Saturday, September 30, 2017

Review: Marvel's Inhumans (spoiler-free)

I watched the first two episodes of Marvel's Inhumans last night (I did not see the Imax screening a few weeks ago). This is a property that has had a sort of rocky history at Marvel studios; it was originally supposed to be a movie, and then it got downgraded to a TV series at ABC.

Historically, the Inhumans have always played second fiddle to the mutants in the comic-books, but they fill a similar ecological niche (the distrusted and discriminated-against minority, which can stand in for whichever minority morality tale you want to tell), and since Marvel/Disney won't be getting the rights to the X-Men back from Fox anytime soon, using the Inhumans to fill their place in the MCU seems like a logical step. In fact, the other MCU show on ABC at the moment, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., has been using the Inhumans as major story threads for several seasons now, pretty successfully.

So, with this context in mind, I have to say that while I wasn't bowled over by Inhumans, neither was I entirely disappointed in it.

Let's get the obvious out of the way first. The step-down from feature film to television series is obvious when it comes to the special effects and production values in general. Two things in particular stand out as particularly weak in that department, and unfortunately they're pretty critical; Medusa's hair, and the Inhuman city of Attilan.

Medusa's hair is her super-power, and is both prehensile and super-strong. In the comics and cartoons, this is used to great effect, with her hair constantly moving and twirling about, almost subconsciously reflective of her mood (sort of like Doctor Octopus's tentacles in Spider Man 2). In the new show, her hair only moves twice, and doesn't move when it obviously should (the scene stood out to me, and had me saying to the TV, "why doesn't she just grab him with her hair???"). In fact, her hair on the IMDB page for the show moves more than it did in the show. I get it. It's expensive to CGI that stuff. But that's disappointment one.

Disappointment two is the city of Attilan itself. Hidden on the moon (in the comics, it has moved around a lot, which has actually been turned into a feature), the city is a bland collection of sharp edges and while or light gray walls. There is barely a hint of color anywhere to be seen. I get the practical reasoning behind it (since the city is on the moon, the city would have to be built out of lunar regolith), but compared to the Kirby-designed wildness of curves and colors that we see in the comic books, it's jarring. Even to someone not acquainted with the comics, it would come across as bland.

However, I've got to say that other than those two major disappointments, the rest of the show is pretty much as I would expect from an MCU show on ABC. It feels very much like a spin-off of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in terms of the writing and pacing, and I was especially impressed with the writing for the show's villain. The key to a good villain is to give him a believable motivation, and this one certainly does. The acting in general is pretty decent, especially given how tough it is for Anson Mount, who plays Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans, who cannot speak (well, sort of). He goes a little overboard with trying to make his face expressive, but it's only distracting a couple of times.

On the whole, I didn't dislike Marvel's Inhumans nearly as much as I thought I would based on other reviews I've read. It's certainly not the best MCU property out there by a long shot, but neither is it the worst. It's better than some seasons of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and depending on how the rest of the season shakes out, it might beat the second season of Marvel's Agent Carter. If they start to emphasize more just how weird the Inhuman civilization is, that'll be a good thing.

Assuming it doesn't veer into some awful place, I'll be watching the rest of the season. I'd give the first two episodes a solid C+, with the possibility for the whole to move into B- territory once the rest of the season airs.

And Lockjaw? He's a good boy, yes he is!


2 comments:

Mark Craddock said...

Black Bolt is a character that works in comics, but isn't great for TV. I know they are damned if the do, damned if they don't, but maybe a major tweak is needed for Black Bolt on camera.

It's like costumes in comics, in their native medium and animation, they work, but are much harder to pull off on film.

Joseph Bloch said...

I thought the sign language they had him use was a nice touch. But I miss the tuning fork.