The newest defender of humankind joins the ranks this week. Following the successful Netflix-Marvel productions of Jessica Jones, Daredevil and Luke Cage, Iron Fist has made its debut on the streaming platform on March 17, introducing us to the final and fourth defender and readying the streets for an eventual bigger fight in The Defenders, also set for release in 2017.
Scott Buck’s Iron Fist tells the story of billionaire Danny Rand (Finn Jones), who returns to New York City 15 years after surviving a plane crash. Danny has spent the years training in martial arts in the mystical city of K’un L’un. Having plunged his hand into the molten heart of a dragon, he has gained the powers to invoke the iron fist when needed. On his return, Danny tries to reconnect with his legacy and his friends, but is forced to use his kung fu skills and superpowers to fight a new enemy.
Previous Marvel-Netflix adaptations of the Defenders series have been consistently breaking out of the superhero action genre, and similar things can be expected from Iron Fist.
But not all the noise surrounding Iron Fist has been positive. The show was first called out for cultural appropriation, and for missing an obvious opportunity for diversity and representation. Jones and Henwick have defended the series, hoping that viewers will look at the context before judging it. And it is being judged – early reviews do not promise the binge-worthiness of Jessica Jones or Daredevil.
But there is a lot to look forward to here – a good cast, an interesting origin story and elements of the mystical. The series is based on martial arts, but it isn’t all action, stunt coordinator Brett Chan told Scroll.in. “The grounding of the episodes, and what the producers wanted was definitely different with regard to how we tell the story,” he said. “They were trying to diverge into Danny’s character, to give the character more substance. They really play a lot on the characters around him who help build his character, to exemplify or to amplify the good and bad around people. It is also different in the aspect of how it looks. Daredevil, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are very dark, whereas this is very different.”
Finn Jones played Loras Tyrell in Game of Thrones, where he didn’t get too many opportunities to wield a sword. But as Iron Fist, Jones had big shoes to fill. “This was a little bit different for him because what he had to do was really train for some things,” Chan said. “He had a very hectic schedule, so it was hard for him to even to be able to get to do a lot of training. Martial arts isn’t something you can just pick up, or train for every once in a while. It’s something you need to be really involved in, it’s a lifestyle.”
Iron Fist isn’t Chan’s first project with Netflix. He has been stunt coordinator for the company’s original series Marco Polo, which relies heavily on martial arts. But the preparation for the two shows couldn’t be more different.
“The Chinese martial arts evolved,” Brett explained. “When we were doing Marco Polo, it’s the 13th century, so only certain martial arts were developed by then. It was easier for us to navigate that, to see which kind of martial arts we can teach, and alter what is being practised for a war combat situation, when needed. With Iron Fist we put aspects of the older styles, Wing Chun, animal styles, and the Wushu style.”
Since the series producers wanted to minimise wire work, Finn and his stunt double had to work hard to make the stunts convincing. “With wire work you can do fantastical things that are very superhuman, which they [the producers] wanted to keep away off, to keep Danny Rand/Iron Fist very real,” Chan said. “But we were able to play with his martial arts more and make it more modern and still use the elements of older forms to give it some authenticity of K’un L’un.”
The real star on the sets was Jessica Henwick, who plays Colleen Wing, the katana-carrying Japanese martial arts expert in the show. “She trained six hours a day with us,” Chan revealed. “Whether she was training or not, she would make it to class.”
Chan has several action movies and TV shows to his credit, having worked in The Last Samurai (2003), X-Men 2 (2003) and Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans (2009). What would he like to do next? The Bourne Series, or a production of an epic scale like Mulan or The Raid: Redemption.