Marvel's Inhumans has had the worst start of any Marvel TV property yet, but it might not be time to give up entirely on the latest addition to the MCU. Inhumans has never had an easy time with the MCU, originally planned as a movie and the next big thing for the Marvel Universe. However, the project slowly disintegrated in development hell, being downgraded from a film franchise to a TV series, and then only an eight-episode series.
The first two episodes of Inhumans were released in IMAX, but far from becoming the massive event that Marvel hoped for, the big launch resulted in a slew of terrible reviews. Critics have slammed almost everything about the series, from the bargain-basement special effects to the 'wooden' acting to the world-building to the story itself. And while there was a brief possibility that the reviews might actually drum up interest in the premiere, the show's first two episodes fell very flat. Despite all its issues, though, it may not be time to give up on Inhumans yet - and the reviews aren't the only measure of its potential success.
Reviews Vs. Statistics
While the reviews are mostly negative, they aren't necessarily backed up by the numbers. Inhumans may not be breaking any box-office records with their IMAX event (as Marvel surely hoped that they would), but financially, it wasn't the flop that the reviews would suggest. While it only brought in 1.3 million on its opening weekend, those numbers need some context to make sense.
For one thing, Inhumans had the third highest per-screen average for a movie showing on more than 100 screens - making it one of the most successful per-screen films of that weekend. In addition, it's impossible to really compare an IMAX event for a TV show to those films that are only intended for the big screen. There is little doubt that many Marvel fans decided not to go to the IMAX event, but instead waited for the show to launch on the small screen - and would have done so regardless of what the reviews said.
The ratings, as well, are not as bad as one might think from the reviews - in fact, Inhumans' ratings were on a par with Agents of SHIELD's season 4 premiere. Admittedly, Agents of SHIELD is far from an unqualified success for Marvel, but it's still being renewed after four seasons, which means that those ratings are not necessarily poor enough to sound the death knell for the show. In addition, that IMAX release may mean that there is actually an upswing in ratings after the first two episodes, as those fans who saw the premiere in theaters would have been unlikely to re-watch it on tv, but may well tune back in for episode three.
The IMAX Mistake
The biggest mistake that Inhumans has made so far, in fact, was the decision to premiere the first two episodes in IMAX. It's a decision that skewed both the box office figures for the IMAX event, and (potentially) the ratings for the actual TV premiere, making both seem less successful than they should have. In addition, premiering a TV show in IMAX theaters meant getting the reviews in well ahead of time - and when those reviews are not positive, they are enough to drive potential audiences away from watching the actual show.
Even those who did watch the show after the bad reviews came in may not have given it quite the chance that it deserved. Inhumans is not a series with a big budget, and IMAX is the worst possible way to showcase cheaper CGI. Effects that may have passed muster on the small screen looked breathtakingly awful in an IMAX format - which led to them being highlighted in bad reviews. Then, when the show actually premiered, audiences who read the reviews were looking out for the less-than-phenomenal effects, when they may have been more likely to overlook them had they not made headlines for weeks prior to the first episode.
The time between the first reviews and the first episode was just long enough to create a negative buzz around the series, and to lead to viewers tuning in specifically to see how bad it is... and when an audience is expecting the worst, they are unlikely to change their minds when the show itself is simply mediocre.