By: Henry Hanks, Contributor @hankstv / firstname.lastname@example.org
This week saw the 100th birthday of comic book legend Jack Kirby. One of his most Kirby-esque creations (along with Stan Lee) were the Inhumans, a royal family of superpowered demigods who originally faced off with the Fantastic Four.
Kirby’s art was always big and bold, and so were his ideas, and that’s part of why Inhumans would be so difficult to adapt into live action on paper. The pilot episode – now showing on IMAX screens – of ABC’s series “Marvel’s Inhumans” is just proof that it may be one of the most difficult adaptations from the Marvel universe, even more so than Dr. Strange.
First, the good: Anson Mount does a respectable job as the silent Black Bolt. In fact, there’s a bit of Charlie Chaplin to some of his scenes (to go further would be spoiling).
Iwan Rheon is also good as Maximus, though his role could easily turn into mustache-twirling at any moment.
Eme Ikwuakor and Ken Leung are terrific as Gorgon and Zarnak, providing some much-needed comic relief.
The pilot looked great in IMAX.
Now for the problems: if you’re not one of the Marvel initiated, you probably won’t find much reason to care about the palace intrigue in the Inhumans royal family, nor will you understand some of it. Going back to Lee and Kirby’s work, Crystal and her 2000 pound dog Lockjaw are explained fairly well in short order. Here it’s just another weird thing that happens, not too well explained. Crystal’s (Isabelle Cornish) powers aren’t terribly clear for a good while, either.
The effects generally aren’t up to par, and perhaps that’s due to a TV budget (large as it is, for TV) being translated to the big screen.
That brings us to the much-discussed hair effects for Serinda Swan’s Medusa. Word is that this CGI was exceedingly difficult (animating hair wasn’t even really possible in the days of “Toy Story”), and that’s solved by something given away in a recent trailer: when Maximus pulls off a coup, he disarms Medusa by shaving her hair.
SPOILER ALERT BELOW!
A similar thing is also done to Mike Moh’s Triton, whose makeup is genuinely awe-inspiring: he’s (Spoiler alert, but not really since it happens so early) killed off within the first few minutes of the pilot.
The acting is also all over the map here, which doesn’t help either. It’s tough to have chemistry when one half of the couple is mute, but Mount and Swan don’t have much of it so far.
The coup also feels rushed (though Maximus’ reasons are understandable)… and we’re never given much reason to root for Black Bolt and family. They send non-inhumans to work in the mines, after all. Maximus calls it a “meritocracy,” but it’s also kind of a benevolent dictatorship.
The good news is that there’s more to come, more time to develop characters once the show hits ABC. But what we have now is the most underwhelming Marvel pilot thus far.