The success of Marvel’s Netflix universe has been well-documented, ever since Daredevil arrived on the scene as one of the streaming service’s most popular properties. This, in turn, led to the rolling out of ambitious plans for more Marvel series on the streaming network, including November’s Jessica Jones, 2016’s Luke Cage, Iron Fist (after Season 2 of Daredevil), and finally The Defenders soon after that. Recently though, one of these heroes has been inexplicably put out to pasture, leaving many fans wondering what exactly the future holds.
The aforementioned ugly duckling of the Netflix Marvel-verse is, of course, Iron Fist, and it’s a curious decision to say the least. His character’s background as the co-founder of Luke Cage’s “Heroes for Hire” service neatly slots him into the continuity of the greater narrative. His origin story is steeped in the secret ninja-centric mythology teased at in Season 1 of Daredevil. Most significantly though, Iron Fist has been a mainstay of The Defenders in comic books since 2011. Why then has Marvel quietly begun phasing him out of their Netflix plans? More than this, why hasn’t the studio even bothered to cast an actor for the character yet?
According to Peel the Orange, the updated plan now tells us that Iron Fist will be replaced by The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) in The Defenders, and instead will be given a feature-length movie to be released exclusively on Netflix. The reasons cited mainly are that the shift “give[s] Marvel extra time and a larger budget,” although it raises questions about Marvel’s reluctance to move forward with their originally planned schedule.
Screen Rant guesses that Marvel feels “Iron Fist’s origin tale doesn’t quite fit the ‘street level noir side’ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe like the other programs do,” but digging into the facts, it’s not hard to fit the hero into the already-established Daredevil universe.
Marvel’s reasoning seems to go far beyond fitting into the noir-esque of Daredevil and company. Consider for a second the fact that Iron Fist takes place in a far more mystical realm than his contemporaries in the Netflix Defenders, and it’s clear that added budget and production values are a necessity for his origin story. Additionally, his connection in the comics to the Doctor Strange universe could hint at a crossover effort for the Benedict Cumberbatch-led film in 2016.
As it always seems to be in Hollywood, this likely came down to a money issue more than anything. All of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage (and consequently The Punisher) require little in the way of special effects, making Iron Fist the best place to cut costs. Combine that with the fact that the combined budget of all four series was pegged at a whopping $200 million, and it’s not hard to see that Marvel is tightening its belt on Netflix. With an estimated budget of $3.3 million per episode, the studio’s budget is already ripe for trimming.
While it’s good news that Iron Fist is still in the works at all, it’s unfortunate that we won’t be getting the 10-plus hours each primary hero in the Netflix universe is being afforded. We can only hope that a standalone movie will give Iron Fist a chance to shine on his own, also opening the door for the appearance of any number of MCU heroes.
It could end up being the perfect bridge between Marvel’s movies and Netflix shows, but the hero’s quickly diminishing role speaks volumes to his perceived importance (or lack thereof) in the greater plan. Marvel has proven in the past that they know what’s best, so here’s hoping they make the right decision for Iron Fist too.
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