Critics hate Marvel’s Inhumans IMAX preview. What hope for the upcoming TV series?

Two-episode big-screen preview receives even worse reviews than early trailers, with critics panning the acting, sets, dialogue, story-telling and wooden characters of series about Marvel Comics’ lesser superheroes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 12:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 12:53pm

If the new cinematic release of Marvel’s Inhumans was intended to create some healthy buzz around the forthcoming show of that name on American television network ABC, then the result has had the opposite effect. Critical reaction to the IMAX preview – stitched together from the series’ first two episodes – is only growing more negative.

Over the summer, early looks at the new series were met with everything from concern to scorn, including some boos at San Diego Comic-Con. Yet the fan hope was that what looked like shoddy production values in the first trailers would yield to a burnished, Marvel-worthy look on the big screen.

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So far, the news is only worse.

On September 1, Marvel’s Inhumans opened in the US for a two-week cinematic run on nearly 400 IMAX screens. The film grossed US$1.5 million domestically in the first weekend. Yet the movie currently has a “zero” freshness rating on movie reviews website Rotten Tomatoes based on 11 reviews – a score even the lowly Emoji Movie was eventually able to avert.

So can Marvel somehow avoid a rare major misfire?

The reviews of the cinematic release read like accident reports from first responders surveying the flaming wreckage.

“The show is a disappointment on every level,” writes Joshua Yehl of entertainment website IGN.

“Even a bigger budget wouldn’t have fixed the stilted dialogue, one-dimensional characters and questionable acting,” writes Las Vegas Weekly’s Josh Bell.

The Inhumans, of course, are Marvel’s odd royal family of lower-tier superheroes who are armed with the quirkiest of powers.

Twitter reaction to the IMAX preview of Marvel’s Inhumans

ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has introduced the Inhuman lineage with such leading characters as Agent Daisy Johnson, but Inhumans introduces a separate cinematic universe.

Now Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Medusa (Serinda Swan) and family must flee their Attilan moon kingdom in a coup, and some of the Inhumans end up along the gorgeous shores of Honolulu, which you would think might improve the look of the project, even if only naturally.

Instead, Inhumans is said to be a dingy, dull experiment in so many ways.

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“The costumes and make-up look like a group of friends decided to do Inhumans cosplay the day before Comic-Con,” IGN writes. “The royal palace, a main setting, looks like a warehouse on the outside and is full of bland, forgettable spaces on the inside. [And] the clunky dialogue sounds like a first draft, not the sharp material you’d expect from the MCU.”

Vulture is among the media outlets invoking the word chintzy.

“Much has already been made of the CGI in the show, especially that of lead character Medusa’s prehensile and weaponised hair. A 52-foot-by-72-foot screen does that crimson mane no favours, merely accentuating the ways in which it looks chintzy and odd.

“The same goes for virtually all of the high-profile effects, from the newly formed wings of a teenager who undergoes a superpowered transformation to the face of a sentient wall,” Vulture’s Abraham Riesman continues. “Worse still is the bear-sized teleporting dog known as Lockjaw, whose patently artificial rendering makes the cartoon dragon from the original Pete’s Dragon look downright lifelike.”

And Las Vegas Weekly writes of the action: “The high-level manoeuvring in a hidden civilisation 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.”

This cinematic release raises two central questions. For the film-goer, the issue is: “Should I pay up to US$20 for this?” And the reviewers are replying: not if you have anything else remotely interesting and/or valuable to do.

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The bigger question, for the studio, is why Marvel chose to make this an ABC series instead of a feature film. Jeph Loeb, the head of Marvel TV, defended that decision in recent days, saying that they wanted the longer run of a show to give more time to develop these characters.

He told CBR, a comics website, that he wanted an “opportunity where you’re not entirely reliant on epic and spectacle and the roller-coaster ride which are the Marvel movies; which I absolutely love and there is no bigger fan”.

But even that raises the question: why tease the series with this IMAX release, which only seems to magnify the flaws?

Vulture notes that series creator and show runner Scott Buck was behind Season 1 of the worst received of the Marvel/Netflix series, Iron Fist. “Inhumans shares that show’s awkward pacing and preference for turgid arguments over rousing action,” Riesman writes. “Buck and director Roel Reiné 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 only make the show look worse.”

Marvel now must hope that expectations will be smaller on the smaller screen.

TV’s Marvel’s Inhumans debuts on September 29 on ABC.