As a screenwriter I’m deeply disappointed with Netflix’s Iron Fist. There show uses scripts filled with mistakes first year screenwriters make. Most of these scrips should have never been greenlit for production, but somehow they got approved. And the result is a show that will teach aspiring screenwriter what NOT to do when they write a screenplay or a teleplay.
What’s mistakes did the screenwriters make writing Iron fist? Here they are:
1. Danny Rand is a Weak main character. As he’s written there’s not much to Danny Rand substantively. Ward Mechum is more interesting than Danny Rand. Colleen Wing is a more interesting character than Danny Rand, Heck, the homeless guy who popped in during the first two episodes is more interesting than Danny Rand.
In a superhero story, a Hero has to be ACTIVE. Since they’re the main character they have to be the CENTER of the story. Once they appear on the screen they have to DRAW us into the story and make us CARE about the goals they want to accomplish and the obstacles they have to overcome.
It’s hard to care about Danny Rand’s story because he’s so passive. In every episode everyone is doing interesting and exciting things and he’s just passing through. Ward and Joy Meachum are running Rand Enterprises. Colleen Wing is running the dojo and participating in the fight club. All the stuff Danny should be doing everyone else is doing. And that makes for BORING television.
2. Danny Rand in is TOO NICE . Danny Rand is a nice guy. Unfortunately being nice doesn’t make the audience relate to him.
In screenwriting a character needs layers, rough edges and depth in order for the audience to relate to and identify with them. Danny Rand in Netflix’s Iron Fist has no personality, no presence and no depth.
In The Temptation of John Haynes, John Haynes is a nice guy. But he’s a loner. An outsider. A misfit. A stranger. A man who has been through hard times. A man who lives on the dark side of life. And it’s all those layers and rough edges that enable readers to relate to him and identify with his struggles in the world and against the forces of Lucifer’s Legion.
Danny Rand could have all the things John Haynes has as a character. But the writers write him in such a one-dimensional way all you see is a goofy socially awkward chump you can’t take seriously as a hero.
3. Danny Rand gives off an Asexual vibe. Danny Rand on Iron Fist just doesn’t feel like a MAN. He comes across like a child. And that prevents the audience from seeing him as someone they can care about. Men see him as a WIMP, and women don’t find him Masculine enough to be considered sexually attractive.
Heroes onscreen are supposed to be STRONG. They’re supposed to be someone we’re supposed to root for. When I watch Luke Cage I see a MAN I can get behind because he stands strong. But when I watch Iron fist I see a BOY that’s WEAK. And it’s hard to root for a guy who comes across like Peter Pan in every episode. Netflix’s Danny Rand doesn’t feel like someone raised by monks, he’s written more like someone who came from Neverland.
It’s clear to me that the writers didn’t do their research on the philosophies of Monks and Shaolins. Even though Monks apply a different approach to life they are still MEN. And I’d like to think a group of MEN would teach Danny to have some physical toughness to go along with his mental discipline.
Moreover, I’d like to think he’d try to keep some of his American swagger as an effort to hold onto the memory of his parents. With his mother and father gone, it’d be a way to have them in his heart.
When I used to read Iron Fist comics Danny used to express a bit of the cockiness Bruce Lee used to show in many of his films. A bit of an edge. A hardness. Not only was his fist Iron, but his demeanor was as well. Yeah, he learned Eastern philosophies from the monks. But he was still a MAN. While he drank tea, he took a minute to check out the honeys or banter with an opponent in a match to throw them off guard.
4. Danny Rand TALKS TOO MUCH. Netflix’s Iron Fist features WAY too many scenes of people telling stories. This is the KISS OF DEATH in a cinematic project. The writers of Iron Fist don’t understand that an online show is a VISUAL medium.
Dialogue in a story is supposed to move a story forward. But in Iron Fist dialogue is used as exposition. That’s a first-year screenwriter mistake. The writers on Iron Fist spend more time TELLING a story instead of SHOWING the action onscreen.
And In screenwriting, no one TELLS a story. You SHOW a story in pictures. And as you SHOW your story in pictures you SHOW people some more pictures. People want to SEE ACTION onscreen, not watch Danny Rand TELL a story to Joy Meachum, Ward Meachum or whoever. I want to SEE K’un Lun. I want to SEE Danny’s training. I want to SEE him earning the Iron Fist. I want to SEE Danny using the Iron fist and KICKING ASS with it.
5. Danny Rand’s story is just not that compelling. When it comes to Iron Fist his premise is WEAK. Iron Fist’s story has been a dozen times since Oliver Twist. Orphaned boy comes back to reclaim his fortune. After he fights a handful of guards and kung-fu killers his lawyer comes in and automatically he’s running Rand Enterprises. There’s no struggle, no conflict, and nothing substantive to keep the audience interested.
Good stories have a character transformation arc. The audience wanted to see The Hero’s journey. They wanted to see how Danny Rand changes as he returns back from K’un Lun to life in New York City. How does he adjust to the different culture? How does he adjust to the different time now that fifteen years have passed? How does he adjust to current events? These were questions that weren’t answered effectively in Iron Fist. Danny just shows up and he expects the world to be the same as he left it. That’s just shit writing.
In 15 years characters become different people than when were when they were younger. That’s something I show with the Matilda Crowley Character in her 25-year journey in the Goth subculture in the Spinsterella trilogy. The 16-year-old Matilda in Spellbound is completely different than the 40-year-old Matilda in Spinsterella. And the 21-year-old Matilda in The upcoming Legend of Mad Matilda is completely different than the 16-year old Matilda in Spellbound or the 40-year old Matilda in Spinsterella.
Yes, the Matilda character has a consistent “voice” and consistent mannerisms, but as she grows and changes on her journey in each story. Unfortunately, Danny Rand or his supporting cast don’t go through that kind of character transformation arc. Everyone in Iron Fist is just about the same 15 years later as they were when they were kids. Ward is still a douche. Joy is indifferent. Danny is still an introvert. One-dimensional underdeveloped characters who are completely paper thin.
The audience needed to see Danny becoming a MAN. Being someone who is completely different from the introverted child of the flashbacks. Someone who is ready to apply the philosophies of the monks towards taking Ward and his father HEAD on as he took his company back. Someone ready to show the world he’s ready to LEAD and move his company forward.
6. The Bad guys don’t make us care. In superhero stories bad guys drive the conflict. Unfortunately in Iron Fist the Bad guys just aren’t there. Instead of giving us the big villains in Iron Fist’s Rogues gallery early on like Steel Serpent, Boomerang and Sabretooth, we get off the shelf bad guys like The Meachum Family, Rand guards, and Hand Ninjas. Easy opponents that can be jobbed out to Danny without much of a challenge to him. Villains that don’t give him an obstacle to overcome.
Just like the hero has to make us CARE about their mission, the villains make us CARE about what they hope to accomplish. A good villain like Mariah or Cottonmouth can make a superhero series into Must See TV. Good villains
7. Colleen Wing Kicks more Ass than Danny Rand. The show is called Iron Fist. But the writers should have just called it Colleen Wing or Daughter of the Dragon. As it stands now the best title for the show should be The Emasculated Iron Fist. Because Danny Rand comes across like a complete BITCH on his own show.
Colleen Wing acts more like a martial arts master than the actual martial arts master Danny Rand, the man who came from K’un Lun to New York City. She’s in the cage having the fights Danny should be having with the brusiers, She’s training students in the dojo. She’s working with Claire Temple and helping her out with her fighting skills, making the bridge between Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
8. Iron Fist doesn’t use his powers in a compelling way. In screenwritng, action defines character. Iron Fist is supposed to be a superhuman martial artist. Unfortunately I rarely ever saw him do anything superhuman. And that’s because the writing is shit on this show. Iron Fist is written like a cop show not a Karate show. And because it’s written like a cop show, the writers just weren’t creative or imaginative with the Kung-Fu the way like Quentin Tarentino used it with the Kill Bill movies or even I use it in a story like Isis: Samurai Goddess.
Martial arts fights in a superhero show like Iron Fist should be fast-paced and showing amazing moves. In Iron Fist the fights are slow and feel amateurish. Iron Fist doesn’t have any of Bruce Lee’s Finesse or sophistication, Jet Li’s Speed, Sammo Hung’s agility, or Chuck Norris’ skill. Even Jason Frank, Walter Jones, Amy Jo Johnson, Austin St. John and the late Thuy Trang showed better martial arts skills when they beat up Putties on power Rangers. If the Power Rangers can beat up a dozen Putties with ease, I’d like to think Danny Rand could wipe the floor with 30 orderlies and bust out of a mental ward in the first five minutes of an episode of Iron Fist.
9. The Pacing of an Iron Fist Episode is WAY TOO slow. On Iron Fist It takes an hour to do something I’ve done in stories in five minutes.
When I was writing Isis: Samurai Goddess I opened the story with a martial arts fight in a sauna. And in five pages Readers saw her use only a towel, her amazing martial arts skills and a smile to beat up three kung-fu killers who were out to assassinate a Grad student. Action, Sex appeal, humor, and a compelling inciting incident that got the audience wanting more in one chapter.
In contrast on Iron Fist we get Danny Rand in a psych ward for an entire hour of the second episode. Again, this should have been the setup for an episode, not the entire episode.
A seasoned screenwriter knows that they have to establish their story in ten pages maximum. A great one can do it in five. The faster the inciting incident gets kicked off, the faster the audience can get hooked into the story.
On a martial arts show like Iron Fist, the pacing needs to be FAST. This is a superhuman martial artist, stories need to set up to him kicking ass or with him on the way to kicking somebody’s ass. People watch Karate shows to see amazing martial arts moves.
Haim Saban understood this with Power Rangers back in 1992. But Marvel Studios doesn’t
10. The Producers forget this is a Martial Arts show. The head writer of Iron Fist comes from Dexter. And he’s applying a cop show approach to a comic book/martial arts show.
That’s not gonna work here.
When people watch Iron Fist they need to see Danny Rand doing amazing martial arts. Kicking guys through doors. Knocking out Sagat and Zangeif sized guys out with one punch. Beating the shit out of 40 guys and not breaking a sweat.
Iron Fist should be a FUN fast-paced martial arts show with the storytelling of a comic book and the action and pacing of a Power Rangers episode, Bruce Lee movies, or a movie like Quentin Tarentino’s Kill Bill movies. People should be getting excited anticipating what super cool martial arts move Danny is going to do in the next episode or what opponent he’d face in an episode as he worked towards reclaiming his fortune from the Meachums. That’s how I’d have written Season 1. And I think it’d be a much better show.