Many critics have been calling The Inhumans the Marvel Mainstream Media Universe’s first real failure, even before its first episode toured select IMAX theatres. Now that it has made its small-screen debut, it’s time to discuss whether Lockjaw and his pals will fetch a television audience.
Titles: “Behold… The Inhumans” / “Those Who Would Destroy Us”
Directed by Roel Reiné
Written by Scott Buck
Based on characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Anson Mount as Black Bolt
Serinda Swan as Medusa
Ken Leung as Karnak
Eme Ikwuakor as Gorgon
Isabelle Cornish as Crystal
Iwan Rheon as Maximus
Ellen Woglom as Louise
Mike Moh as Triton
Sonya Balmores as Auran
Henry Ian Cusick as Dr. Evan Declan
Michael Buie as King Agon
Tanya Clarke as Queen Rynda
Chad James Buchanan as Dave
With Fox holding the film rights to the popular X-Men, Marvel has tried in recent years to play up the similar, but far less successful, Inhumans. A planned Inhumans movie they ultimately replaced with this television series, in which humans come close to discovering the group’s hidden refuge just as the king’s brother plots a coup.
The concept has potential. We don’t entirely like the protagonists, and we can sympathize with Maximus’s treason. The show’s creators may have played that even more, rather than ham-handedly showing us Maximus’s villainous, personal motives and trying to assure us the royal family really aren’t the spoiled twits they appear to be. Nevertheless, the concept has potential. Someone said at a recent Con that this could have been Marvel’s Game of Thrones. That may be a teleportation jump too far, but the potential for something like that exists in this source material.
The show does do a decent job with the fun aspects—Gorgon making quips and Lockjaw being Lockjaw….
…but overall, these episodes didn’t keep me interested.
The Inhuman extras don’t stand out at all. I know the budget doesn’t allow the comic-book shots of crowds of odd-looking demihumans, but the show could have tried a little harder. Without obvious differences and strange powers, the Inhumans are just another bunch of weird superheroes, and any attempt to make them a metaphor for the outsiders and the oppressed—and such attempts appear, awkwardly, in the pilot—feels forced, and begs comparison with the superior X-Men movies.
Originality: 2/6 The Inhumans were fairly original, but we’re watching an adaptation that comes after years of X-Men movies and which does very little new with the source material.
Effects: 4/6 The quality of the visual effects ranges more than Lockjaw. The big teleporting pooch looks pretty good, as do now-standard effects, such as car crashes and the moon’s surface. Other visual effects, such as Medusa’s living tresses, come courtesy of surprisingly mediocre CGI. Kirby’s concepts can be difficult to translate, but the Marvel films have done a good job with comic-book characters and craziness. For the most part, the designers fail dismally here.
Acting: 4/6 The characters are weak, and the actors aren’t particularly up to the challenge. Eme Ikwuakor is amusing as Gorgon, but not onscreen very often. Serinda Swan and Sonya Balmores have potential as Medusa and Auranhas, which becomes most apparent once their characters arrive on earth. Maximus gets one really good supervillainous threat, and he doesn’t make it especially scary. Black Bolt, who cannot speak without wreaking havoc, requires an actor of the best caliber. Anson Mount isn’t him.
Production: 4/6 The overall production proves more inconsistent than the effects. Great shots of Hawaii contrast with a Great Refuge that has no consistent design aesthetic at all. Attilan appears to have been thrown together from leftover set parts and stolen hotel furniture.
Crystal looks like a teenager who tried to do something edgy with her hair and failed. The considerable powers of her comic-book counterpart are left underused thus far.
Story: 4/6 They needed to build up or at least suggest the complexity of the situation before throwing us into a revolt against a spoiled royal family who are supposed to develop as heroes but, at present, aren’t especially likeable. Instead, we have an unevenly-paced drama that has potential, but is unlikely to remain on air long enough to tap it.
Emotional Response: 3/6
Overall: 4/6 When Marvel abandoned plans for a movie, Inhumans should have been retooled as the next step for the MCU, a prestige, story-arc based TV series. Instead, we get the kind of show that might have succeeded a few decades ago, when fewer SF/Fantasy series battled for audience attention, and expectations were lower. The first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the anniversary of which we recently celebrated, was far less impressive than what followed. But Star Trek had a large, established fan base and few competitors in genre TV at the time. The Inhumans have always sat on the fringe of Marvel’s universes and SF and Fantasy permeate the mainstream. The script desperately lacks the wit and characterization that propelled Marvel’s similarly-obscure Guardians of the Galaxy to stardom.
In total, “Behold… The Inhumans” / “Those Who Would Destroy Us” receive 25/42