Intriguingly interesting, incredibly inclusive, incompetently inconsistent – Marvel’s Inhumans Review [Part 1 & 2]
Out now on IMAX screens across the country, the first two episodes of Marvel’s Inhumans. It will likely be a pretty limited run, so you probably have about a week or two to catch it. But is it worth it? IMAX screens are generally about $20. Which can buy you whole seasons of television shows, two months of Netflix, days worth of food. Is the, by my calculations, 80 minutes of enhanced viewing experience worth the money and the added 5-6 weeks to see a new episode? (If you wait until the series premiere on the 29th, you’re waiting 4 weeks for a new episode and will then only have to wait 1 week until another new episode. I said 5-6 because I’m not sure if the series premiere will be of both episodes). In a
preface, and before I go into episode spoilers Marvel’s Inhumans is intriguingly interesting, incredibly inclusive, but incompetently inconsistent. What I admire greatly about the show is the handling of the powers, the wide diversity of the cast and background actors, and the overall direction of the show. However, there are some wild inconsistencies and some rather dumb moments that literally caused me to scratch my head. If you can see it on a $5 Tuesday deal, I think it is well worth it for any fans of the MCU. It’s tone and feel is similar to Agents of SHIELD, and I think has slightly stronger footing that the Agents did when they premiered. Otherwise, I do not feel my $20 was well invested as I find most IMAX screens to fall far short of the AMC Prime / Dolby Digital movie going experience. I could have gotten a similar, but with better picture quality and sound, experience by sitting closer to my television. Again, for $5, MCU I would recommend the Inhumans in IMAX, otherwise, wait.
Now onto my review of the series itself. Minor spoilers.
Marvel’s Inhumans Part 1 & 2 centers around Maximus’ usurpation of the throne of Attilan. The episode begins on a beautiful island in Hawaii whose peace and tranquility is ruined by the sound of gunfire. Triton (Mike Moh) attempting to bring a newly reborn Inhuman back to Attilan, before she is captured or killed by an unknown group of assailants with big guns. Triton fails horribly, the new Inhuman is killed, and Triton is shot and jumps into the ocean. Back on Attilan the King and Queen, Black Bolt and Medusa (Anson Mount and Serinda Swan) are attempting to get busy before they are interrupted by their royal duties and a Terrigensis Ceremony they have to officiate. A pair of teenagers, Borgias and a girl who’s name I don’t believe they mentioned, undergo Terrigenisis and display their new found form/abilities. The girl shows of a pair of butterfly wings that allow her to fly and dazzles everyone in the room. Borgias (or Elijah, I couldn’t tell, the theater just turned up the bass so it seems like IMAX standards) appears to have no new form or abilities. Maximus (Iwan Rheon) stands with Borgias to assure him and everyone else that he is no lesser than before despite his appearance. He then places a hand on Borgias shoulder and Borgias appears to have a seizure. He then tells Maximus he saw him with snakes all around him and his back against a wall. Returning to the lower caste, the people are eager to see the results of the Terrigenisis. As per the ceremony, everyone in the lower caste is impressed with butterfly girl, and immediately assign Borgias to work in the mines. Maximus again speaks up on behalf of Borgias and is called out for also not having powers, however, because he is the King’s brother he does not have to work the mines. Maximus agrees and impassionately shares his thoughts and disgust with the system and the ones enforcing its existence.
During dinner with the royal family, after Karnak (Ken Leung) shares his apt analysis of how long his relationship with the server pouring his drink would last, and why, Maximus comes in with the news of Triton’s death. An argument breaks out, Maximus’ disdain and unsatisfaction of the way things are now is shared. Black Bolt puts a hand on Maximus’ chest and stares intensely at him to convey his message. They deduce Triton is probably not dead and send Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor) to find him. Black Bolt steps into his isolation chamber to think about the situation, and his brother’s ever growing dismay, Medusa waits in the halls, and Karnak monitors Gorgon from a sort of situation room. With the major members of the royal family all isolated, Maximus enacts his coup. Everyone escapes thanks to the help of Crystal (Isabelle Cornish) and Lockjaw, however, she is captured before she too could get away. The royal family is spread across Hawaii, and must now try to reunite and adapt to Earth, while Maximus continues to inspire the people and chastise the caste system that keeps them beholden to the royal family and isolate on the moon. He asks the Inhumans of Attilan to accept him as king, as the royal family is nowhere to be found and it seems they do indeed support him and his goal for a greater Inhuman society that is beyond this oppressive system. In order to secure his power, Maximus sends Auran to Earth to deal with the royal family.
The premiere episodes of Marvel’s Inhumans feels both too long and too short. Watching parts 1 & 2 together does not feel like you watched two episodes. It feels like you watched one really long one that did a lot but didn’t deliver enough. I think this is due to the forced inclusion of highly stylized “IMAX” shots to justify the IMAX screenings. I understand establishing the Inhumans, Attilan, and taking advantage of the natural beauty of Hawaii, but instead of adding to the scope or feel of the show it felt like filler. I am strictly talking about the numerous, and seeming overuse of, wide panning and establishing shots, densely populate extreme close ups and panoramics. Individually, all of those were masterfully shot, but it just feels like filler in its implementation. On the bright side, the over exposure does grant a lot of opportunities to appreciate the art of the show. The natural beauty of Hawaii is going to get glossed over because we already have Lost and Hawaii Five-O, I’m going to talk about the look of Attilan and its inhabitants. The architecture is very intriguing, the bright colors and square designs create a sense of future and sophistication. It all seems to fit and be where it should be. Everything about the royal Inhuman family seems sophisticated, classy, and progressive. In contrast, the lower caste shares similar designs but feel primitive and workaday. The thing that really seals the deal, are the costume designs. All of the main casts’ costumes truly represent their characters, but I’m going to focus on Karnak’s and Medusa’s costumes. Karnak’s has a classic Chinese/martial arts look, while still appearing to be somewhat futuristic. I think it’s a great nod to the actor’s heritage and also his character’s abilities. Medusa’s outfits are elegant and literally out of this world. But if I’m just being honest, Serinda Swan just makes the dresses look incredibly sexy. The strategic exposure in her outfits is very… strategic. Visually the show has a lot to offer, I just feel it needs to decide on a direction. Hopefully, without the task of having to take advantage of IMAX on their plate, the later episodes will lock it down.
The story of the show has me really intrigued. Maximus, or Maximus the Mad as we generally know him from the comics, does not seem mad at all. In fact, he seems to be completely right and justified. His method, maybe slightly nefarious, appears just and in no way mad or sadistic. He does have a couple creepy stalker moments, that I don’t want to spoil. But overall, Maximus seems like the working class hero that is fighting for the people. The only things that make it seem like he’s kind of unlikeable are that he’s a bit of a sore loser and he wants to be in charge. He’s fighting to end oppression and take back from the 1% though, can’t really fault him at all. In contrast, the rest of the Royal Family seem to be arrogant rich people who have it all and don’t care about the rest. Black Bolt might be the only one who shows any earnest, and that says a lot considering Mount has 0 lines. I’m very torn about his performance, not that it’s not good, I just want to make the joke that he’s basically Zoolander and only has 1 look, but all of his emotions and general thoughts were perfectly conveyed. Even it is just one look, it completely works. The rest of the characters, I feel need more building because they’re pretty inconsistent or 1 dimensional so far. Serinda Swan pulled double duty as Medusa, and she kills it. She has to speak for Mount’s Black Bolt and still speak for herself at the same time. She does it with masterful grace, and it does feel like two separate character’s dialogue when she does so. It never comes off as she’s talking to herself or forcing Medusas own rhetoric into Black Bolt’s words. It’s something you would generally only notice if it was done poorly. Then there’s Karnak who is an insufferable know it all. I love good jerk characters, and Leung is an amazing jerk. The jerk arrogance he has as Karnak is like the purified version of the arrogance he had when he told Chris Rock, “Put the gun down. Fight like a man.” When he told the server that he would get annoyed with her because she chews with her mouth open, I cracked up. Sadly, I was the only one in the theater who did… no one appreciates a portrayal of a good jerk like I do I guess.
The performances of the cast are generally good, minus some fight choreo which I’ll get into later, but the story is wildly inconsistent with Medusa and Karnak, and leave the rest to be kind of one dimensional. I won’t talk about Crystal/Gorgon/Auran/Triton as they will likely be further fleshed out as the series continues. But Medusa and Karnak seem to go from power to incompetent. Medusa first appears as strong and imposing queen. She has power because she is powerful, but she gets taken down without much effort and has a Maleficent gets her wings taken from her scene. Granted she was downed by some Inhuman who seems to be able to disable powers, but that Inhuman isn’t given enough explanation or build up to make sense of the extent to which Medusa was taken down. Then Karnak, who is the ultimate strategist and thinker, falls down, hits his head hard, and can no longer think. The part where he hits his head and would have trouble using his amazing insight and thought makes sense. But him falling down is where it doesn’t. He literally just falls down, no accident, shifting ground, strong breeze, or anything that could be outside of his calculable ability happens. He kind of just lets go of the ledge he’s holding onto and gives himself a concussion. Then there are their general power levels. When Black Bolt gets to Earth, it seems he has super strength. But he gets taken down by the Hawaiin PD’s batons. I understand the taser doing damage to him, but he has a scene where he is impressed how strong he is compared to a human so it doesn’t make sense when a person who of similar power hits him with a baton that it would do affect him as much as it did.
Then there is the fight choreography. I want to start with Karnak’s because it kind of has a saving grace. Karnak’s ability seems to allow him to play out a situation and its outcome in his head. If he doesn’t like the outcome, he will go back a few steps and readjust. Kind of like RDJ’s Sherlock. His fight choreo made it seem like he knew what was going to happen before it happened, like Flynn Jones as Iron Fist in all his fight scenes. It looks extremely staged and really ruins the immersion of the show. However, in Karnak’s case, it makes sense. So, I can kind of give it a pass. But Ken Leung went toe to toe with Jackie Chan, he is definitely capable of much more and knowing what’s going to happen or not, it makes no sense that it looks Iron Fist level shoddy. The rest of the fight scenes, it seems like a lot of rough cuts to overcompensate for lack of decent choreography. Considering there is Agents of SHIELD, it makes no sense how the fight scenes for an IMAX intended premiere are so poor. How do you now have one kung fu/martial arts movie enthusiast/some one who’s seen a Jackie Chan movie who goes, “Wow, this looks bad.” I mean they don’t all have to fight in martial arts, Agent Carter had Haley Atwell be a total bad ass brawler. Where did your fight teams go Marvel?
Lastly, the big highlight of the show, in my opinion, the diversity of the cast. Granted Karnak and Gorgon’s roles are somewhat stereotypical tropes and the major leads are all still white. But the rest of the world looks and feels diverse. This is one of the few times that something takes place in Hawaii, and the bit parts and extras look the inhabitants of Hawaii. Most other movies and shows make Hawaii seem like it’s inhabited by an Aeropostale catalog. Also, even though Ken Leung is playing a martial arts character, he’s a jerk. He’s the wise cracking funny guy that people like. He’s not the weird guy who’s funny. He’s the guy that is so far ahead he’s bored so he makes fun of people. That’s a huge step forward for representation in my book. Gorgon on the other hand, he hasn’t been given too much to do yet, but one of his biggest scenes is of him not being able to swim. Come on now. Really? Who thought that was a good idea? He didn’t even like accidentally end up in the water either. He kept going until he got to a place he needed to swim. Yes, there was a cut to a close up of a wave. But, it wasn’t a big wave that can drag out a powerful 6′ 200lbs + of muscle deep into the ocean. Also, zooming in on a wave doesn’t make it seem bigger. And are we supposed to believe Attilan doesn’t have a pool, and that a character wouldn’t know if they could swim or not? You opened the show on Triton who obviously knows his powers are connected to water. Pretty sure this advanced alien race would know if they could swim or not. But no, y’all had to show the black guy can’t swim…
Marvel’s Inhumans Premiere is interesting, but a bit all over the place. It’s intriguing because the show’s antagonist appears to be fighting for the just cause, and the only reason he’s the antagonist is that he has some unlikeable traits. The protagonists are rich and pompous, but otherwise generally have good guys qualities. The show looks great, but it is displayed in inconsistent quality. The performances are great, but the character directions are inconsistent and conflicting. And the show is inclusive but plays into stereotypes. Catch the series premiere Friday, September 29th on ABC, or watch it now in IMAX if you can see it for $5. My Marvel’s Inhumans review of the premiere two episodes gets a 2.5/5
- Episodes 1 & 2
Marvel’s Inhumans Premiere is interesting, but a bit all over the place. It’s intriguing because the show’s antagonist appears to be fighting for the just cause, and the only reason he’s the antagonist is that he has some unlikeable traits. The protagonists are rich and pompous, but otherwise generally have good guys qualities. The show looks great, but it is displayed in inconsistent quality. The performances are great, but the character directions are inconsistent and conflicting. And the show is inclusive but plays into stereotypes. Catch the series premiere Friday, September 29th on ABC, or watch it now in IMAX if you can see it for $5.