Iron Fist is no stranger to controversy, and the latest aspect of the show fans have taken issue with are the fight scenes.
Or rather, one scene in particular. In this one 35-second scene, there are more than 50 cuts. The scene has been ripped apart by fans and critics for the lackluster fight choreography between two characters, but it’s not just this scene where Danny Rand’s martial arts aren’t up to par.
Rand’s movements are slower and choppier than his other Marvel counterparts — specifically Daredevil and Jessica Jones — who were able to perform similar action scenes looking less awkward while doing it.
One of the most memorable fight scenes in Daredevil occurs in its first season. The shot is done in a single take and features Daredevil taking on a number of men in a dimly lit hallway.
Daredevil’s stunt coordinator, Philip J. Silvera, told The Observer back in 2015 that they wanted to do it in one shot and slow down the actual scene to create a raw, animalistic feeling. The hallway scene, as it’s become known by fans of the series, was the first introduction to what Marvel and Netflix could do.
It didn’t stop there, though. Jessica Jones was also lauded for its fight scenes. One of the show’s earliest fights take place in Luke Cage’s bar and stunt coordinator Chris Place said they spent a lot of time figuring out how to introduce the characters in that scene. Place said they spent time with lead actress Krysten Ritter to ensure the fight choreography they were coming up with matched the tone of the actress and the character.
“Jessica doesn’t have a fight style,” Place told TV Insider. “She doesn’t throw moves or block any punches, so it’s a lot of pushing and shoving and throwing people across the room. Krysten basically would be Jessica Jones to a T. Her personality actually helped define what she would be doing, which was great. Just literally using her super strength to throw people and kicking guys between the legs.”
Iron Fist’s fight scenes don’t have the style or grace that the scenes in Jessica Jones and Daredevil do. The poor martial arts in Iron Fist — ironic considering the entire series is about a kung-fu expert — have actually become the latest round of jokes surrounding the series. It’s even led to the latest meme, which takes inspiration from an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where Mac wants to be a jiu-jitsu expert.
I don't know what everyone is complaining about. The fight scenes in Iron Fist are fantastic. pic.twitter.com/K3dh44gfOR— Living Marble (@living_marble) March 20, 2017
The question is why Iron Fist’s fight scenes are as slow-paced, boring and problematic as they are. Finn Jones, who plays the titular hero, said a large part of it came from not having the proper time to practice. In an interview with The Telegraph, Jones said if he had more time, he would have been able to pull off better routines.
“Unfortunately, with the filming schedule, I wasn’t given as much time as I would have liked to continue the training,” Jones said. “I was learning those fight scenes just 15 minutes before we shot them, because that was the schedule ... It would be 2 am, 3 am, I’d just done a long day of work, and usually the stunt department would come up and say ‘Hey, right, we’ve got this huge 30 person fight and you’ve got to learn it right now.’ So I was learning it on the spot, within 15-20 minutes, and then shooting it. That was the reality for six months.”
Unlike Jones, however, fight scenes starring other actors in the show, like Jessica Henwick, have been praised. Henwick’s scene where she fights a couple of men during a cage match, for example, has received acclaim from critics and fans, many of whom have called the moment the best fight scene in the series.
So far Colleen's cage fight is the best fight in the show #IronFist— UltraSuperNova (@UltraSuperNova2) March 18, 2017
In an interview with Metro, Henwick said that although the hours were grueling, she put in the effort to make sure the fight scenes came off as authentic.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s painful to shoot those. It’s painful physically because a normal film day is 12 hours, and on those cage fights we were doing just the cage fights for two days in a row,” Henwick said. “So it was just 12 hours of me grinding my body down, but it’s so much fun. Like I had the real crowd there and they were cheering me on; they were like ‘yeah girl get it!’
“When you’re an extra and you’re going in for a fight scene, they just expect to come and see the stunt double do everything and me to come in and do some expression shots. But really, if you watch it you can see, I’m in it.”
With confusion over how the scenes came out as badly as they did, people have been putting blame on the choreographers and editors. Director Lexi Alexander tackled those comments earlier today on Twitter, and said that as someone who worked with choreographed fight scenes quite often in her career, it was usually not the fault of the editor working on the project.
I don't know the choreographer or the editor, I just hate when crew members get the blame for something that was clearly not their fault.— Lexi Alexander (@Lexialex) March 21, 2017
Alexander added that it’s part of the actor’s job to ensure they feel comfortable with the choreography and practice until they’re sure they know what they’re doing. It makes the job of the editor — who turns it into a coherent fight — much easier.
There isn’t a specific reason as to why the scenes don’t deliver the impact they should, but many people are pointing to Jones’ performance as the reason.
Iron Fist is currently available to stream in its entirety on Netflix. Be sure to check out our review of the first six episodes before diving in.