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Despite it still being named the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios’ expansive world has stretched into television in recent years, most recently with its Netflix exclusive programming. Daredevil released in April to critical acclaim, Jessica Jones is premiering later this month and Luke Cage is currently shooting. The fourth Netflix series that Marvel originally announced was Iron Fist, and while it’s still some time from airing, new information suggests that they're considering changing it into a movie, which may not be a good move.
Over the last several months, there have been reports about Marvel having trouble adapting Iron Fist for TV, and the latest rumor states that Marvel wants to give the hero a Netflix-exclusive feature film instead. This would give the project extra time to be worked on and an increased budget. Subsequently, this would also result in Punisher being given the TV series and becoming the fourth lead hero in the Defenders miniseries.
Right off the bat these creative changes should taken with a major grain of salt for a few reasons, namely how having Punisher as a Defender makes no sense given that he’s not a team player. However, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Marvel is at least considering turning Iron Fist into a movie. Initially, this may sound like a cool idea, but upon deeper inspection, it’s not an improvement over a TV show.
First off, that added budget. With the extra green, Netflix would certainly be able to make the project look better, specifically with showing off chi energy and other forms of mysticism though CGI. However, does a little extra spending make up for the lost storytelling opportunities? TV may not have as much money to produce top notch visual effects, but when it comes to character development and intricate story arcs, they have the edge. What Daredevil Season 1 accomplished with its main players over the course of 13 episodes was better than nearly everything the 2003 movie gave us. Most agree content trumps visuals, and between a two-hour movie and a whole season, the latter is preferable for someone like Iron Fist. Besides, this is still Netflix, and even with the added money, it’s not like the movie is going to end up looking like Avengers: Age of Ultron or another one of their silver screen blockbusters.
Keep in mind that Marvel has also already started laying groundwork for the Iron Fist TV series. Daredevil left a few Easter Eggs to the martial artist in Season 1, such as the symbol on Madame Geo’s heroin packages referring to the supervillain Steel Serpent. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage haven’t aired yet, so who knows if they will feature any references, though I suspect they will. It would be a shame if all those teases were reduced to simply set up a one-off movie rather than seeing the grand mythology explored over multiple episodes.
As far as having trouble cracking Iron Fist, the hero’s mystical background is no secret, so there’s no reason why now it would suddenly present a problem when it comes to fitting him in with the other street-level heroes. As mentioned earlier, it makes no sense to have Punisher work with these other characters given his brutal methods and lone wolf mentality. Iron Fist, on the other hand, has established relationships with the other Netflix protagonists in the comics, especially Luke Cage, his best friend and old partner in Heroes for Hire. By giving him the movie and taking him out of the Defenders, Marvel is robbing Iron Fist of the opportunity to build these connections in live action.
Look, had Marvel moved forward with plans for an Iron Fist movie years earlier, I wouldn’t be saying these things, but the prospect of seeing this unique hero’s story told over a whole TV series is a much more exciting prospect. If Netflix wants to make their own Marvel movies, fine, but don’t let it be with a character who they’ve already told fans will get his own TV series. A slightly bigger budget for improved visual effects and other areas don’t make up for not being able to tell a gripping story over one or more seasons. In this case, it’s not a matter of quantity trumping quality, but quantity adding extra quality.
We’ll keep you updated on any progress regarding Iron Fist’s future in the MCU, but in the meantime, we want to know what you think. Would you rather see an Iron Fist movie on Netflix or keep the character on track for a TV series? Let us know in the comments below.