Monday, March 20, 2017

MARVEL'S IRON FIST... YES ITS THAT BAD...

So its here, after all the online back and forth, Iron Fist has hit netflix... I am not in love with Marvel's choice to ignore the call to make Danny Rand Asian American or Hapa.  To me it was a brilliantly thoughtful way to to take a really cheesy and trope filled story and make it work for a much more sophisticated audience.  

but that is all past.  We have our White Danny Rand.  it comes at a particularly auspicious time in the wake of the problematic casting of Tilda Swinton as E.T. ... I mean  THE ANCIENT ONE"  in Dr. Strange, with Matt Damon's also awful GREAT WALL, and the ramping up of Scarlett Johansen's GHOST IN THE SHELL. 

I figured I need to watch it.  One because I have been a big fan of all the previous Marvel/Netflix adaptations, and I am curious to see what story threads they continue to lay out leading up to the DEFENDERS cross over next year,  but all I figure, If Imma shit on somethin' I better look and make sure that the toilet seat is down...  

So here goes.  what follows are my unedited, immediate responses to Marvel's Iron Fist Episodes 1... 

I also kept my pad out as I watched through the whole series, but after a while, I just couldnt be witty anymore.  Character choices were so frustrating, writing was just awful... and It just made me tired, I nodded off in places,  or it just stopped being funny and more laborious to get through... 


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EPISODE 1

Opening credits... what is with the music... Sounds like they re purposed some of Daft Punks Tron Score... is Iron Fist on the Grid??

Oh god, so they went with the typical Kwai Chang Kane "no shoes" bit... "I ... walk... this earth... I seek a man... the man... who stole ... my shoes!"

Already he's douchey.  Maybe if you actually introduced yourself to people instead of playing up the "i'm inscrutable like an Asian Person trapped in a hippie white kids body" thing

First fight... no stance and kind of flailing. Is this aikido cause it ain't Kung Fu! And really, he had to kick the elevator button?  Wouldnt it be faster/more efficient to dispose your enemy , lock the door and then hit the elevator door... with your hand?

So clearly we've met a villian, or at least you want us to think hes the villian cause youre trying SO HARD to make him an asshole, could you be telegraphing any more?

Acting is awful.

Next time I see my Sifu, I need to ask at what sash level you need to be to learn the "hypnotize animal" style that every movie martial artist seems to have mastered.  

Oh so the first scene with Adult Meechum  wasn't obvious enough, so clearly we need to see dickish teenage Meechum bully young Danny over a game of monopoly? WE GET IT!  Meechum is a cold hearted corporate guy! Even at Monopoly!

So Danny's had this iPod all this time... I wonder how he charged it in the temple at KunLun?  maybe he charged it with his Chi? and really he plays hip hop music every time he meditates?  

"Big al?" Seriously?  why dont any of the Alberts I ever met through life add adjectives to their name?

Big Al, Offers stolen Cell Phone to Danny Rand: "Hey, do you want some clunky story exposition...? Before this stolen phone gets shut off?"

Danny Rand tells Big Al "A lot of people must think I'm like you"... The first person who is nice to Danny and he immediately insults him by insinuating he's better than him? WORST. MONK. EVER!

Shouldn't Danny Rand have a Tibetian Accent after living there the last 15 years?  Or did the ancient Mystical other dimensional Tibetan Monks that only have contact with our world every 7 years speak english? 

Joy Meetchum threatens Danny Rand that her driver is also her armed guard?! Why don't you just go inside till your "armed guard" gets here in stead of standing on the street with this transient stalker?

Bad tad chi with flailing hands, no stance, no center.

Coleen wing... if some hippie white guy comes and starts randomly speaking in mandarin to to an Asian American woman, the woman will scowl at The douchiest, sinophile pickup line EVER!   And she'd be totally peeved because she gets this ALL THE TIME! She is immediately a non believable character.

Another scene with evil corporate Meetchum guy... just what we need , more clunky exposition. It's like corporate bad guy can only speak in run on sentences...

Meetchum and Danny at the Car Valet... A street urchin you think is trying to undermine your business steals your car... "well... I guess I better get in then..."

Where did Danny learn to drive, you were 10?!... 
(a moment later) 
wait you learned to drive a stick from driving on your dads lap?  Pretty good instincts on that clutch I guess...

Gun in the glove compartment?= evil corporate asshole guy

Danny, Maybe you should have led with all the specific memories that only you and your childhood friends would remember...

Hunter gatherers did not live to 70's

Oh shit he's quoting Buddha...

More clunky exposition... we get it, Coleen wing is poor...

Coleen wing, so not only is he a creepy sinophile but now he insulted your Dojo... and this barfooted asshole just tracked ringworm on to your mats?...

Coleen wings super power? "I can tell a man's shoe size by one look!"

He's attacked in the street, and suddenly he's doing capoeria? what the hell style does he do anyways cause Ive seen akkido, and now Capoeria?

Also, evil henchmen guy, let's walk all the way past your target and wait for him to stand up before you attack him.. cause like why would I smack him when he's sitting down and not looking up?

And more clunky exposition... "Wait, youre the security guard from the office!?" because clearly the audience can't recognize the same one black guy in the whole episode...

You had minions with guns, but you decided to lead waiting for him to stand up to try hitting him with a stick?

Why is it that everytime white people go to Chinatown it happens to be Chinese new year? Do white people think we live in a perpetual state of Chinese new year? Like its just a year round party with out door grilling and dragon dances?  I wonder if in China every time the main characters visit white people if they always have christmas trees?

Since when did Chinese new year become a rave with all these flashy light sticks and bubbles?

Cause you know, everyone wears Chinese opera masks all the time... didn't you know, Chinese new year is like Asian Dia de Los muertos...

Well, if I'm gonna wear a monkey king mask I guess I'll have to do monkey Kung Fu... Uh what's that like? Just means I like stand on one leg when I punch and stuff right? ugh... so sloppy!

That dragon dance must be really engrossing that NOONE notices a fight break out in the middle of a crowd...

"Who sent you?" You already recognized him as Meetchum's security guard?! Are you dense?

So Meetchum's father faked his death?!

What the hell?

Rand corporation has the worst security ever... he just walked right in the front door... AGAIN


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EPISODE 2
It's episode 2... why are we starting with more clunky exposition?!

You knew what a jet fuselage was at age 10? 

Colleen wing, you carry a practice Kendo stick  around with with you in daily life? 

Hahahha! "What are you doing... yoga!?" thats your big motivating insult to your karate students? and how come you get to carry a stick and they dont? And really, youre training  your students to ambush you in public? who Are you, Inspector Clusoe? 

Why is Meetchum sending younger Meetchum to question Colleen wing?  Its not like hes identifiable or the public head of a major corporation or anything

Oh god he s chanting Oh Mani Padmi now... 

They are just pushing this whole meetchum is evil thing hard!.

What is up Withh the little intern toadie?

God his tai chi is so bad. No balance, 

She s sending him m&ms... who is he ET?

M&M's drive her to tears?!! hahahah

acting is awful,I'm starting to tune out....

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3rd episode
Tiger is not an internal style, tiger is an aggressively external style!!

And really you're gonna lecture another master about your styles? Talk about offensive

He shows up on her doorstep, meditating, with fruit and incense as if the stoop was an alter... and then you sit in the middle of that alter as if all those offerings were for YOU? WTF? And what the fuck is this Buddhist tradition bullshit... who the hell shows up on someone's doorstep with an incense burner, and offerings of oranges and puts themselves in the middle of that?

Carrie Ann moss is a cold hearted bitch attorney,  But her shutting down Danny Rand's illogic is refreshing!  She speaks how I feel! 

Oh god... he's teaching a bunch of Kendo students HIS Technique?  you do not just walk in to someone elses school, where they teach some other style than yours and just start telling them how to do stuff your way! 
... second, what the hell is with his sword work! No balance, what is his left hand doing, that Kendo stick is simulating a single bladed two handed sword, he's using it like its a single handed, double bladed sword? ... and he's a kung-fu practitioner, what does he know of dojo etiquette... dojo s are Japanese...

Oh man, he's sleeping on the floor? Seriously...I mean do white people really eat this shit up?

He walks in just as the guy is about to set fire to the hospital records...
And you're telling me there are no fire extinguishers in a hospital?

I don't even have anything witty to say about this cage fight... it's just stupid awful

Colleen wing cage fight #2... I'm not even sure what style she is... she seemingly teaches Japanese Kendo, but when she trains by herself she uses a Chinese wooden dummy, It looks like shes trying to do Southern Chinese Wing Chun, but she has no angles, or stance work and she punches like Korean style.  When she cage fights she does some weird Hollywood fake mma with the occasional random fake wu shu flourish ... I just dont understand.

"We axe gang challenge you Danny Rand"

Close quarters fight in elevators.sloppy, noone has any impact

Oh good, it's The "triad run out of a chinese restaurant" trope! Never seen that before!

Triad boss: "So...guys, you just botched a hit on a woman using hatchets... wanna eat?"

And now apparently Danny Rand makes random japanese origami for people...? is that supposed to be flirting?

Let me get this straight.evil Meechum father can have cameras placed in high security mental institution to trace Danny Rand, but he hasn't seen his daughter in years?

What the hell, Buddhists don't say "grace" like that.. You dont thank Buddha for stuff!   

OK great... it's bad enough with all the dog and cat meat jokes Asian Americans have to contend with... let's start a whole thing about donkeys why don't we...

Wing- "They have machine guns!"
Danny - "Yeah, the haven't the faintest idea how to fight..."
...sigh... Seriously?

Is it just me or in every series does it rain when Night Nurse shows up... does she just bring rain with her wherever she goes?

So the Chinese Madam Gao (Formerly established as the leader of the triads) is now the lead representative for the Japanese ninja army known as "the hand?" I don't get it...

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(At this point I'm either falling asleep, or just getting tired, bored by plodding storytelling) 
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Episode 6

What's with the sexy spider lady? or evil sexy acupuncturist?

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Episode 8
First time I've seen someone who actually knew some Kung Fu, and it's a random female guard who carries a sword instead of a gun?

Evil Chinese door man with Irish accent doing drunken style, INFINITELY more interesting than any of the heroes

Worst special ops ever. Taken out by a registered nurse, a sickly poisoned martial artist, and a hippie white kid... you'd think they'd use those guns they carry...



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And then I pretty much stopped.... cause It just took so much effort to keep my attention on it... 

Ugh...

the problem here is the source material ultimately is Wildly flawed in its white savior narrative. 

(White guy goes to Mystical mysterious fictional Asia and becomes better at Asian Things than all Asian people. Comes back and is all mystically changed by Ancient Chinese Secrets... this is colonialist bullshit. Its insulting, and its lazy storytelling because it requires a member of dominant culture to some how artificially "Become" the other)


So much of the plodding story got weighed down by having this white guy doing weird "exotic" "Asian" Things... and it wasnt even like real asian things, it was really nonsensically weird fake asian things... because REAL weird Asian things are really not that weird.  So they get so caught up in making things SOOO Exotically different they start writing themselves in to holes.

It forced them in to some really clunky exposition at almost every turn. At first I thought it was because they didnt trust the audience to understand what was going on... and as it kept happening I started to feel like it was because they themselves didnt know what was going on.  They kept feeling the need to justify plot actions by explaining it, over and over.

In this telling, I really dont know what the point of Danny Rand is...  his internal struggle, his character motivations seem to be like just straight up revenge at first? Or "look how weird I am with my adopted cultural ways", or "I just have to do this! It has to be Me!"  Theres something a touch refreshing in that he's kind of naive...  until he does things that are just straight up stupid, thoughtless or childish.  and then he gets kind of annoying.  Towards the end of the season, I found myself really wanting, NEEDING Rosario Dawson to be around, because every scene shes in she is basically throwing her hands in the air going "What the fuck is up with you guys and your crazy bad decisions?!!"  She speaks how we ALL feel... 

Also now the evil ninja Army of the Hand is apparently a multi cultural army? which, I guess... but it suffers from  something that I think is a problem across the board for Iron Fist.  the less specific everything is, the more you try to mask the cultural appropriation, and the problematic themes of the source material, the less personal all of the storytelling gets. 

 I keep coming back to the Nerds of Color suggestion of making Danny rand Asian American...  

His upbringing in Kun Lun after his mixed family's deaths in the plane accident become allegorical to what every Asian American knows all too well in having to live down Western trappings of the expectations imposed on anyone with a weighty cultural background and cultural legacy, in contrast with who he is, which is an American Born Kid who spent the first 10 years of his life in privilege. Finding the balance of both worlds, to define himself as who he is for himself becomes central to his character and what drives him. The revision contextualizes and personalizes his struggle... . "Who Am I" and "where do I belong" "I dont fit in here or there, and I have conflicting values, expectations, priorities from here and there" or "how do I define my place within the legacies that have been handed off to me" become central themes to the series.


the argument from many Marvel traditionalists was that Danny rand needs to be a fish out of water... to which my response was... YES, Most Asian Americans live that story daily, where you arent Asian Enough for Asians, and youre not white looking enough for most Americans.  


then there was the complaint that an Asian Danny Rand would be a stereotype of an Asian Martial Artist.  to which I would say, no, he would be a lead character martial Artist, with a plot and story that focuses on his humanity, as opposed to a supporting or bit role that focuses on his skill-set, He'd only be a stereotype if, well, you wrote him like a stereotype. 


Oh the Iron Fist that could have been... ugh...  


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