Marvel's Inhumans - Was One Season Too Much?
In my current MCU deep dive I have just finished watching the 8 episode season of Inhumans. I must admit that my initial impressions were far better than the critical response it received at release in September 2017 and the relatively poor reception it received on ABC. The show was cancelled after just eight episodes.
It was the best of times... it was the worst of times...
Watching the eight episodes years after they were released, I initially wondered why this entry had been so hated. Ed and I often discuss my adventures throughout the MCU universe. It has been a richly rewarding experience to look at all the framework that goes into Kevin Feige's vision of the Marvel Universe and how that has changed cinematic and television storytelling.
In my discussion with Ed thought we always discuss how the pacing, themes and coherence to the MCU of the television instalments has often been poorly executed for Ed and I, as I have been less than impressed by the totality of the Netflix offerings. However, the previous ABC television shows (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter) have been generally been the most entertaining and energetic of the group. I was hopeful Inhumans would retain some of the energy and fun that can feel sometimes sucked out of the Netflix shows.
Was it hindered by being Prime Time TV?
Inhumans started out with that same big TV studio shine and slightly glammed up story that came with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. I honestly enjoyed being introduced to the characters and learning about the backstory in the first episode. The overarching story arc of two brothers fighting for the kingdom (Thor and Loki anyone?) also was familiar and worked sufficiently well.
At the outset I had some concerns though. The story is about a secret kingdom on the moon. While this kind of story was fun and interesting in the comic book parlance of the 60's (sci-fi and moonrises always went well back then), modern technology make such an idea a bit more of a stretch. I feared that this element of the story could let the rest down if people didn't buy into it.
So were they right?
Is Inhumans terrible and was it a terrific waste of money?
The IMAX Decision
I may agree on the waste of money point - why this was ever considered for IMAX is a mystery to me as it comes from TV and looks like it does. Blown up on an extra large screen (especially with the higher degree of sharpness/contrast that comes with the current TV look) it was bound to look ugly on an IMAX (or more likely it just looked fake).
As I am an indie film producer I take umbrage with this kind of waste as a simple discussion about television appearance and what that would be like on the extra big screen may have saved the studio a lot of money. I do not agree with extravagance for the sake of it (but I also do not run a production company with that kind of money).
Matched against the cost that would be added to production to shoot using IMAX cameras, I imagine the showrunner, Scott Buck, and/or MCU TV Showrunner, Jeph Loeb, were particularly persuasive on this point, but ultimately it was the wrong call (which happens).
The Story and Characters
Some of these elements were really cool. When we finally see Triton in action, anytime we can zip around with Crystal and Lockjaw, Medusa pre-haircut... all of these things were fun and very Marvel. I also like the ensemble cast concept (it's why I love Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men).
There were enough of these elements that I would recommend any MCU fan gives it watch. It's no terrible, but are there are a few "jump the shark moments" that show the concepts in the show borrow tropes from what was popular back in HBO series of the previous decade. I think that is where the disconnect is - there is a failure to acknowledge how modern sentiment has changed the king v workers story.
One of the worst decisions, and I am not sure they had much choice, was to continue to make Black Bolt mute. While it works in a comic book, it was offsetting in my view to have the leader of the ensemble without a way of communicating with them in a way the audience can also react.
I think this is because in ensemble films when the leader speaks, psychologically we feel like he is speaking to us (as we are now part of the adventure). When the leader cannot speak to you, it messes with our perception of him as a leader whether we want it to or not. It was a noble experiment though (a very much like Marvel to try something like that), but ultimately I do not think it works.
Give it a go on Disney+
Inhumans is worth a watch if nothing else to hear some cool Krie backstory that does link nicely with the rest of the MCU. However, this is a far from an essential entry and the worst of the ABC shows so far, so only watch if you really want to catch everything.
Otherwise stick to the Phase 3 films as they won't let you down and represent the pinnacle of MCU script, story and execution - see our latest What Are You Guys Talking About podcast link below for our discussion on the Phase 3 film Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2)
by Jason Cherot - 22 October 2020