Iron Fist' have been pretty damning. Before the show had even screened, reports of cultural appropriation were rife: do we really need another martial arts story where the hero is a white guy? Then when critics got to see it, things didn't improve much - 'Iron Fist' currently has a dire 19% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Well, we've seen the first couple of episodes and it's not that bad. But it's not that good either. In the plus column, the idea of a man trying to prove that he is who he claims to be when the last time anyone saw him he was 12 years old is a pretty good basis for a story, and it's well handled. And like the other Netflix-Marvel shows before it, 'Iron Fist' does try to slip in a little politics with its punching, taking a sideways look at homelessness and mental health. 'Lord of the Rings' star David Wenham is also good value as a creepy Trump-style plutocrat who, for reasons as yet unclear, has faked his own death and is hiding out in a plush penthouse apartment.

But in the minus column is, well, everything else: Jones is a bit of a drippy hero, and the fact that he keeps busting into the lotus position for a quick bout of transcendental meditation is pretty cringey. Perhaps it's just that the show arrives so hot on the heels of 'Doctor Strange', but the whole rich-guy-learns-mystical-powers routine feels done to death. Worst of all, it's just not that exciting: the action scenes are competent, but they're over pretty quickly. Most of the show is just chat.

So should you watch it? If you're a fan of the Netflix-Marvel team-ups so far, probably yes: 'Iron Fist' is the last series before all the characters gang up in 'The Defenders', so the plot here will probably be relevant to that show. But you'll need a fair bit of patience - anyone who complained that 'Luke Cage' moved too slowly is not going to have a good time here. And for casual viewers, it's probably not worth it: there's a chance things might pick up in the next few episodes (we're expecting an appearance by Rosario Dawson's series-hopping nurse Claire, which'll be nice) but based on what we saw, 'Iron Fist' probably isn't worth the effort.

Either way, the entire 13-episode series of 'Marvel's Iron Fist' launches today on Netflix.

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