Since its release, the new Netflix Marvel series Iron Fist hasn’t done well with critics.
With a Metascore at a lowly 37, it’s being regarded as one of the worst debuts for a character within the Marvel franchise. Not even the incredible Rosario Dawson can save this mess.
What’s the reason behind its mixed reception? Well, many point to its over reliance on the same tired old superhero tropes, namely ‘rich white guy loses his parents as a child then returning as a fierce warrior’. Such a narrative has already been explored in characters like Batman and The Green Arrow.
The story follows the character Daniel Rand, a young man with blonde ringlets and big baby blues, who for some reason has been made the keeper of an ancient Chinese mystical force.
Recently, Finn Jones, the actor who plays Rand, has actually been overlooked swept by the media for the guy who almost got the part – Lewis Tan. He’s a half-Asian, half-white actor and stunt man who was given the role of villain Zhou Cheng instead. He only appeared once in episode eight, but made his mark by performing ALL his own stunts.
Tan has since spoken openly about his disappointment at the direction Iron Fist show runners went in; he felt like they lost the heart of the story – which is essentially about being an outsider, a role he knows intimately.
“I personally think it would have been a really interesting dynamic to see this Asian-American guy who’s not in touch with his Asian roots go and get in touch with them and discover this power. I think that’s super interesting and we’ve never seen that. We’ve seen this narrative already; we’ve seen it many times. So I thought it would be cool and that it would add some more colour to The Defenders,’ he told Vulture.
His point is valid, and such a rehashing would have breathed much needed fresh air into the often boring superhero genre.
Physically, Lewis is a trained martial artist who is strikingly adept with a variety of weapons and well, his fist. His family history is also impressive – Tan’s father is renowned stuntman Philip Tan, who has collaborated on films like Burton’s Batman, Demolition Man, Lara Croft, Inception and Transformers to name a few.
Since Iron Fist is all about the fight scenes, we’re slightly miffed we don’t get to see Tan stretch his kung-fu wings more on screen. We’d much rather see the half-Chinese, Muay Thai expert Tan spout Buddhist principles than Finn Jones, to be frank.
Sadly, whitewashing has been a common theme in blockbuster films and television of late. Movies like The Great Wall, and Doctor Strange have all fallen victim to the practice of excluding Asian actors from deserving roles.
With regards to Iron Fist, Tan claims he gets it in this instance, but it’s still annoying. “I see why they stuck to the source material because it’s very risky to move away from that, but they’ll move away from it in other areas and in other shows where they’ll take an Asian character and make him white,” he said.
We think that despite the setback, Tan is gaining the attention he deserves and perhaps with this realisation, casting directors will consider a different direction for the next Marvel offering on Netflix.
However, the fact that such a talented actor will likely gain a great deal of opportunity from this doesn’t take away our sadness for what Iron Fist could have been with him at the forefront.