Inhumans: The First Chapter Advanced Review
Director: Roel Reiné
Creator/Writer: Scott Buck
Music: Sean Callery
Cinematography: Jeff Jur
Starring: Serinda Swan (Medusa), Iwan Rheon (Maximus), Anson Mount (Black Bolt), Isabelle Cornish (Crystal), Ken Leung (Karnak), Sonya Balmores (Auran) and more
Based on the Marvel comics by Jack Kirby & Stan Lee
A Review by Christoph Staffl
Disclaimer: I have never read a comic with the Inhumans or watched Marvel’s Agents of Shield beyond the second season. I don’t know who they are, why they exist or why they fought the X-Men (well, I can make a wild guess). I just wanted you to know that. Now, let’s talk about the Inhumans.
Maybe it is because the Inhumans is basically “just” a TV show, but I successfully avoided any trailers or news items about the series. The characters popped up here and there, but not in an invasive way like the promotion for any other Marvel movie. Or Star Wars, for that matter. That is refreshing. This way, and I hope you managed to do the same, we can enjoy the series without specific expectations.
The first thing I welcomed about this new Marvel TV show is that it is not an origin story. The Inhumans have existed for a while now and have built their hometown on the moon. How long are they there? The first two episodes do not specify this, but out of context, I would guess quite a while. The story instead focuses on an internal conflict and has nothing to do with global destruction or world conquering villains — another thing I appreciated.
How do you properly introduce so many new characters with unique abilities? Let them fight and use their powers in a cosmic extravaganza, right? Not quite. The showrunners do the smart thing and introduce the Inhumans as characters first. They show us everything we need to know about them first. What are their dreams and struggles? What do they want and how is their society structured? They don’t rush the story.
So, what is an Inhuman? The first thing that comes to mind as you watch the show are the X-Men. The difference between those two fractions is that the X-Men are born with their abilities, and the Inhumans get their powers through forced mutation. When they reach a certain age, they do a ceremony where the royal family, as well as the family and friends of the kid, are present. You can imagine it like Osborn in the first Spider-Man movie as he tests the super serum on himself. Like Osborn, the child stands in a chamber, and a mist of Terrigen fills it. When the child walks out, they either got powers or not. If not, you are an unlucky bastard who now has to work in the mines. Should you get powers: yay! You are part of the high society now.
This two-tier system is something I don’t quite understand. First, the Inhumans think they are better than humans (of course they do). They have their abilities and see themselves as those majestic creatures. But are they? Everything they believe in is based on one principle: coincidence. They cannot influence which powers they get or if they even get them in the first place. Another thing is the mines. What are they doing there? Why do they exist? It just seems to be a punishment. Because you are human, you have to work. You are worth nothing. If it is not sure after the ceremony that you got powers, an incompetent council has to determine you “worthiness” so to speak, but just to be sure: go to the mines. The words “labor camp” come to mind.
The Royal Family
We don’t know how the Royal Family came to be the rulers of their people; maybe they were the first. In the context of their territory, they seem pretty competent. Medusa is one of my favorites. She can move her hair with immense speed and strength. Therefore it is pretty long and always seems to move. Just like the cape of Spawn, just not that prominent. Unfortunately, it appears to be very expensive to show her ability. But no spoilers.
One of the most impressive revelations is Black Bolt’s ability. In case you don’t know what power he has, I won’t spoil that for you. What I can say is that he cannot speak. He has to communicate via sign language and Medusa, his wife, translates. Because of this, he has a divine aura which resembles his status of king. Sadly, Anson Mount seems a bit grumpy in his first scenes. But it gets better.
As soon as you see Gorgon, you know his power. He is kind of cool and gets some funny scenes. He works well with others, especially Karnak. Mainly because they are so different. Although, I don’t quite understand what Karnak can do. As he first shows his power, you think it’s impressive and useful; you get it. But then in another scene, it seems gone. His ability is highly dependent on the plot, I guess. Crystal, Medusa’s sister, is kind of a rebel. Unfortunately, her primary task is to command Lockjaw, a big dog who can teleport really quickly. He is cool too, but very dumb. At least in these first episodes.
Attilan, the city on the moon, looks great. Be it the royal halls or the mines; everything is designed and built with a lot of effort. You have a good sense of location — where everything is and how far the city spreads. This is also true for the scenes on Earth, which take place in Hawaii. They apparently filmed those scenes on-site and not necessarily in a studio. The first scene is shot in the woods of this Island. Armed and trained man hunt an Inhuman, and we get a lot of impressive shots. You can see the higher production value in those first minutes and instantly appreciate it. It just looks good and feels real.
The soundtrack enhances the scenes. Sometimes the choice of a song for a particular scene can be a bit unusual, but it works. Music is such an integral part of movies and TV shows, and it is always a pleasure when it is done right.
Because Inhumans doesn’t rush through the plot, the filming and editing are slow paced as well. The longer shots they use are great, so we can focus on the facial expressions and how the characters act. This way we can appreciate their interactions and simultaneously see the talent of the actors.
Watch it! Inhumans is an excellent introduction for people who are not familiar with the material. Furthermore, because it is not an origin story and I think the show might also be thrilling to watch for long-time fans. We have interesting characters, back stories when they are needed, and the high effort of the showrunners can be seen throughout the show. However, it is not perfect. In my opinion, the capabilities of the Inhumans, especially the royal family, is not consistent. As soon as they are confronted with a new, unfamiliar situation, they are not as superior as they want to be.
Nevertheless, I am looking forward to watching the rest of the show, which starts September 29th on ABC.