Marvel’s Inhumans Anson Mount, Serinda Swan, Iwan Rheon. Directed by Roel Reiné. Not rated. Now playing at Aliante, Red Rock, Sunset Station, Town Square.
At one time, Marvel’s Inhumans characters were set to be adapted into a feature film, but that movie was quietly taken off Marvel Studios’ theatrical schedule last year, with the characters shifted over to the TV division. That could have been a smart move, as plenty of Marvel characters have proved better fits for TV than big-budget movies, but watching the first two episodes of the new ABC series Marvel’s Inhumans (presented theatrically in IMAX for two weeks in advance of the show’s premiere on September 29), it’s clear that the lower-budget, smaller-scale approach was the wrong way to go.
Even a bigger budget wouldn’t have fixed the stilted dialogue, one-dimensional characters and questionable acting, though, which make the many, many talky scenes of palace intrigue a massive chore to get through. Although Inhumans have been part of fellow ABC Marvel series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for several seasons now, in the form of humans who gain superpowers when their latent alien genes are activated by the substance known as Terrigen, the Inhumans on the new show are a slightly different breed, an ancient race who left Earth centuries (or maybe millennia?) ago and live in a secret city called Attilan concealed on the moon. Thanks to the proliferation of new Inhumans on Earth (as seen on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), this previously aloof society has turned its attention back to humanity.
The action in the opening two-part episode is split between Attilan and the area around Honolulu, where various members of the Inhuman royal family find themselves exiled after the scheming Maximus (Iwan Rheon) stages a coup against his brother Black Bolt (Anson Mount), the king of Attilan. The high-level maneuvering in a hidden civilization of superpowered beings should be exciting and dangerous, but instead it’s mostly stultifying, and the interior of the royal palace looks like the waiting rooms in a fancy office building. Mount overdoes his exaggerated facial expressions as Black Bolt, whose voice is so deadly that he dares not ever speak, and Serinda Swan is pouty and unconvincing as Inhuman queen Medusa. Rheon, who exuded pure evil as Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones, puts on an unconvincing American accent and sounds only mildly irritable as Maximus.
The costumes and special effects are as chintzy as the set design, and the show laughably gets around the logistics and cost of depicting Medusa’s elaborate prehensile hair (the comic book character’s most defining quality) by just cutting all of it off midway through the episode. Although the pilot was shot with IMAX cameras specifically for its presentation in IMAX theaters, almost none of the visuals take advantage of the technological possibilities. There are no major action sequences, and the only grand, sweeping camera moves appear in basic establishing shots of the Hawaii locations. Giant teleporting dog Lockjaw, pet of Inhuman princess Crystal (Isabelle Cornish), is the only semi-impressive effect on display.
Series creator and showrunner Scott Buck was also behind the first season of Marvel’s Netflix series Iron Fist, and Inhumans shares that show’s awkward pacing and preference for turgid arguments over rousing action. Buck and director Roel Reiné (a veteran of straight-to-video action movies) do their best to make the theatrical version feel like a real Marvel movie, all the way up to a post-credits stinger, but the comparisons to Marvel’s features (as well as most of its TV series) only make the show look worse. At best, Inhumans resembles a mediocre ’90s syndicated genre series, and blowing it up to IMAX size just puts a bigger spotlight on the flaws.