How seriously should one take the rumors that Marvel is planning to dump its announced Iron Fist series for Netflix?
Unconfirmed reports indicate that Marvel has been “struggling” to figure out a direction for Iron Fist. And because of that, Marvel plans to either dump the announced series or instead make it a Netflix-exclusive movie. The reports also indicate that instead of Iron Fist, Marvel will substitute a series starring the Punisher (to be played in season 2 of Daredevil by Walking Dead alum Jon Bernthal).
Is this a rumor that stands up to the sniff test?
If you look back over the history of Marvel’s movie and television projects, outsider claims of “troubled” productions aren’t uncommon. Some commenters insisted that Marvel struggled with Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, two recent movies that successfully brought little-known characters to a mass audience. In that regard, it’s hard to read any rumors of Marvel “struggling” with Iron Fist as any more than the typical creative process involved in translating a property from page to screen.
Some cite the lack of casting and story news for Iron Fist as “proof” that the project is troubled. But look at Marvel’s busy slate of television projects. For Netflix, Marvel only recently wrapped production on Jessica Jones, set to debut in a couple weeks. They’re in production on the 13-episode season 2 of Daredevil (intended for the spring) and 13 episodes of Luke Cage (intended for later in 2016). Over at ABC, Marvel TV is in the midst of the 22-episode season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the 10-episode season 2 of Agent Carter. They’re also developing a S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off and a Damage Control comedy for ABC. With Fox Studios, Marvel is working on The Hellfire Club for Fox and Legion for FX, both expected in the next year.
That’s a lot of projects on Marvel’s TV slate. Is it really such a surprise that Iron Fist, not intended to arrive until late 2016 or early 2017, has no casting or story details to announce? Production likely wouldn’t commence until Spring 2016 anyway. They’ve got lots of time.
Marvel and Netflix are said to be enthusiastic about Bernthal’s performance as the Punisher. It’s certainly believable that they’d be interested in launching the character into his own series after his Daredevil run. But that doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game between Punisher and Iron Fist. Marvel’s pact with Netflix isn’t rigid. When the Defenders project was announced, no one was talking about additional seasons of the solo shows. And yet the success of Daredevil got a second season greenlit swiftly. Marvel and Netflix don’t have to choose between Punisher and Iron Fist. They can do both.
Iron Fist isn’t as well-known as Punisher, true. But to a non-comic book audience, neither Jessica Jones nor Luke Cage has much of a profile, either. And Punisher has multiple failed movies under his gunbelt at this point, so his higher profile isn’t necessarily a good thing.
As for how Iron Fist fits into the gritty Hell’s Kitchen world established in Daredevil, it’s not that big a stretch. Season 1 of Daredevil featured elements that comic book fans recognized as being tied to Iron Fist and one of his key supporting characters is set to appear in Jessica Jones. Iron Fist’s origins may involve a hidden mystical city in the Himalayas, but the character has otherwise always been based in New York. The martial arts element expands the MCU stylistic palette into a genre they haven’t tackled yet. His civilian ID is more uptown (he’s the heir to a big corporation), but he’s spent a lot of time in the grittier parts of the city. His long-time partnership with Cage has placed him firmly on the streets.
Iron Fist’s super power shouldn’t be that big a deal. The “glowing fist” effect shouldn’t be that difficult to produce with basic CGI effects. It’s more demonstrable than the strength/invulnerability combo that Jessica and Luke sport, but not by much. And Marvel needs Iron Fist for Defenders; Punisher is a poor fit for a team setting.
Anything is possible, of course. But until Marvel makes a formal statement, don’t assume Iron Fist isn’t happening.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on November 4, 2015.