If you’re a fan of Marvel’s television and movie productions, chances are you heard a ton of negative buzz around the cinematic IMAX premiere of Marvel’s Inhumans this summer. Having not seen the show in the theater, I waited until it made it onto the network schedule to pass judgement, and I’m glad I did. Having now watched the first three episodes, I can honestly say I’m stunned at the outpouring of criticism the show received. I can’t come up with a single reason why this show is any worse than any other comic-based property on TV at the moment.
While trying to avoid any spoilers, lets see how this show actually stacks up, and why I think you’d do yourself a disservice if you missed it.
The story of how Inhumans made it to television is a well-known dumpster fire. Originally planned as a movie, Marvel Studios delayed, then cancelled the film, only to make the Inhumans a central part of their television universe on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. However, the TV Inhumans were only those still on Earth: first, an isolated community of them, then all the half-human descendants that were activated by accident. The key characters in the Inhumans saga — the royal family — remained notably absent. The Inhumans TV show finally shows us what’s going on with the royals, and how they react to Earth suddenly “discovering” their existence.
To be fair, the show does have some flaws, like any comic book show is going to. The Inhumans’ knowledge of Earth technology seems inconsistent — some of them know about cars, others don’t; they monitor NASA satellite feeds but don’t know about cell phone cameras or how money works. And of course, they all speak perfect English. It’s also not clear exactly how the show fits in with the broader TV universe — no explicit mention of SHIELD yet, for example — but it’s only 3 episodes in. And the way they’re handling some of the character’s powers is a bit disappointing, especially Medusa’s hair, most likely for budget reasons.
But these are minor quibbles with the show, the kind that hard-core comic geeks would debate on SciFi.SE, but certainly not the kind that would send the average viewers, or reviewers into a tizzy. Overall, the show seems just as good as any of the other DC or Marvel shows it’s competing against. Sure, it’s no Daredevil, but that’s comparing apples to oranges. I find it just as entertaining thus far as Arrow or Lucifer, and definitely off to a better start than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The acting is good overall, especially Anson Mount’s Black Bolt, who’s forced to emote without being able to speak. Even my biggest concern, Iwan Rheon, manages to play a sinister, borderline-psychopathic bad guy without a hint of Ramsay Bolton in him.
The plot is pretty standard fare, and so far it’s been handled pretty well, following the basic characteristics of the comics storyline, but tying in with the background provided by Agents. A few of the character’s actions are questionable, but not overly so. The characters have well-defined personalities, they behave in ways that are mostly reasonable, and you’re never really taken “out” of the moment by a character doing something incredibly stupid. The motivations and reactions of all the Inhumans, good and bad, seem genuine. Even the humans are reacting in a way that’s more sensible than you’d normally see: some of them buddy up to the Inhumans with no qualms, others are terrified of them, and the authorities only intervene when things go badly.
The show has done a decent job of introducing a complex society on Atillan, and all it’s appropriate social issues, in just a few minutes. If you had no idea who the Inhumans are, you’d be brought up to speed fairly quick. People familiar with the comics will recognize the royal family right away: Black Bolt, Medusa, Gorgon, Triton, Crystal, Karnak, Maximum, and of course, Lockjaw. New fans, though, will have no problem figuring out who’s who pretty fast. Some of them are lifted straight from the comics, others have had their powers tweaked a bit, but all of them are introduced smoothly (either by demonstration or flashback) in a way that’s far less exposition-heavy than many such ensemble shows.
The show is still getting off it’s feet, but with a short run, I’m expecting things to pick up fast. After the terrible reception it got, it appears the narrative is already being set up that Inhumans was always meant to be a one-shot mini series. (Of course, if the ratings are good and people love it, we all know it will get a second season). I suspect that the choice to go to IMAX right away set this show up for failure a bit; while I can’t see any reason for people to reject it as a show, I can imagine how it would look as a two-hour movie on a huge screen, with some of the network-TV-budget effects and the feeling that you only saw the first act of a movie. Hopefully ABC/Disney doesn’t try this experiment again, because if it does turn people off from this show, it’s doing the TV audience a great disservice.
Give this show a chance; you can still watch it on ABC’s web site or On Demand if you have the appropriate TV providers. I think most of you will find it far more enjoyable than the initial reactions would dictate.