Marvel’s latest foray onto television started life as a big screen outing, but was shelved once the Inhumans storyline began taking shape in TV’s Agents Of Shield. Now, rather curiously, the first episode (or episodes if you take the two-parter nature into account), has manifested a few weeks early as an IMAX exclusive release. The trailers and first-look images on the run up to the release didn’t do the ‘film’ many favours, and a lot of negativity was already directed toward the project even before the rumours that it was made ‘fast and cheap’ to just ‘get the show out there’. The end result is, unsurprisingly, a very average TV pilot shown on a big screen. Nothing more, nothing less.
But is it a total write off? Honestly, I’d say it holds some potential as a series, if they can just sort out where they are going, and some rather bizarre creative choices. Much in the same way that Agents of Shield failed to launch strongly, and only really began using its potential half way through season 1, there is an underlying hope that the same could happen here.
The Inhumans, for those unaware, focuses on the Royal Family of Attilan, the home of the race of beings who manifest abilities after exposure to the Terragen Mists. Attilan, hidden away on the moon, may look peaceful on the surface, but the cast system in place (anyone who is just human works the mines, whilst the rest are treated like nobility) has spread dissent. Ruling the citadel is the silent Black Bolt and his wife, Medusa. However, Black Bolt’s brother Maximus never manifested powers, and seeks to rule himself. The opening episodes focus on this rivalry, and the ensuing coup, which leads to the core Inhuman Royal Family being stranded on earth – or more specifically Hawaii.
On the plus side, the effects team must have paid attention to the criticisms levied at the trailers as some of the weaker elements (Medusa’s hair for example) seem to have been improved upon – although it is worth noting that it is improved upon from a TV show aspect, and still looks decidedly ropey on the big screen. In addition, the cast do pretty well with their attempts to convey some of theworst expositional dialogue of recent years. On that note, the one actor who gets away with not having to churn out cringeworthy lines of dialogue, Anson Mount as Black Bolt, actually does a solid job in the role, using movement, sign, and facial expressions to convey much more than the rest of the cast get to convey with words. Ken Leung is another stand-out star, playing Karnak, the cousin of Black Bolt with the ability to see faults in things and plot best actions to take.
However, the negatives are those that plague many opening episodes of a TV show. There is an attempt to introduce as many ideas and characters as possible, but without any plan at this stage for what to do with them. Gorgon, for example, does nothing of note aside from walk into the ocean, get rescued by some surfer-dudes, and then chills out on a beach for the rest of the film. Crystal seems to have not only any motivation as a character, but just kind-of accepts everything that happens around her without resistance. As for Medusa, whilst Serinda Swan does a reasonable job in the role, it is bizarre the choice they make with the character (even if it does give her a genuine moment to shine as an actress).
So, if it is just a typical, flawed TV introduction, why the IMAX release? Well, IMAX themselves financed the first two episodes, wanting to invest in a TV series, and there are some stunning shots which make impressive use of the IMAX format. However, all those shots are of the locations in Hawaii, and if edited together would make an excellent promotional video for the Hawaii tourism board. Seriously, that place looks beautiful. Shame the action moments didn’t look equally so.
Not a complete waste, and not the abhorrent mess it could have been. If anything, without the attempt to go ‘big-screen’ it is just another average opening to a TV show. It is more the ambition the show had in going to the cinema screens that let it down as, alongside its real big-screen brethren, it pales into insignificance. Alongside Agents of Shield, however, it has potential…if only they would tap into it.