The latest in an apparently endless deluge of comic book films and tv series, INHUMANS may herald “peak Marvel”. While the comic book titan continues to fare well on the big screen, audiences have been more fickle in response to their small screen output.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took at least a season and a half to find its feet. While Marvel’s Netflix co-productions were soaring until Iron Fist earned a Tyson-esque pummeling from Rotten Tomatoes, with a meagre 17% fresh rating.
So what of the latest entry into Marvel’s televisual universe? Well, our story starts in Attilan, an invisible moon base that is home to a rigidly caste-based society whose design principle seems to be Star Trek-meets-Blackadder. And if that sentence doesn’t whet your appetite - my only advice is not to tune in.
Inhumans elevates the worst excesses of US sci-fi into a tedious art form - hollow, by-the-book plotting, turgid dialogue and a dirge-like tone that makes most funerals look like Mardi Gras. Abandoning the gleeful irreverence that has won Marvel so many fans at the box office, Inhumans is an unforgivably po-faced production.
As Attilan society fragments under the pressure of scarce resources and personal feuds, Inhumans fails to introduce characters that we care about, tell a story that hooks us in or even dazzle us with shiny FX. Indeed, the CGI deserves a particular hammering, veering between eye wateringly cheap and downright risible in scenes that wouldn’t look out of place in a 90s TV show with half the budget.
Unlike the rest of Marvel’s extended universe, Episode 1 of Inhumans makes absolutely no reference to its sibling series, not even the events of Agents of SHIELD, which first introduced us to the Inhumans. Perhaps Marvel sensed looming disaster and deliberately chose to keep Inhumans separate until they could gauge audience reactions. Or perhaps it was simply a poor choice by Marvel and its co-producers, IMAX (yes, the folk who own the super-sized cinemas) and ABC.
The role of ABC in this calamitous misstep deserves scrutiny. And it can’t have helped that until April last year, Inhumans was destined to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, necessitating a hasty overhaul for the autumn 2017 TV schedule. However, the blame ultimately lies with Marvel itself, for handing its latest project to the same showrunner that flopped with Iron Fist.
Either way, the result is lowest common denominator television that has failed to win fans in the US. It's unlikely to do better in the UK and is a bitter disappointment for fans of Marvel and good TV everywhere.
- Aired on Sky One, October 25 2017 at 21:00.