What began as the dream of a Marvel executive who kept watching The Avengers and thinking up all the TV show possibilities set in that same universe has almost become a reality. The Defenders, Netflix’s Avengers-esque mini-series teaming up Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, is almost here. Marvel continues to release photos from the set, and fan theories abound as to who exactly Sigourney Weaver might be playing even though we’ve been expressly told her villainous character is a creation of the show, not adapted from the comics. How will Elodie Yung’s Elektra factor into things, and will her return destroy what little remains of Matt Murdock’s grip on normalcy? What will Luke and Jessica say to each other after all their time apart? For that matter, how the heck is Luke even going to be involved with any of this considering the way his show ended? What will Iron Fi…
Hold on. Which one’s Iron Fist again?
Oh, that’s right – he’s the one whose TV series hasn’t actually aired yet. The Defenders might be the buzzier show to talk about since it will draw together so many characters we already know (the Defenders and several of their co-stars, including Luke Cage’s Simone Missick), but it won’t show up on Netflix until some time later this year. Iron Fist, on the other hand, premieres next month, on March 17th to be exact. Here’s the trailer:
Isn’t Iron Fist the one everyone on the internet was mad about last year because of its apparent cultural appropriation?
No, that was Doctor Strange.
Wait. Actually, it was both Doctor Strange AND Iron Fist, the former for casting a white woman to play what has traditionally been an Asian male in the comics and the latter for staying true to the comics in casting Game of Thrones’ Finn Jones to play Iron Fist even though there’s really no reason Iron Fist has to be white other than “that’s how it is in the comics.” Here’s how io9’s Rob Brickenio9’s Rob Bricken explained it:
Ever since his comics debut in 1974, Danny Rand has been a rich white kid who happens across the mystical city of K’un L’un, gets taught martial arts, and of course turns out to be better at them than any of the natives. His preternatural talent allows him to defeat the dragon Shou-Lun, which gives him the mystic power of the Iron Fist—at which point Danny immediately leaves to be a superhero in America, because why would he stick around in K’un L’un?
His character was, and is, an appropriation of Asian culture —no different from American Ninja, Shogun, The Karate Kid, The Last Samurai, and all the other movies/comics/stories where a white guy discovers a foreign culture, learns its ways, and becomes better at it than the people born into it. It is both crappy and a cliché, and one that still gets used too often. It would have been easily rectified by casting an Asian-American (or even an Asian non-American) in the role of Danny Rand. How perfect would it be if Danny Rand was looking to reclaim his Asian heritage, instead of taking it from others?
Marvel could have changed things up for the TV series, made Danny into an Asian character, but it chose not to, at least not with the lead role. The rest of the series might be very different from the comics, seeing as how Jones told EW that fans need not worry about reading up on the comics to prepare for the binge next month, “This is my version of Iron Fist, this is showrunner Scott Buck’s and Netflix’s and Marvel TV’s version of Iron Fist.”
To be honest, I’m not familiar enough with the Iron Fist comics to know the difference. For example, in this trailer Danny appears to have a sidekick played by Jessica Henwick. Is she from the comics, or a creation of the series? I don’t know. She sure can hold her own in a fight, though, and I am genuinely curious to learn more about her when the show drops next month.
The new trailer does appear to follow the traditional origin story fairly closely, its “rich, presumed-dead kid returns from mysterious exile in the Orient to reclaim his family’s fortune” narrative recalling Batman Begins and Arrow season 1. Plus, as per standard Netflix Marvel series procedure there’s an epic hallway fight scene, and an appearance or two from Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple, the Agent Coulson of the Marvel Netflix world.
If the trailer didn’t grab you, Iron Fist still might be a necessary watch if you are to fully understand Defenders later this year. According to EW‘s Defenders cover story from last month, Danny will actually be integral to the formation of the team, likely keyed off the events which transpire in Iron Fist. Jones revealed, “[Danny’s] craving desperately for family, for help, for guidance, for people to learn from, and for a team. But because of what happens in Iron Fist he’s very untrusting. It’s really his way or no way at all. He drives all of the Defenders to get behind him to solve the…”
How was he going to finish that sentence? We don’t know. According to EW, a Marvel publicist gave him a disapproving look, and Jones trailed off before simply saying, “Solve the issues.” We’ll find out what that means later this year when The Defenders arrives, but until then Iron Fist, with its hyper stylized martial arts sequences, looks to be a worthy stopgap, regardless of whether or not you think the lead character should be a white guy or not. Whereas Daredevil is cut from the vigilante movie playbook, Jessica Jones is the feminist film noir detective story and Luke Cage is the Blaxploitation celebration, Iron Fist appears to be the martial arts movie. Here’s hoping it doesn’t succumb to Daredevil season 2’s too-many-ninjas problem.
Iron Fist premieres March 17th. The Defenders premieres later this year. The Punisher is slated for next year, and additional seasons of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Daredevil are also on the way.