Hello again! I’m back from my mini-vacation, Parry Sound is a wonderful icy playground this time of year, in case you were wondering. This week wanted to write about one my true passions, Ripping Apart Crappy Comic Book Shit. Crappy TV shows more specifically but I’ll crap all over the Justice League movie when it comes out because let’s be serious, that movie is going to suck. Over the last few years comic books have taken over the media, every year there’s now no less than four comic book movies released, combine that with a growing number of Netflix TV shows and television shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Flash and honestly you can’t get away from it unless you were to go Oedipus on your eye balls (look it up).
I loved super-heroes as a kid, the Batman Animated series was basically my Bible and the 90’s Spider-man cartoon was my…other Bible? Okay scratch that metaphor, Batman was my Pope and Spider-man was my President. So when super-hero movies started coming to theatres I was super excited, The Dark Knight is still one of my top favourite movies of all time, but it’s just gotten to be too much now. It’s the definition of too much of a good thing. These movies and shows have gotten to a point where they don’t even try to be Good anymore they just insert character names and watch the money come in. Which is why I absolutely love Legion and hate Iron Fist. Legion is a show that is interesting, it’s unique, its something different, Iron Fist is… well the same old crap we’ve already seen. I’ll try to avoid spoilers but can’t promise anything so if you want to avoid spoilers I recommend you stop reading this and go watch Legion.
The Problem(s) with Iron Fist
It can be summed up with one word, lazy. I confess I never read Iron Fist as a comic but I also knew nothing about Legion and that didn’t affect my enjoyment of that show so sorry Iron Fist no excuses. Iron Fist just feels like it was written in 8 hours by a 12 year old who just finished watching a Crouching Tiger didn’t bother to edit anything and hit send while on a Mountain Dew and Dorito induced bender. The characters are absolutely static and wooden, the motivations don’t make any sense and there’s no sense of anything at stake. Characters and story make a show and if you don’t have those two things you’re dead in the water.
Danny Rand is arguably the worst lead in any super-hero medium I’ve ever seen, (sorry Henry Cavil). I’m sure Finn Jones is a capable actor but they don’t give him much to work with. It reminds me of watching Natalie Portman having to read George Lucas written romance lines. He has two emotions, Confusion and Smouldering Hatred. From the moment we’re introduced to his character his emotional range is already set, “Hand is Bad, Rand Family is Good”. At first I thought they were trying to write him as a 12-year-old-trapped-in-a-grown-man but the problem with that logic is that none of the other characters react to him this way. He acts like a petulant child with 0 understanding of the world he’s in and everyone seems to think it’s OK.
The entire plot of him as a Rand board member is the worst written garbage I’ve ever seen, he shuts down plants that he thinks are causing cancer (despite the fact they are complying with all government regulations), lets the plant employees keep their jobs and decides to sell Rand medication at cost. The board members all react to this with normal reactions of “what the fuck are you thinking?” because they understand that a company has to make at least SOME money in order to pay salaries, but the public all seems to love Danny, and eventually the characters who try to talk some sense into Danny all start seeing things his way. This is the understanding a child has of how business works, Danny runs his business like a charity and the viewer is supposed to feel like he’s a hero. I know I can’t expect Citizen Kane levels of grey here but come on, the board members act like every bad stereotype you’ve ever seen. The only way it could’ve been better is if they toasted wine glasses saying “Gentlemen to evil” *clink*.
I already touched on this with the board members who seem to ENJOY watching people die, it’s just lazy writing. People in charge of Rand will do anything for money, they’ll give people Cancer, they’ll deal Heroin they don’t care. At one point they vote out Danny and the Meechums despite the fact Danny and the Meechums are majority shareholders. I don’t know MUCH about business but I’m pretty sure if you have the majority of shares, (Danny is said to have 51% alone, not to mention whatever shares the Meechums would bring) the other members can’t simply “vote you out”. Joy Meechum, who is the only redeemable business character, starts out as the only voice of reason. She talks to Danny about how there has to be a balance between “doing the right thing” and making enough money to you know pay salaries. Then eventually she starts defending Danny’s ridiculous decisions because “it looks good to the public”? I mean I must of missed when GM started giving away free cars because it looked good to the public.
Danny’s motivations are unclear throughout the entire series, he starts on a crusade to purify Rand of all corruption but then decides to root out the Hand in his hometown because the Hand is running everything through Rand but then the next episode his big motivation is getting justice for his parents murder? It’s like the writers just needed to get him from scene to scene without any thought to if it makes any sense. He calls a woman he JUST MET to pick him up from a mental institute and SHE SHOWS UP. I mean my god, imagine someone you just met calling you saying “The Trumps locked me in a mental asylum”, yeah the last thing I would do is show up there alone.
Nothing At Stake
This is one that I don’t think enough people are talking about, Iron Fist doesn’t matter. The entire plot revolves around two things, Danny getting his company back and eliminating The Hand in New York. Fairly simplistic plot at first but then it just gets non-nonsensical when you realise the Hand have no end game. They just want to deal drugs? I mean is that the big bad villain of the series, drug dealers? They own companies and kill people all in an effort to…push more drugs…to make money so that they can…deal more drugs… I get it drugs are bad, but I mean you’d think they could of come up with a better motivation for an international clan of ninjas.
Legion and the Joy of Something New
Legion is pretty much the exact opposite of Iron Fist. The shows’ characters are all unique, with strong motivations, and even though it’s a show about (primarily) one guy the story feels bigger. It’s clear that the writers of Legion wanted to do something different. When I first stumbled upon Legion I actually had no clue it was a Marvel property, I didn’t recognise any of the characters, the story didn’t have any pure evil villains and no ridiculous costumes (3 check marks on how to make me take you seriously).
David is a broken human being, within episodes you’re never sure if what he’s seeing is real, a construction of his own fragmented brain, if he’s a mutant, a mentally unstable drug addict or something completely different (sounds like my last girlfriend, heyoooo). This makes for an interesting character you can watch and constantly question where he’s going to end up. Is he a mutant or schizophrenic, can he control his powers or does he even have them to begin with? And that’s just David, Sydney and Lenny are both strong characters in their own right. While their importance to the story is linked to David, there are enough scenes of them without David around that they have plenty of their own fantastic moments (Lenny’s Musical is a personal favourite). Each mutant that Danny meets explores a different theme, whether its trust, what it means to be a person, gender issues etc. All in interesting ways without beating you over the head with any-thing resembling “big business is bad, board room members are evil”.
This one is tougher since the point of Legion is that you can’t really trust anything you see, so you can’t trust any of the motivations for characters either. But the different between that and Iron Fist’s motivations is that they at least make sense in the moment. Sydney wants to experience a real connection, Lenny’s motivations become clear later (can’t go into details without spoiler territory) but even David’s motivations while switching episode to episode are strong and make sense. Controlling his powers is important but not at the expense of his sister.
While it’s a story of just one guy, you care about what happens to him. David’s personal journey to happiness is something everyone can relate to because happiness is that end goal we all want, the question is how we get there. David’s journey might have crazy super powers, a government conspiracy and more but at its heart it’s a story about a broken man trying to figure out who he is and how he can be better. Compare that to Danny Rand who for the 5 episodes has no sense of journey or accomplishment. Even if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t care about personal character arcs (you’re a terrible person for thinking that) the show constantly reinforces how important David is, he’s the world’s most powerful mutant, he’s a one man Apocalypse (no relation to the actual comic character). David has to figure things out because if he doesn’t he can pretty much destroy everything.
Focusing On The Wrong Issues
I actually got into an argument about Iron Fist with someone who thought the show would be much better had Danny Rand been played by an Asian American actor. They linked me this article http://io9.gizmodo.com/why-an-asian-american-iron-fist-would-have-genuinely-ma-1793572703, which isn’t bad/wrong but it misses the point. Maybe Danny Rand would be a more interesting character if he was Asian American instead of white, but even the show’s Asian characters like Colleen can’t seem believable or interesting. For some reason comic book stuff has become obsessed with the race of the actors. I’m guilty of it too, when I saw a black woman get casted as Mary Jane for Spider-man Homecoming my first instinct was “That’s Wrong!” and the more I think about it the more I realise why I’m wrong, I haven’t even given the actress a chance to win me over. I mean Kirsten Dunst is not a great actress but because she was the proper skin colour I should pretend she was a good MJ?
It’s just a stupid thing to care about and people pointing to Finn Jones as the problem in Iron Fist are missing the point that almost every character is poorly written and poorly developed. So yes you can make him more interesting if he was Asian American but if he has to spit out the same “I hate the Hand so much” dialogue it doesn’t really improve the standing of the show. Its putting a band-aid on a bullet hole, polishing a turd and a whole lot of other bad metaphors. Legion has a diverse cast with a white male lead, but the show has good writing. Worry about getting your show watchable first, but that’s just my opinion.
This went on a little longer than I was planning but once I start ranting about bad comic book stuff it’s pretty hard to stop. If you really want to get me going ask me why I think Watchmen is secretly one of the best comic movies ever made. Honestly though, I think the biggest problem is there’s just too much, writers are clearly running out of ideas but it doesn’t matter because people are eating it up. Look at how trailers are debuted at ComicCon, it doesn’t matter what crap they throw on that screen as soon as fans see a hero/villain/costume/CGI-created-raccoon that they recognise they go ape-shit. I sincerely hope that like the Western. comic book movies take a break but I don’t see that coming. Cinematic universes are expanding to a point that eventually all were going to have is Star Wars movies and Comic Book heroes. 12 year old me would’ve loved that but he also would’ve loved drinking Mountain Dew at every meal, playing video games 24/7 and never exercising but god damn that’s no way to live. Sometimes you have to read a book, eat a vegetable and function like an adult. So I propose we stop watching these excuses for television shows, if Marvel wants my money they can keep pumping out stuff like Legion and leave the crap like Iron Fist behind. Come on Marvel, be a hero and do the right thing.