Shang-Chi will be Marvel Studio's first martial arts film, but it won't be the MCU's first foray into the genre. That distinction belongs to Iron Fist, though the Netflix series can serve as a model for what Marvel shouldn't do with Shang-Chi, particularly in terms of the show's approach to martial arts. After all, Iron Fist's applications of kung fu was one of the show's most glaring flaws.
In December, it was reported that a movie about Shang-Chi was moving forward at Marvel Studios, with Godzilla and Wonder Woman 1984 writer David Callaham hired to pen the script. Destin Daniel Cretton was recently brought on to direct. Shang-Chi will be the first Marvel film to feature an Asian character in the lead role, and alhough there have been no official announcements on the future of the MCU after Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home, it's expected to be one of the new movie franchises introduced at some point in MCU Phase 4.
First appearing in 1973, Shang-Chi is a Chinese martial artist and the son of a criminal mastermind known as Fu Manchu. After being trained by his father to be a master of kung fu and a weapon for his evil organization, Shang-Chi rebelled and became a force for good. The character, who was inspired at least in part by Bruce Lee, was created at a time where the kung fu genre was at the height of its popularity and headlined his own comic book series for several years during the 1970s and the 1980s.
Both Marvel's Shang-Chi and Iron Fist were products of the kung fu craze, and now, in the 21st century, the latter can provide a roadmap to the former in live-action.
- This Page: Iron Fist's Martial Arts Mistakes
- Page 2: What Shang-Chi Must Do Differently
Iron Fist's Fundamental Problem Was The Martial Arts
Of all the Marvel-Netflix shows, Iron Fist was considered the most underwhelming. Critics called it Marvel and Netflix's first disappointment, citing its slow start, lack of interesting characters, and protracted plot. But perhaps the sharpest criticism was leveled at what should have been Iron Fist's greatest draw: the action scenes.
Audiences would expect a TV series about a martial artist to be filled with exciting, realistic, and well-choreographed fight scenes. Unfortunately, Iron Fist totally failed to deliver, paling in comparison to the likes of Daredevil. Fight scenes in Iron Fist were slammed for being awkward, mediocre, and slow, with numerous camera cuts in every sequence making it difficult to follow the action, although without them the poor choreography would have only been more obvious.
Weaker action is a common complaint of TV shows where the actors involved are untrained and is often excusable when martial arts aren't the project's primary focus. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with Iron Fist.
How Iron Fist Made Such A Big Mistake
Many have wondered what exactly went wrong with Iron Fist. Ultimately, it was that the show was rushed. The extremely tight production schedule for season 1 didn't provide Iron Fist star Finn Jones with nearly enough time to adequately prepare for his role. According to Jones, he received just three weeks of martial arts training before filming of season 1 began, and in some cases had only 15 minutes to practice specific fight scenes before shooting them.
Given that, it's little wonder why Iron Fist's action scenes were so uninspired; if more time and effort had been put into the martial arts choreography, the final result would have been much more polished. But even with the time constraints of the Defenders project, these problems could have been easily avoided. If the showrunners weren't interested in setting aside enough time and resources to properly prepare Finn Jones, then perhaps a different actor should have been cast. An experienced martial artist would have required less training.
Of course, Jones' lack of training isn't the root of the problem. What all kung fu TV shows and movies need are people working in the cast and crew who understand the genre and have experience in bringing it to life on the big - or small - screen.
Page 2 of 2: What Shang-Chi Must Do Differently To Iron Fist
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019