So who exactly is “Inhumans,” a new Marvel Television series that premiered on ABC this past Friday and in IMAX theaters in early September, aimed at? I’m not just producing this question because I despised it and that means nobody else could ever like it, I’m producing this question because it seems like it was produced from the ground up to both irritate comic book geeks and confuse newbies. Those well-versed in the mythology of these Inhumans characters form their half-a-century of appearances in various Marvel comics will be befuddled at how all the stylized elements of these characters have been tossed away in the name of budget constraints and replaced with thoroughly boring storytelling. Meanwhile, the world of the Inhumans and especially the superpowers of individual characters are so poorly explained that I can’t imagine someone who isn’t already familiar with the Inhumans being able to follow along.
In the end, the closest answer I can conjure up to my initial query is that “Inhumans” is aimed at nobody simply because nobody should have to endure a show this anemic in quality. Yes, “Inhumans” is indeed terrible as it sinks to new lows for Marvel Television. The worst episodes of “Agents of SHIELD” and that “Iron Fist” calamity (the latter of which was created by the same guy who created this “Inhumans” show, Scott Buck) still were better than the two episodes comprising the two-hour series premiere of “Inhumans,” which proves to be not just shoddy, but completely inept from top to bottom. Each new scene becomes more amateurish than the last, the sets are a visual nightmare and…oh dear God, this really is so bad.
For those not in the know, the Inhuman comics revolve around Attilan, a society of human beings who predominately have superpowers in their genes that live in secret on the moon. These superpowers are activated by being exposed to a mystical property known as Terrigen mists. Attilan is ruled by Black Bolt (Anson Mount), a guy whose vocals are so powerful that he can never speak for fear of destroying his city, and Medusa (Serinda Swan), who has red hair that has a mind of its own. Their society falls into a caste system wherein people with superpowers get to live royally while people who aren’t lucky enough to be born with superpowers are sent to work in the mines. One Attilan resident without superpower is Black Bolt’s brother Maximus (Iwan Rohen), who is looking to use societal unrest as a backbone for staging a coup against his brother and stranding Black Bolt, Medusa and two of their closest associates on the Earth location known as Hawaii.
That’s the general plot of these two episodes, which seeks to establish the premise for the rest of this season (there are six episodes left to go in season one) while it also becomes readily apparent that another primary narrative goal of these episodes is to trim out all the cool science-fiction elements of the Inhumans mythology so that the show can be produced at a TV budget. This means “Inhumans” character Triton, a fella with green skin and fins that would require extensive prosthetics to bring to life, is killed off after five minutes of screentime, Medusa gets her super-powered hair shaved off before the first episode is even done and, most egregiously of all, the CGI teleporting bulldog Lockjaw gets around two minutes, tops, of screentime across the 86-minute long season premiere.
If you really can’t do “Inhumans” on TV without getting rid of Lockjaw and Medusa’s hair, maybe you shouldn’t do the Inhuman characters on TV? To be fair, alterations to source material are not inherently a bad thing as the “Hellboy” and “Guardians of The Galaxy” movies have shown, but “Inhumans” tosses out these heightened science-fiction elements and replaces them with suffocatingly boring storytelling. Instead of removing these details of the Inhuman characters in order to explore rich new themes, it’s obvious these elements have been abandoned in the name of cost-efficiency. Using a low-budget as an excuse for slipshod craftsmanship just screams laziness to me, especially since I’ve seen plenty of other TV shows like “Hannibal” and “Legion” (neither of which had IMAX footing their bills) turn out to be visual smorgasbord.
If they weren’t gonna spend money on bulldogs and super-powered red hair, could they at least have tossed some coins towards any other visual aspect of “Inhumans?” Whether it’s the sets, the cinematography, the costumes or the props, these first two episodes of “Inhumans” are absolutely torturous on the eyes. Every room on Attilan is coated in the same drab grey color, it all resembles an abandoned prison more than a regal palace in terms of a color scheme. Meanwhile, the costumes are similarly terrible, with poor Black Bolt being adorned in some sort of black leather outfit ripped straight out of Bryan Singer’s 2000 X-Men movie. Instead of channeling the gorgeous visual stylings of Jack Kirby, the “Inhumans” TV show is instead channeling the visual look of Space Mutiny so closely that I’m shocked Cameron Mitchell didn’t show up as an Inhuman elder.
The characters inhabiting the various drab settings are a total wash too and that’s a pity since the actors seem like they have real talent that’s getting buried underneath abysmal writing and lackluster directing. Anson Mount is probably the only real element of note in the whole series premiere as he does a solid job with his body language in portraying this totally silent character. The rest of the cast comes across as more lost than anything else, with poor Isabelle Cornish as Crystal being stuck in what looks like a Holiday Inn hotel room for the vast majority of her screentime, while Iwan Rheon is a snooze as the villainous Maximus, a character who has one mood (mean but calm) for the entirety of the series premiere — and it gets so old so fast.
Like I said, all these actors get all the potential for them to do something interesting get zapped out of existence by the disastrous writing which is just agonizing, there’s no other word for it. The dialogue (especially the verbal demonstrations of supporting character Karnak’s super-power) is abysmal, but even worse is the way this story is structured; it just feels so sloppy and rushed in the way it parses out character development and major plot turns. For instance, Black Bolt has a tragic backstory involving him inadvertently killing his parents that’s abruptly introduced in a manner that left me in stitches while screentime devoted to key supporting characters Karnak and Gorgon in the second episode of the series feel like the ultimate example of storytelling padding as these two just chill out in Hawaii on their own individual adventures that are exceedingly boring to watch.
The apex of botched execution of supposedly crucial plot points easily comes towards the first episode of Inhumans when Maximus shaves off Medusa’s hair. A shot of him just before he commits this act is yet another intended to be serious moment that just had me rolling over in laughter as Maximus clutches the most generic looking pair of shavers ever (couldn’t they give him a science-fiction weapon to cut her hair off with?) while the composition of this shot and the chosen camera angle don’t exude a sense of menace at all. If you flipped over to ABC right as this moment was transpiring, you’d think you’d stumbled onto some Sports Clips endorsed reality show involving haircuts. “Inhumans” isn’t that though, instead, it’s total garbage and that’s putting it gently. Yes, it’s aggravating the Inhumans TV show tosses out so much of its source material, but even removed from the comic books its based on, it’s still an absolutely awful piece of television programming with garish visuals and dismal writing.
Douglas Laman is a film critic,who, when not watching movies, attends Collin College, hangs out with friends and… watches movies. For more of his work and ramblings, visit his website at www.landofthenerds.blogspot.com