Saturday, September 30, 2017
QUICK THOUGHTS ON INHUMANS PREMIERE
I write this essay the day after a two-hour INHUMANS "film" premiered on ABC-TV. This broadcast premiere follows what has been described as a "disaster," when the same two hours debuted exclusively on IMAX theatre-screens.
I had no high hopes for this franchise. In my review of the 1998 Jenkins/Lee graphic novel, I commented that the characters had failed to enjoy success in comic books partly because they were "static." Of course, the history of the comics-characters doesn't speak to their potential as a franchise in other media-- look at ANT-MAN, a marked failure in the medium of his birth but an adequate performer in his cinematic makeover. But, prior to the debut of the INHUMANS show, Marvel Television attempted to boost the appeal of the franchise by interweaving a very vague version of the Lee-Kirby concept in with the story-lines of their currently-running teleseries AGENTS OF SHIELD. I found these Inhumans-Shield stories witless and tedious, but that was no surprise, since SHIELD had been witless and tedious even before it started trying to build up the Inhumans. Clearly ABC-TV was forcing one modestly popular franchise to attempt supporting a completely unknown entity. It's been suggested that one reason for this strategy was that, seeing how 20th-Century Fox had profited from their cinematic rights to the X-Men, Marvel Entertainment wanted a new set of "merry mutates" over which it had exclusive control.
However, the SHIELD show did not adapt the classical "Royal Family" or any support-characters from various versions of the comics-franchise. Thus, the ABC pilot was free to build upon those characters with no reference to anything that had happened on the SHIELD show. That show merely alluded to the comics' idea of the "terrigen mists" through which the Inhuman citizens of Attilan mutate themselves in new, often fantastic, sometimes super-powered forms. Thus the two-hour film introduces audiences to the Royal Family who have always been the stars of the INHUMANS franchise-- Attilan's monarch Black Bolt and his super-powered cousins, Gorgon, Karnak, Medusa, Triton, and Crystal. The pilot also introduces the family's pet Lockjaw, a colossal canine with a penchant for teleportation, and Black Bolt's scheming brother Maximus.
I won't review the two-hour film, in part because it's a continued story that may not be resolved until the last of the show's eight episodes. I can to some extent understand why anyone who splurged to see the film in IMAX would feel cheated, for in terms of production, it's just another TV-movie. Sets and FX are more expensive than they would be for a commonplace SF-themed teleseries, but they can't compare with the outlay for Real Hollywood Features. If you're looking for big-budget eye-candy, the INHUMANS two-parter is not for you.
Still, I'm amazed that anyone would call this "jaw droppingly awful television." The characters are not precisely the same as their comics-templates, but that may be a plus, since the Royal Family has sometimes come off like a bunch of royal bores. Scott Buck is credited as the "showrunner," which presumably means that INHUMANS is written by a team of scripters. But Buck or someone has devoutly researched the original comics-series, with good effect to the dramatic arcs for the show's seven main characters (eight if you count the dog). One of the better moments, in which Evil Maximus shears away Medusa's formidable tresses, is taken from the Jenkins-Lee graphic novel. Not every arc is equally entertaining. But if there's even one good arc-- such as the complex relationship between Black Bolt, his wife Medusa, and Maximus, who desires his brother's wife-- that's one more good arc than AGENTS OF SHIELD has.
I've encountered some complaints about the quality of the FX. I admit I can see some flaws-- especially with the animation of Medusa's prehensile locks-- but it's not that much worse than most of the FX on television. Slightly flawed CGI doesn't bother me. I grew up seeing most of the TV-aliens sport zippers in their backs.
I might dislike a lot of the behind-the-scenes deal-making, but the dubious machinations of the SHIELD-INHUMANS crossovers certainly didn't make SHIELD any worse than it already was. The debut for the show proper has some decent character moments and some interesting plot-developments. (Lockjaw uses his teleport-power to dump Black Bolt in the middle of a New York street. Howcum???)
I've seen many, many TV-debuts weaker and less appealing than THE INHUMANS. It's rumored that it will never get any more episodes due to the IMAX failure, which proves that whoever engineered that idea was a complete idiot. But it doesn't prove that Scott Buck's INHUMANS deserves to be dumped on in egregious fashion-- particularly when AGENTS OF SHIELD is a much deserving target.