The MCU has been riding high when it comes to the big screen, but will the repeated mistakes of Marvel TV - most recently with the major misstep of Inhumans and its IMAX release - hurt the brand?
Its airing on ABC is only just upon us, but it's hard not to describe Inhumans as a failure. The Marvel TV project focusing on the long-standing C-list property has been a problematic prospect from the start - as we'll see, it was at the center of a major rift in the company - but its realization couldn't have been worse. After a string of poor character reveals and trailers, the show arrives with a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and a weak box office opening. It's such a mess that when defending it the cast and crew can't even call on the well-worn "it's not for the critics, it's for the fans" defense because even die-hards dislike it.
But being bad (and in case that's not been made abundantly clear, Inhumans is bad) and arriving on TV with minimal fanfare are the least of the problems. Sure, we're unlikely to get a Season 2 unless there's a major late-season turnaround and showrunner Scott Buck (who already delivered a Marvel dud with Iron Fist earlier this year) is running out of chances, but the real problem is what it means for the wider MCU.
Marvel TV Isn't Marvel Studios
Brief history lesson. Marvel Studios was founded in the mid-2000s and produces all the MCU movies (which are at present uber-successful to the tune of $12 billion box office worldwide). It was originally part of Marvel Entertainment, sitting alongside comics, merchandise, TV et al. This changed in 2015 when mounting tensions between Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter and Studios President Kevin Feige reached fever pitched; Marvel Studios was removed from under the wider Marvel banner and now reports directly to Disney Motion Picture Studios.
The movie and TV divisions were already separate to a degree, with crossovers unlikely; Agent Coulson is as good as dead in the movie continuity and the entire Netflix Defenders enterprise only happened because Feige didn't have any plans for Daredevil (the same is true of Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). However, this studio shift meant that, while both wings still inhabit the same fictional universe, they have no creative link.
There's a lot of repercussions from this and the dispansion of the Creative Committee - if you've noticed an uptick in quality in the films and their marketing since (compare Age of Ultron to Civil War), this is why - but the biggest casualty was Inhumans.
Inhumans Were Meant To Be Marvel's Next Big Thing
When it was first announced, Inhumans was going to be a movie released on November 2, 2018 - between the two-parts of Avengers: Infinity War. This was just the first step in a major shift across Marvel that would see the Royal Family essentially replace the X-Men due to Fox owning those movie rights; the comics gained pride of place just as mutant runs were being canceled and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. began heavily setting it up in its second season. The only hitch was that Kevin Feige didn't like the idea. This was clearly a move from the pure business man Perlmutter and for whatever reason it didn't fit the producer's Infinity gameplan. Whether this was the cause of the duo's rift or just a catalyst is unknown, but once the two corporate entities separated it was dropped from the slate and tossed back to Marvel Entertainment.
Undeterred, Ike continued without him and set the property to debut on TV - but not just as ny TV show. This was billed as an event, with an eight-episode run promising quality over quantity and an IMAX premiere that seemingly bridged Marvel TV and the realm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper. Per Buck, it was going to "feel like a movie". If the CEO couldn't have any say in the movies, he'd get Inhumans on the silver screen another way.
After being torn away from each other, Marvel TV is starting to try and square up to Marvel Studios - and failing terribly. But that's all insular; to casual audiences on the outside, there's just one big red logo. It is all connected, after all.