Marvel's Inhumans finally comes to the small screen this week, after a long journey that saw it bumped from the film roster last year. Instead of becoming a central part of the big screen MCU, Inhumans is now coming to life as a mini-series; eight episodes to introduce the Inhuman Royal Family and their powers to the Marvel Universe.
The show introduces the Inhumans on Attilan, and begins with Maximus (Iwan Rheon) staging a coup to overthrow Black Bolt (Anson Mount). As he takes over the city, the other Royals must flee to Earth, where they find a very different world than the one they left. It's a fantastic concept with an amazing cast, and one that has a clear place in the Marvel Universe... but at this point, it looks like it's a flop before the premiere even airs.
The IMAX Gamble That Didn't Pay Off
While Inhumans officially launches tonight, Marvel made the interesting decision to reveal the first two episodes ahead of time, in a special IMAX cut released in theaters. It was a completely unprecedented move, clearly intended to drum up hype for the show and give the characters a moment of big-screen glory... but unfortunately, Marvel's gambit didn't really pay off.
Financially, the film grossed only $2.6million worldwide in its opening weekend - far from the must-see event that Marvel may have expected it to be. The decision to go for IMAX, rather than another big screen format was probably part of this; IMAX theaters are less common and more expensive than other formats, prohibitively so, for many.
In addition to the issues of the IMAX event failing financially, it was a bomb critically as well. Hopes weren't high for the show, as trailers had revealed less-than-stellar CGI - which ended up being one of the biggest criticisms of the first two episodes. Again, the decision to go for IMAX, a medium that will show up every flaw in perfect, high-def detail, was a poor one for a show without the budget to manage truly impressive effects. In addition to the low-budget FX, Inhumans has been criticized for its boring costumes, stilted dialogue and less-than-brilliant writing, that does no justice to the comic book characters.
What Does Inhumans Do Well?
While the reviews are damning, there are plenty of elements that do work in Inhumans, although any praise has been largely drowned out by the criticism. For one thing, the cast is phenomenal, and while the writing has been criticized, the actors have been described as a bright spot in the show. The characters themselves are also phenomenal - super-powered, but in very unusual ways. The use of Black Bolt, a character who cannot speak, as a lead is a particularly interesting choice.
In addition, the short season means that the series will not be dragging on, and while it is connected to the wider MCU, it works as a stand-alone story: in this way, Inhumans dodges two of the biggest criticisms that were leveled at Marvel's other inhuman property, Agents of SHIELD. As a Marvel property, it also has the benefit of diehard Marvel fans who are almost guaranteed to tune in, no matter the reviews. The fanbase may not have been enough to make the IMAX launch a success, but that doesn't meant that they won't be tuning in. Some may even have intentionally waited to watch the show until it came to TV. The final positive that Marvel can find, even in the midst of this apparent failure, is that none of the criticisms are inflammatory or controversial. The FX, the writing, the dialogue, the costumes - all of these may be bad, but this is far from another Iron Fist scenario where some fans boycotted the show over concerns of white-washing.