Last Friday saw the two hour series premiere of Marvel’s newest foray into the television world: Inhumans. Based on one of Jack Kirby’s more out-there ideas, is it possible to translate to a new medium? Each week, Robbie Pleasant and Ken Godberson III will sit down and discuss the episodes.
Ken: So. After months of… speculation? Dread? We’re here at last. After going from movie to television series, Marvel finally debuts the Inhuman Royal Family to their live-action universe. Robbie, I have ask:
What the hell did we just watch?
Robbie: We watched what happens when a franchise gets tossed back and forth between creators who hate each other. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a game of hot potato where each side tries to poison the potato then throw it in the other’s mouth.
This is a show with quite the jumbled mess of a history behind it, first planned to be done as a movie, only to be angrily scrapped when “Agents of SHIELD” beat the cinematic universe to the Inhuman punch. Instead, we got an IMAX screening of the first episode, which is no substitute for an actual movie with all the budget and talent Marvel can bring to those, which is really just a two-hour first episode that establishes the plot and characters, but in no way gives us a reason to care.
Early overview aside, Ken, you’re more well-versed in the Inhumans comics than I am, so why don’t you start us off? What are your overall thoughts?
Ken: Well. I described it in my live-tweeting of it as a Monument. It is a Monument to the hubris of a petty man upset that other people are going to get the money off rights sold decades ago. So in pettiness, decided to be say “Screw it! I’ll make my own franchise” but lacking the creativity or willingness to just not be cheap in trying to create.
Because “cheap” feels like the word we’re going to come back to. Like there was pride taken in the corners cut in this thing. And for an idea that does have potential, that’s probably the biggest sin.
Robbie: I’m not inclined to disagree. There are inklings of what could have been great in what we’ve gotten, but it’s not enough to make up for the laziness or plot holes we’ve encountered.
Okay, well, two inklings. Maximus and Lockjaw. Iwan Rheon is a great actor, and he was trying his best with the script he was given, but even his best performances couldn’t lift up everything else, especially with all the plot holes and foolish character decisions we had to endure.
As for Lockjaw, cheap as the CGI felt at times, I can’t say no to a giant good dog.
Sadly, those do not unbalance the scales from all the times characters made nonsensical decisions, or I just stared at the screen and wondered “Why am I supposed to care about any of this?”
Ken: You know, I didn’t have a problem with really any of the cast on paper. Out of them, I think Rheon, Anson Mount and Ken Leung did the best… but look what they were working with. The dialogue was cringey, the plot was really dull, driving into the well-worn “fish out of water” story, but it’s biggest problem is its pacing. To put it simply, this two hour premiere should have been stretched to the whole season. And even then you’d have to take the blow torch to the plot.
So. I guess we should start with the characters?
Robbie: Sure, let’s start there.
Black Bolt… as a character who can’t talk, body language is of the upmost importance for getting us to connect with him. We get a little of that, like the incredulous look on his face when the police were trying to arrest him, but for the most part he was standing there and being serious. I liked that he would occasionally use sign language to communicate, but for the most part he was just… being there, being serious, then getting a suit and walking off. We get one glimpse of backstory about his powers killing his parents, but that’s all it is, a glimpse.Continued below
Then we have poor Medusa, who probably got shafted the most. The strong and noble queen is now just there to translate for Black Bolt and remind everyone how much she totally loves him.
Oh yeah, Crystal’s a character too, and perhaps the least-impressive firebender I’ve ever seen. Then in the scene where Lockjaw gets knocked out, I wasn’t getting any actual worry or emotion from her – it was the same tone of voice I used when teaching my dog to sit. It detracted from the moment.
Karnak and Gorgon at least had some good moments. The scene where they each fight off their attackers wasn’t bad, and I liked how they paused Karnak’s fight to show how he calculates how the fight will go and react accordingly. His awkwardness at least gave him a semblance of a personality, and he got some good lines here and there. Gorgon also proved himself to be tough, at least until he randomly runs out to sea and realizes he can’t swim. And the moment where he calls Maximus out by leaving his communicator on would have been cool, if it actually went anywhere.
Ken: Something that bugged me, was the inconsistencies in their culture. Black Bolt uses a made up form of sign language and I kept thinking: “Just use ASL”. Because apparently it’s really inconsistent about what they know about Earth. Medusa knows what a Bus but they don’t know what cell phones are? Also, Gorgon said “what in the Hell” and -and I know I’m the only one who cares about this- I thought “Wait. The Inhumans have a concept of Hell? Like the the Judeo-Christian Hell? I thought the closest things to aspects they worship are the Mists?”
As for Medusa… yeah, she probably got hit the worst. She gets a decent scene at the end, but she is so reductive here. Far from what you normally see in the comics. Plus, there is one scene we’re going to have to talk about when we dive deeper into the cheapness of the show. Also, she expected Black Bolt to talk to her through a verbal communicator. You know. The dude who can’t talk. Hi, writers! You’re sure you didn’t want to do a second draft?
Think a big problem Crystals actress, Isabelle Cornish, had was that a great deal of her scenes had her acting opposite CGI a.k.a. opposite the air and she’s just not at that level yet. She’s okay with other people (yet unremarkable). And I got to agree. She’s no Shouto Todoroki, but again, Cheap is Cheap.
Robbie: Oh man, those scenes with Medusa talking through the communicator… all that advanced Inhuman technology and they couldn’t come up with the idea of text messaging? And it wasn’t a one time thing, either! “Black Bolt, something’s happening, answer your commlink!” How, exactly, is he supposed to do that?
Speaking of inconsistencies and powers, let’s get back to Karnak, and a moment that hasn’t stopped bugging me. He’s scaling a cliff, accidentally tries to climb a weak spot on it, then falls down and hits his head.
Yes, Karnak, who was already established to have insanely good powers of observation, understanding, and predicting all possible outcomes, who is known for being able to see the weakness in all things, couldn’t see that the spot he was trying to scale on the cliff was weak and wouldn’t support him.
Back to Medusa, I assume you’re referring to her haircut? Because why have a show about people with superpowers when we can take away their powers?
And I just realized we haven’t even gotten into the Inhuman society we’re shown, and how it’s a caste system consisting of exactly two castes: either you’re in the palace, or you’re in the mines. No middle ground.
Ken: That’s the scene. Now, the idea of that scene, Medusa’s hair getting cut, is not one I’m against. In fact, it was a major scene in the famous Paul Jenkins/Jae Lee run of Inhumans. However, there were several problems here:
1. In the book, Maximus had to manipulate Medusa’s mind to have her cut her hair because, on top of being able to control her hair, Medusa can control how tough it is, so it can be soft as silk or strong as iron.Continued below
2. Going back to the show’s horrible pacing, if this had happened in like…episode 6, where we had time to see it in action, get a sense of its abilities, it would be a bigger moment. Here? What was I supposed to feel except “Huh. Guess that’s how you do Game of Thrones with superpowers on the cheap: by taking away their powers”.
And I guess talking about the Inhumans society is a nice segway into the plot, about Hero of the People Maximus Boltagon wanting to lead his people to a better exist-
Wait, did I read that right? They weren’t trying to make Maximus the hero here, right? Because if they weren’t, they kinda… failed?
Robbie: Sure, we can assume that his only real goal is to gain more power for himself, but let’s face it, what we’ve seen of Inhuman society kind of sucks.
“Hey guys, I’m not sure if I got powers or not, but I did seize up and see the future, so…”
“No powers? To the mines!”
Maximus isn’t wrong about Attilan not having the space for everyone, and they seem to have a strictly mining-based economy. I’m not even sure what they’re mining for, since the one scene we see in the mines just has them scraping at walls with their bare hands. That’s a very inefficient way to mine, but that’s getting off on a tangent.
More importantly, we’re barely given any time to actually connect to the characters he rebels against. Okay, so Black Bolt and Medusa apparently have a healthy relationship, that’s nice. Karnak is a lousy conversationalist, and Gorgon has hooves. That’s about as far as we get to know these characters before their lives are torn asunder and they’re tossed to Earth, so why should we root for them aside from them being the designated protagonists?
Ken: It’s because….
….well you see it’s…
…I got nothing. I really, truly have nothing. There are things happening, but it’s so sterile, so devoid that I can’t even try and come up with anything from even a Headcanon perspective.
Speaking of sterile, I guess we should talk about Attilan as a whole and how it’s kind of not even remotely compatible with the kind of Kirby energy that it was supposed to take inspiration from. I suppose -if you really pushed it- the kind of sterile environment would make sense for a population with limited resources. Maybe. But I doubt that was the reason, but instead it was, and say it with me kids, “Because they were being cheap”.
There’s never the sense that this city is large. We had several rooms in the palace, a market, yeah. But it still felt like it lacked space.
Robbie: I’ll admit, there was some beautiful scenery in the establishing shots down on Earth. But for Attilan itself, we get one sweeping shot that shows us the castle, then reveals it’s hidden on the moon, and the rest is either big empty rooms with symmetrical designs or crowded streets and slums. Remind me again what’s worth ruling there?
This ain’t Asgard, but then again, Maximus is no Loki, not for lack of trying.
One other thing that’s been bugging me this entire time: Bronaja’s terrigenesis. So he comes out looking the same, and everyone assumes he has no powers. Then Maximus touches him, he has a brief seizure, and has a vision that’s, obviously, prophetic. How does it take as long as it does for anyone to realize that? Even Maximus, who’s supposed to be rather intelligent, doesn’t think that maybe, just maybe, the visions have some sort of meaning until his comes to pass. Everyone else is just like “No wings? Get to the mines!”
Ken: Feel like we’re going to have to start a list. Of all the dumb dumb dumb things that happen in this show. If only because we have six more weeks of this to go and our sanity is going to depend on it.
So, the Official Multiversity Comics “Trying to Get the Mute Guy to Talk Through Comms” List so far includes the titular sin against competency, assuming Bronaja doesn’t have powers even when it becomes abundantly clear he does, having a Captain of the Guard (Gorgon) that can’t swim. What else we got?Continued below
Robbie: Let’s not forget the aforementioned “Karnak not noticing the cliff’s weak spots,” Lockjaw taking everyone to vastly different locations on Earth in spite of being able to teleport with insane accuracy everywhere else, and apparently a full squad of police officers being called out with guns drawn to deal with a single shoplifter.
And as I look through my notes, I realized there’s an entire subplot with some astronomers and the lunar rover Gorgon wrecked that we haven’t even touched upon, because it goes absolutely nowhere. At least I’ll give that the benefit of the doubt and assume it’ll connect to the plot later.
Ken: Yeah, I mean, what with how the police are here in this country, that last one’s not exactly completely farfetched.
As for the subplot featuring the astronomers and – as I kept calling her – “Bargain Bin Olivia Dunham”, no doubt that will catch up with the other plot, but it’s so paper thin like the rest of this.
About time we wrapped this up? My final thoughts are: I’m glad I didn’t see this in IMAX, because there’s no way anyone should’ve paid north of $20 to go see this. This was a complete and utter waste of everyone’s time and the only hope I have right now is that there is some at least unintentionally funny moments.
Robbie: Yeah, I’m sure there’s a lot more we’ll be able to rant about next time.
Overall, this show was hurt by the drama behind its creation, and it shows. What we wound up with lacks heart in every way, and unfortunately squanders the potential that an Inhumans movie could have had. Credit can and should be given where it’s due, as there are still some moments where we can see what could have been, but what we ended up with is just lackluster.