Tagged: Finn Jones

Martha Thomases: Defending…?

Last Friday, my pal Larry Hama invited me to a “friends and family” screening of the first two episodes of Marvel’s The Defenders. I mean the new series debuting on Netflix today, not the classic television show, The Defenders, the source of many many jokes made during the screening.

Also in attendance: Tony Isabella, Michael Gaydos and his adorable son, Arvell Jones, and the families of Archie Goodwin and George Tuska. Plus a bunch of current Marvel folks who had probably already seen the whole series, but who were gracious hosts.

Before the screening began, I was feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about seeing so many of my old friends and meeting people whose work I admired. Hence, I was psyched to enjoy two hours in a comfy chair in a screening room.

Mostly, I had a great time. I have a huge crush on Charlie Cox, the beautiful man who plays Matt Murdock. And I love Rosario Dawson, Mike Colter, and Kristin Ritter. The production design for the series suggests the color schemes associated with each of the four main characters so that Daredevil’s scenes are dark and red, Jessica Jones’ scenes are blue, and Luke Cage’s seem to have been shot in the 1970s.

If only there were no Iron Fist.

I don’t blame Finn Jones. He’s working as hard as he can. Unfortunately, the way Danny Rand has been written for these series, he’s a narcissist. A benevolent narcissist, but still a man who only sees the world as it relates to him. Daredevil is trying to keep crime out of his neighborhood. Luke Cage is the Hero of Harlem. Even Jessica Jones goes out of her way to help a stranger.

Danny Rand only thinks about Danny Rand. Even in his guilt, he can’t see past himself.

I guess this makes a certain amount of sense, given that he was raised by Buddhist monks and taught to look within himself for strength. Buddhists can be rather solipsistic. They aren’t the only ones, certainly, and that’s not all there is to Buddhism, but that’s what I infer from the Netflix series. In any case, his self-absorption has the effect of making the character and his struggles seem less important.

(For another perspective on Buddhism and action heroes, you might want to check out this series, co-written by my high school friend, Tinker Lindsay.)

A few supporting characters from each series are here, so our heroes have someone to provide exposition. I like to see Colleen Wing and Misty Knight and Foggy Nelson and Trish Walker. Sigourney Weaver and Waitlist Ching Ho make excellent villains. And there are many many, many other characters, enough so that it feels like it’s actually shot in New York City, where many millions of people live.

I can’t give a real critical overview of a series from just the first two episodes. It felt like they were taking their time getting to the real story because when the screening ended, the four main characters had not yet all met each other. That seems to me to be a bit too slow.

Still, it’s the tail end of August. What else do you have to do this weekend? I certainly have nothing better.

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Mike Gold: Iron Fist – Your Mileage May Vary!

I must admit, I agree with Roy Thomas and Larry Hama.

Unfortunately, this puts me in opposition to at least three of my ComicMix fellow travelers – Martha Thomases, Joe Corallo and Adriane Nash. And, probably, many others who occupy these premises. That should make our next staff meeting amusing.

Iron Fist – I’m talking about the Marvel/Netflix series – most certainly is not The Prisoner of 21st Century. It’s not even as good as Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. But from reading the reactions of the aforementioned critics and many others, I do not find it to be the You’re In The Picture of the 21st Century, a show so obscure and godawfullousy that only Bob Ingersoll remembers it.

To be fair, I’ve only seen the first four episodes. Then again, Martha’s only seen the first four as well. But those critics who have been vocal in their distaste for the show seem to take umbrage at a number of the show’s elements:

  • It moves too slowly.

Yeah, well, there’s some truth to that but, damn, BFD. Epileptics deserve the opportunity to watch heroic fantasy without going into a seizure.

  • The lead, Finn Jones, sucks.

Maybe, maybe not. Stephen Amell was pretty lame when Arrow got its start, and he got a lot better. While Jones hasn’t quite reached the level of, say, Peter Capaldi, I’m willing to give him some time. How old is he, anyway? About 11, I think.

  • The plot is a rip-off of Arrow, isn’t it?

This particularly bothered my pal Joe. I respond: “Nope, it’s the other way around. In Arrow, Oliver Queen got himself lost in a purportedly fatal accident and came back five years later as a world-travelling, murderous superpowered member of the Russian mob who was cut off from the family fortune. Danny Rand got himself lost in a purportedly fatal accident and he came back some 13 years later a fully-powered superhero who was cut off from the family fortune. The difference is, the storyline in Arrow was mostly original to the teevee show – yes, Oliver did disappear for a while only to come back as a costumed non-superpowered, non-murdering hero­. But Danny Rand did it first: when Roy Thomas and Gil Kane created the character, at that time Oliver Queen was nothing more than an occasional back-up feature in Action Comics. So there.

  • Shouldn’t Iron Fist be Asian-American? After all, it’s 2017, damnit.

Yeah, well, here I agree with Roy. You want an Asian-American character, go create an Asian-American character. In fact, you should. Somebody should. And, get this, Joe – ComicMix’s diversity columnist – made this same point a year ago. Iron Fist was created in (arguably) less-enlightened times. You can’t change the past but – and here’s where I differ greatly from some of my revisionist brethren – you can learn from it. They call this a teaching opportunity.

There are many positive elements in the Iron Fist teevee series. First and foremost: there’s the character of Colleen Wing, as performed by Jessica Henwick. She is not a side-kick. She is her own person, a fully capable young woman struggling to make it in the Big City. Yes, I’d love to see her spin-off into her own series, but let’s face it: a Daughters of the Dragon series with Colleen Wing and Misty Knight (Simone Missick) would kick-ass. Quite literally. Besides, Tony Isabella could use the check.

The bad-guy, Harold Meachum, is wonderful. Sure, we figured out he’s a finger in The Hand roughly well before the first commercial, but his motivations and his truly bizarre technique in handling Rand are fascinating. Better still, actor David Wenham is wonderful in the part.

The Netflix crew, under the direction of Marvel’s own Jeff Loeb, understands the need for and the approach to Mighty Marvel Continuity. We’ve got Madame Gao as the big baddie. We last saw her in Daredevil. Jeri Hogarth appears in three episodes; she was the lawyer who didn’t get along with Jessica Jones in the series of the same name.

Rosario Dawson is in this show. Of course, Rosario has been in just about every superhero show or movie since Kirk Alyn hit puberty, and the world is a much better place for that. Her Claire Temple is the glue of Marvel’s Netflix miniverse and I enjoy seeing her move about the continuity.

I appreciate that Rotten Tomatoes has an 81% audience score but only an 18% critics score. This has nothing to do with your opinion. I mention this only to point out that the critics are sick and tired of being forced to watch all these superhero programs and movies, but they do not pay for the privilege. The audience does. It is their money that shows up on the balance sheets, and thus far, the audience seems to enjoy the genre greatly.

I have done little but give Iron Fist faint praise – Larry Hama, who knows something about martial arts heroes, liked it more than I did. Maybe my opinion will change when I finish watching the first series. Yes, there will be a second – it’s already been picked up.

But, as Dennis Miller used to say (and might still, but hardly anybody cares), “your mileage may vary,” and that’s totally cool.