Marvel representatives recently spoke in China to help promote the release of Ant-Man there, and spoke towards them already working on including more Chinese/Asian characters. China becoming a huge box office market, it’s hard not to see them not strongly considering placing more Asian actors in roles, and finally giving us an Asian lead which they haven’t done yet.
“We have felt the passion of Chinese fans,” Reingold said. “As long as there is a demand in the market, it is possible to add Chinese elements and culture to Marvel products and create Chinese heroes and stories.”
Well, there’s one upcoming property where Marvel could establish a heavy amount of Asian heroes and villains, that being The Immortal Iron Fist.
The kung fu and martial arts film genre that inspired the comics hasn’t made the biggest impact in North American screens in recent years, but has found new life on platforms like Netflix. It’s been a candidate for ages, and was announced by Marvel as a key series leading-up to The Defenders.
There have been rumors circling online that Marvel is re-thinking on releasing Iron Fist for the Netflix lineup, which could be true if they feel he’s better suited for a big screen shot instead. I haven’t heard anything on Marvel pulling Fist from their lineup, and we should keep in mind Marvel hasn’t even commented on the matter.
They’ve been developing a feature film for ages, without any real traction besides having Ray Park (G.I. Joe, Phantom Menace) once attached for the lead. Nobody has stepped-up as a potential showrunner or cast for this recent incarnation, most talk on the project has stalled.
I’ve sort of pictured the series to be somewhat like Kung Fu, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues and the Shaw Brothers productions, showing present day Rand walking around the streets of New York, while also including flashbacks to his time training in fictional K’un-Lun. I think that comparison would be best suited as we want both worlds in the series, his time alongside Luke Cage kicking-ass in NYC and the martial arts mythology from the comics setting up supporting characters and villains in the process.
The Raid‘s Gareth Evans did mention to Total Film an interest in the project if he was able to keep his violent edge for the show, something that Marvel Television might be open to, considering the violent content already in Daredevil and expected in future shows.
“Totally, yeah. I’m not averse to it. My big thing right now is figuring out how to do that action style - and would someone like Marvel let me do a R-rated movie?
This isn’t me going against PG-13 movies, it’s just that the way I shoot action, it doesn’t need to be bloody or aggressive or ‘stabby stabby’ with knives, but it’s about when someone swings a punch and there’s a connection there, I’m not going to hide that with a camera. I get involved with the guys in that choreography design so I can understand the intricacies of what they’ve done, so that when I shoot it, what the camera angles should be and the editing should be, it’s doing justice to all the work they’ve put into it.
In PG-13 action, you hide the chaos and fill it with sound. That’s something I can’t do. So [if I made a comic book movie], it’d have to be an R.”
Evans, a Welsh-Indonesian director is currently busy with his next untitled martial arts film, and will eventually get around to putting together the third The Raid movie, but wants to let that gestate for a while before making it. A show like Iron Fist, would actually need a showrunner and directors, who are also fight choreographers as well. Mainly, because the comics themselves were inspired by the Kung-Fu films of the era like The Shaw Brothers productions, and expectations of the fight scenes would be on a whole other level. Gareth I feel could give the show more bang for it’s buck, and even discover new fight/action talent that could shine in the project like this.
The only way I see Marvel pulling Fist is if they got serious interest from Evans to make a film, rather than a 13-episode run for Netflix. We know that Marvel isn’t keen on making R-rated films, but are more open to grittier content for Netflix. It’s hard to say that Marvel would just start rolling out R-rated films, even if the Blade rumor is to be trusted.
Let’s talk characters, who should and will likely be apart of the Iron Fist series?
It’s already well established that Danny Rand will indeed be the main hero, but while he’s traditionally a white American character. That could be slightly altered to give a bit more diverse angle to the hero, as we’ve seen the “white-knight” in the far East trope more than our fair share.
While I’ve mentioned a desire to see Dan Stevens (The Guest) play Rand, I have a completely open mind to an Asian actor playing him as well, and I’d hope Marvel does too.
There are plenty of Asian-American actors that could do the role justice including, Daniel Wu, Sung Kang, Will Yun Lee (The Wolverine, Elektra, Red Dawn, San Andreas), and I’ve also heard people suggest Daniel Henney as well.
If they wanted to nab an actual martial artist Jon Foo, wouldn’t be a terrible choice.
The gun-totting Orson Randall, could also be apart of the series if they’re going by the more recent Immortal run. He’s basically an homage to Chow Yun Fat in all those classic Hong Kong John Woo movies, they might as well actually consider getting him for the role. There has been talk he’s unable to make films in China, which could make him a bit more open to American projects.
It’s assumed via Daredevil Easter Eggs that the villain of the series will be Davos aka The Steel Serpent. His symbol is the logo used on the bags of Madame Goa’s heroin. Davis is a character that is pretty much Rand’s evil twin, having a very similar costume. He aligns himself with Hydra and on a mission to destroy Rand along with stealing his powers.
I’m sure plenty of actors could play Davos, but I see Lee Byung Hun (I Saw The Devil, G.I. Joe 1-2, Red 2, Terminator Genisys) in the part. Marvel Television has already recruited from G.I. Joe for Elektra, they might as well do it again.
I’ve been quite vocal on my desire to see Madame Hydra finally get involved in the MCU, a shared character as Fox owns the Viper side of the character (used in The Wolverine but altered as a mutant). Marvel owns everything else about her, including the names and connections to Hydra, thanks to being first introduced in Captain America comics.
One thing about the character that I believe might get tossed is her Eastern European roots, which seemingly would be a bit too similar to Scarlet Witch. Giving her more of an Asian background might be the way to go. Perhaps, combining her origin with villains such as Invaders villain Lady Lotus and Black Widow’s assassin nemesis Black Lotus.
Mainly, this would work because Ophelia Sarkissian is ruler of the fictional Asian island nation Madirpoor (south of Singapore) and has diplomatic immunity due to this, allowing her to make the island nation a hot-bed of terrorist and criminal organizations. Maybe this is where Madame Goa resides?
Madripoor is a small island nation south of Singapore in the Indonesian archipelago. Conquered by freebooters centuries ago, its heritage of piracy evolved into the present laissez-faire government, permitting virtually any business transaction provided that the status quo is not threatened. Madripoor does not allow criminal extradition from within its borders, making it an exotic diplomatic haven for many international criminals, who help maintain the island’s stability through a sophisticated system of corruption.
Sarkissian’s involvement in the series could also lead to the inclusion of Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman, who along with Hydra has connections to her origins.
I could see someone with action chops like Kelly Hu eyed for the role, that’s if they decide to switch up her background slightly.
One of those groups could be the Serpent Society, which could be a splinter group of Hydra. Marvel’s Kevin Feige faked-out fans when announcing the third Captain America film would be Serpent Society, only to reveal it would actually be Civil War. This would make it easily to connect characters like Steel Serpent, Madame Goa, Madame Hydra, and other villains like The Hand into one antagonist force the Defenders can take down, without having to rely on only Hydra which is already being used by Agents of SHIELD. A street/political/criminal level threat that might be to the scale that would have them able to tackle without the help of the Avengers.
Davos in the Immortal Iron Fist comics is aligned with Hydra, but having him apart of Serpent Society would a way to keep this about Fist. Also, planting seeds for a greater threat for Captain America and others in the MCU down the line.
Along with Steel Serpent being one of Rand’s more traditional villains, Master Khan could also play a role in the series as well.
Since K’un-Lun is a fictional nation it could mean that casting it’s inhabitance could have various Asian actors hired, not just Chinese. Characters like Yu-Ti and Lei Kung The Thunderer (father of Davos), could really be played by anyone.
Although, I’d hope to see legendary Japanese actor Kôji Yakusho (13 Assassins, World of Kanako, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Babel, Memoirs of A Geisha) in one of the mentor roles.
While Misty Knight has been Danny’s love interest, her partner Colleen Wing of the private-eye team Daughters of The Dragon has also spent time working alongside Rand as well, which also developed into a relationship. Colleen would make an excellent female lead in a series like this, and could help the chances of a Daughters of The Dragon series in the future. Think of a character on the level of The Bride from Kill Bill, which could be very cool in the MCU and slightly different from what we’ll be getting with Elektra.
Li Bingbing (Transformers 4, Resident Evil, The Forbidden Kingdom) would make an great candidate due to her pervious association with genre projects, and abilities concerning fight scenes.
For ages Marvel has been trying to make a movie starring their first martial arts character Shang-Chi The Master of Kung Fu. It’s the type of character that could be the next Punisher or Elektra, which might lead to his own series. He’d make an excellent martial arts team-up character for the Defenders, and it’s about time this longstanding hero finally get’s his live-action debut.
While I do believe we’ll be getting an American actor in the role of Danny Rand, Shang-Chi could easily be played by a Hong Kong or mainland Chinese actor.
I personally want to see Donnie Yen (Star Wars: Rogue One, Blade 2, Grandmaster, Ip Man) as Shang-Chi, that’s if his Star Wars contract allows him to be involved with a series. Yen’s films are already heavily apart of the Netflix on-demand content, it only makes sense they’d finally land him for one of their shows. Shang-Chi is hugely influenced by Bruce Lee, and considering Donnie played Lee’s teacher Ip Man, it’s yet another strong reason to consider him for the part.
One of the lesser known Asian characters in the Marvel cinematic universe is Jimmy Woo, a SHEILD Agent and leader of the Agents of Atlas. Jimmy could easily start out as NYC Detective just like Misty Knight. Perhaps, covering the crime in Chinatown and Hell’s Kitchen.
I think Rick Yune (Fast and Furious, Die Another Day, Olympus Has Fallen, Marco Polo, Ninja Assassin, Snow Falling On Cedars) could be a really solid choice for Jimmy Woo, but I could also seem him in the Davos role as well.
If the role led to a Agents of Atlas series that could be very interesting indeed.
Would it be so terrible if a Kung Fu inspired comic book adaptation actually focused on a majority of Asian characters?