Iron Fist

Finn Jones has given some tense interviews in response to questions about the casting of a white man in the martial arts-driven ‘Iron Fist.’

Myles Aronowitz / Netflix


{child_flags:spotlight}A look at the Immortal(ly problematic) Iron Fist, part 2

{child_byline}DAN GROTE

Staff Writer{/child_byline}

The embargo on reviews of Netflix’s “Iron Fist” lifted March 8, and immediately the floodgates opened.

Variety asked why co-star Jessica Henwick, who plays martial-arts expert Colleen Wing, couldn’t have been the lead instead of Finn Jones’ Danny Rand, whose origin story it says “is about as exciting as a slice of Velveeta cheese left out in the sun too long.”

The Hollywood Reporter declared it Marvel-Netflix’s first dud, saying, “Danny comes across like a spoiled frat boy who took a comparative religion class and spends a few months picking up coeds by telling them he’s totally into meditation and tai chi now.”

IGN said of the premise, “The plight of an heir reclaiming his fortune and empire may be high enough stakes in a soap or a stodgy British costume drama,” but it doesn’t fly in a superhero show.

And review compiler Rotten Tomatoes has scored it 11 percent.


As of this writing, I have not watched any of “Iron Fist,” which debuted Friday on the streaming service. I’ll form my own opinion alongside the rest of you.

But guys, it’s not looking good. And the sad thing is, plenty of people saw these problems coming a mile away.

For those of you unfamiliar with the character, Danny Rand is a child of wealth whose parents die on an expedition in the mountains of Tibet. A young Danny would have joined them, except he was saved by the residents of the mystical city of K’un-Lun, who train him in martial arts until he slays a dragon and plunges his hands into its heart, thereby earning the mantle and powers of the Iron Fist. Finally, after years away, an adult Danny returns to New York City to fight crime and reclaim his family’s corporate empire.

Or, more simply, he is Green Arrow with kung fu.

I wrote a column about a year ago about the casting of the white Jones and the online push to have an Asian-American actor play Rand, to mitigate the storytelling trope in which a white man goes to a foreign land and bests the natives at their own customs to become their savior.

(Incidentally, a poll attached to that column showed Press readers siding with a white Iron Fist, at 66 percent of 186 votes cast.)

Marvel also faced accusations of racism in casting Tilda Swinton as the traditionally Asian Ancient One in “Doctor Strange.” The difference being, people actually liked “Doctor Strange,” which has a 90 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while Fist is being called out for its pacing, its repetitive use of ninjas (been there, done that with “Daredevil” Season 2) and, ultimately, its casting.

So if the reviews bear out and “Iron Fist” really is that bad, what’s a Marvel to do? Well, the studio has some time to figure that out. “Defenders,” the team-up series that will unite Fist with Netflix neighbors Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, drops later this year, but that will no doubt be far more spectacle than the other Marvel-Netflix shows, which have been steeped in identity politics and issues like gentrification and sexual assault. There’s also a Punisher series in the works, and follow-up seasons have been confirmed for Daredevil, Jones and Cage.

And it may be through Cage that Iron Fist can be saved.

In the comics, Cage and Rand are best friends, dating nearly to the characters’ creation in the 1970s. Both were created as attempts by Marvel to latch onto the popular genres of the decade, specifically blaxploitation and kung fu. The two haven’t met on TV yet, but there’s gold to mine in the Netflix version of Cage schooling Danny on white privilege and his lack of knowledge of a society to which he’s only just recently returned. Enough gold for a Netflix-standard 13 episodes? Maybe. Maybe not. But I have more faith in a Netflix “Power Man and Iron Fist” buddy-hero series than I do a solo “Fist” at this point.



Contact: 609-272-7234 Twitter @danielpgrote MorningQuarterback

Press copy editor since 2006, copy desk chief since 2014. Masters in journalism from Temple University, 2006. My weekly comics blog, Wednesday Morning Quarterback, appears Wednesday mornings at