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Iron Fist – Bar the Big Boss (Review)

It’s impossible to talk about Iron Fist without talking about cultural appropriation.

There are multiple reasons for this. The most obvious are baked into the character himself, from his origin all the way back in Marvel Premiere as a white guy who travels to a mystical Asian city and becomes better at kung fu than any of the inhabitants before returning to America. There’s also very much the conversation that has been happening around the television series, which has prompted larger debates about the role of Asian performers and culture in Hollywood. Finally, there’s the fact that show so expertly puts its foot in its mouth.

Shaping up…

Bar the Big Boss is the perfect point at which to address this. Again, for multiple reasons. The most obvious is that it represents the last point at which the most obvious aspects of Asian exoticism are in play; barring the closing scene of Dragon Plays with Fire, this episode is the end of the Hand and K’un Lun as narrative forces in the context of the larger narrative. It is also an episode that effectively allows Davos to lightly touch upon the issue of cultural appropriation before brushing his concerns aside by turning him into a stock villain.

But, really, the issue is so firmly baked into the Iron Fist mythos that it is impossible to talk about in isolation.

Warding off evil spirits.

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Iron Fist – Immortal Emerges From Cave (Review)

Immortal Emerges From Cave might just be the best episode of the first season of Iron Fist.

Of course, Immortal Emerges From Cave is not a good episode of television. It is bedevilled by all the other issues with Iron Fist, from inconsistent characterisation to dead-end subplots to pacing issues. It even adds a few new problems of its own, especially with a ham-fisted and ill-judged attempt to bring the character of Bride of Nine Spiders into live action. Immortal Emerges From Cave is unlikely to make much of an impression, and it certainly doesn’t rank with the other best episodes of the Marvel Netflix series.

“Three men enter! One man (or two men) leave!”

At the same time, Immortal Emerges From Cave is the episode of Iron Fist that perhaps comes closest to fulfilling its own ambition. Immortal Emerges From Cave is a relatively self-contained narrative in the middle of the season, in which Danny finds himself forced to compete in a tournament against the Hand in order to save an innocent life. It is a hokey premise, but one that leads to a series of fairly middling set pieces in which Danny Rand works his way through various “levels” in pursuit of his goal.

Immortal Emerges From Cave feels very much like some forgotten z-list direct-to-video martial arts film from the nineties, a pulpy and absurd excuse to string together a collection of fight scenes. The result is not spectacular by any measure, but it is far more entertaining than the meandering story being told around it. Immortal Emerges From Cave might not succeed on general terms, or even on its own terms, but it at least has a strong sense of its own identity. That is enough to put it ahead of the rest of the season.

Glowing reviews.

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Marvel and Netflix’s Iron Fist (Review)

Iron Fist is a spectacular failure.

There are a lot of different reasons for this. On a purely practical level, so much of the show disappoints. The cast are bland and forgettable. The dialogue is awful. The stunt work is pedestrian. The direction is sterile. The special effects work looks like it was lifted from the later nineties. The editing is jarring. The attempt to recreate foreign locales looks like something from nineties television. These are all very significant problems with the production, aspects that would be irritating on their own, but come together to create a larger problem.

However, the flaws with Iron Fist are even more fundamental than this. Iron Fist is a show with an interesting premise but a complete lack of ambition. The show has no sense of its own identity or direction, its very existence dictated by external factors. It is a series that exists simply because it must exist, not because the writing staff had something interesting to say or because Danny Rand was the perfect hero for this cultural moment. Iron Fist exists because there is a slot in the schedule that needs to be filled, and Iron Fist aspires to do nothing more than fill it.

This is perhaps the most severe problem with Iron Fist. It is not that the show is bad, although it is definitely bad. The unforgivable flaw with Iron Fist is that the show is boring.

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Non-Review Review: Ninja Assassin

I want to like Ninja Assassin. I want a nice, pulpy, old-school hyper-violent throw-back like the title suggested. The two words thrown together don’t necessarily evoke the imagery of classic cinema, but they at least promise a reasonably diverting action thriller. However, it seems that nobody told the writer and director this. Despite it’s surprisingly direct title, the movie is just one big bloated mess, which seems to aspire to a complexity that nobody expects of it, and fails miserably. There seem to be occasional moments where the film grabs the potential of the concept, acknowledging a sort of Tarantino-light nostalgic approach to pop culture trash, but most of the film takes itself far too seriously, but without the skill necessary to succeed as the film it seems to want to be.

All fired up...

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Non-Review Review: Kung-Fu Panda 2

I think the original Kung-Fu Panda might be my favourite Dreamworks animated film. A lot of people go on and on and on about how that particular studio’s animation can be measured against that of their competitor Pixar, with arguments about intellectual and emotional maturity and sincerity. Some argue that the reason Pixar dominates their field is because they don’t treat animation as something just for children. Others suggest that they have a mathematical formula devised to break human hearts. Personally, the feeling I always got from Pixar films that I only fleetingly sensed in the work of Dreamworks, was that those creators were essentially making their dream movie – each and every Pixar film seems lovingly crafted according to a creative vision not based around the “rules” of the industry, but around good ideas and the kinds of stories those people like to tell (and like to hear). I think that is why the original Kung-Fu Panda worked so well, and also why Kung-Fu Panda 2 does such a great job as a follow-up.

They know kung-fu...

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Non-Review Review: Kung-Fu Panda

There’s nothing like a nice relaxing movie that you can cuddle up on the couch and just enjoy. Another testament to what was a fantastic summer last year, Kung Fu Panda may not have been the best animated film of the year – that honour goes to Wall-E – but it was still a fun, enjoyable and lively romp which should leave you smiling for most of the runtime.

Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting...

Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting...

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