Review: Irredeemable Inhumans (IMAX) is Marvel TV stretched far beyond its limits

Spread across a vast IMAX screen, the sight of Marvel’s Inhumans in a theater has all the value of seeing an episode of CBS’s Hawaii Five-0 in 70mm. It’s a distinctly un-cinematic effort that doesn’t belong in cinemas and, in this age of must-watch series, doesn’t even belong on TV. For all Iron Fist‘s issues, nothing has ever been such a punch in the gut to the Marvel brand as this absolutely abysmal offering.

From its opening moments, Inhumans makes no efforts to veil that you’ve been conned in paying an admission price. Its opening credits boast of guest stars and flaunt that it’s “written for television”—which is still giving it far more than its due in the writing department. It feels more like it was written by a self-published fantasy author desperately pitching their pilot to an unsympathetic crowdfunding site. The dialogue is some of the most painfully bad in recent memory, a laughable mix of lazy exposition, forced banter, groan-worthy attempts at humor, and absurd strings of clichéd lines delivered with deserved indifference by an often amateurish cast.

A satyr Halloween costume, a suit far more convincing than the Gorgon getup in Inhumans.

Mercifully spared having to actually say anything in the script, Anson Mount stars as Black Bolt, the functionally-mute king of the Moon, a role no less stupid in practice than on paper. Akin to the X-Men—Marvel losing the screen rights to those characters being the raison d’être for this crap—his people possess mutant powers that have apparently made them outcasts to humans. But while the X-Men attain their powers through puberty, the Inhumans evidently get theirs through some kind of new-age stoner process that involves crystals and hotboxing. By this system, Black Bolt was blessed and cursed with a voice that sends out intense shockwaves (his infrequent use of this power is both deadly and hilarious). Heavy is the crown of the Moon, and sometimes his duties send him into enough of a sulk that he retreats to a special little sulking chamber. His queen, Medusa (Serinda Swan), possesses a power much as her name implies, only lamer: instead of snake hair, she has regular-looking hair, but it’s prehensile. Bolt’s chief of security, Eme Ikwuakor’s Gorgon, is some kind of satyr; in close-ups, we’re shown his hoofed feet, and in long shots, we’re shown he’s definitely just wearing some furry pants with hooves at the toes. Also at the king’s side are Medusa’s sister, Crystal (Isabelle Cornish), who can finger-gun hot and cold shots, and Ken Leung’s Karnak, whose vaguely-defined abilities seem to give him some kind of strategizing HUD or something. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. Almost everyone in this thing just shoots firearms anyway.

These super-powered gun fanatics all live on the dark side of Earth’s moon, cloaked in some way or another. Their Brutalist compound (and the only decent bit of design in the whole production) is rather limited in space, and a caste system has forcibly developed there, the lesser-powered populace being relegated to inexplicably digging tunnels. Pretty shitty, right? Well, that’s why Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus (Game of Thrones bastard Iwan Rheon), wants to take over as king. In a populist stump speech, he speaks of bringing equality to their meritocracy by reclaiming their home on Earth. Before you know it, and with little to no rationalization, that leads to a full-blown coup and a dramatic hair-shearing scene that plays like a parody of both Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables and a notable Game of Thrones castration. It also, for similarly not-quite-there reasons, leaves Black Bolt and his team left to their own fish-out-of-water devices—in beautiful Honolulu!

The music of Marvel properties has always been a mixed bag of forgettable scores and memorable pop songs. Inhumans is no different, but only in the worst ways possible. Unfailingly, its score is far too present, and it’s so generic that you just assume it’s made up of temp tracks named specifically for the mood they’re meant to evoke. On the pop front, Inhumans introduces us to a terrible cover of The Doors’ “Break on Through,” immediately followed by a terrible cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” also makes a brief appearance in a not-quite-montage of Black Bolt trying on the dapper suits of Earth men. Because why wouldn’t that be a scene?

Inhumans is a first in presenting a television premiere in this very big-screen format, but it may also be a vanguard in using IMAX’s size purely for ridicule. The large-scale picture has never been used so aggressively to a film’s detriment. Instead of using it for sharp, broad vistas, director Roel Reiné (helmer of such cheapo sequels as The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption, Hard Target 2, The Condemned 2, The Man with the Iron Fists 2, The Marine 2, and two Death Race follow-ups) incessantly pushes in to extreme close-ups. He seems intent on always making us notice the acne on a teenage boy’s face, or the visible sweat in Mount’s hair from shooting in Hawaii in a black leather shirt-dress.

One of the main Inhumans, and the only likable member thanks to having no lines nor associated actor, is a large bulldog capable of teleporting itself and anyone touching it. Even this adorable canine Inhumans somehow gets wrong, though, by seemingly just enlarging a normal-sized dog model, such that its fur and other textures all feel grossly stretched out. As an IMAX cinematic offering, this two-part series premiere isn’t much different: scaled up to a big size but still recognizably small. It’s no secret that Marvel rushed out the series after initially conceiving it as a film, but as it stands with the feature-length mess they’ve thrown into theaters, it doesn’t come close to playing as either.

Grade: F

Director: Roel Reiné
Studio: Marvel Television, ABC Studios
Runtime: 81 minutes
Cast: Anson Mount, Iwan Rheon, Serinda Swan, Eme Ikwuakor, Isabelle Cornish, Ken Leung, Ellen Woglom, Sonya Balmores, Mike Moh

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