September 1, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Pilot Review: “Inhumans”


INHUMANS:  Friday 9PM on ABC (starting Sept 29) – Change the Channel

In this world of Peak TV, it’s harder for a new series to break through the clutter than it’s ever been, and that thicket will be a veritable forest during the fourth week of September, when the major broadcast networks will follow tradition and launch nearly all their new and returning shows at once.  So it’s easy to understand why Disney/ABC thought that eventizing the premiere of their new Marvel series INHUMANS by shooting the pilot with IMAX cameras and giving it a theatrical run a month before its TV debut seemed like an inspired way to win attention.

The catch, of course, was that Inhumans would have to stand up to the scrutiny that comes with such an ambitious start.  The pilot, alas, may well be the worst piece of content Marvel has affixed its name to since the inception of its movie/TV “universe.”

Despite the IMAX cameras, the pilot is a visual bust, one that would be unexciting on a screen measured in dozens of inches, let alone dozens of feet.  The opening half (the credits label the theatrical product as “Parts 1 & 2,” although at 75 minutes, it’s about 10-15 minutes shorter than a normal network 2-parter without commercials) is set mostly on gray, boring interior sets that have no panache whatsoever, and when the story moves outdoors in Part 2, the Hawaiian scenery is photographed (by Jeffrey Jur, under Roel Reine’s direction) like a not-particularly imaginative tourist’s vacation record.  Since a TV budget is a tiny fraction of what Marvel spends on its movies, the action sequences are pitiful compared to what IMAX screens usually showcase.

The drama itself is far worse.  It’s difficult to understand why the ABC/Disney/Marvel superhero complex thought that Scott Buck was the man to create and run Inhumans, when his last piece of work was Iron Fist, generally considered the least of the Marvel shows for Netflix.  Iron Fist, though, is Guardians of the Galsxy compared to Inhumans.  Viewers of Agents of SHIELD will recognize the general concept:  Inhumans are people who have been exposed to alien DNA, and when they come in contact with a particular chemical, many of them develop a super power.  Several of the SHIELD characters are Inhumans of one type or another, but the protagonists of Inhumans live apart from ordinary people–in a hidden city on the Moon, in fact.

They’re ruled by a royal family, although the bloodline rules aren’t clear, since the members are of different races.  Black Bolt (Anson Mount, from Hell On Wheels) is the King, who must stay silent lest his slightest utterance cause death and destruction.  His Queen Medusa (Serinda Swan, from Graceland) has mobile hair.  Other members of the clan include hoofed security chief Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor), teen Crystal (Isabelle Cornish), and advisor Karknak (Ken Leung).  There’s also a giant teleporting CG dog named Lockjaw, who looks a bit like the giant CG pig in the Netflix movie Okja.  The Moon city seems meant to be a utopia, although Inhumans whose super powers aren’t super enough are put to work in the mines, which feels rather totalitarian.  Villainy is supplied by Maximus (Iwan Rheon), Black Bolt’s jealous brother, who has no powers of his own and who smirks a lot while leading his coup, after which our heroes make their escape by being teleported to different parts of Hawaii by Lockjaw, who seems to have a limited sense of direction, although who are we to question the teleporting powers of a CG dog?

Buck wrote both parts of the pilot, and the dialogue is “comic book” in the worst way, dead words that thunk against the scenery.  Even worse, none of the characters come to life–it’s not even clear what some of their powers are–and although Mount, Swan and Leung have proven themselves to be adept actors, they’re unable to do more than look stalwart.

Inhumans was already in a tough spot on ABC, airing on low-rated Fridays with the fading (and now rebooted) Once Upon A Time as its lead-in, and head-to-head with Hawaii 5-0, The Exorcist and Jane the Virgin, none of them big hits but each with a following.  This theatrical run was supposed to get word of mouth going early, but the idea was for that word of mouth to be good.  The buzz now that people are actually seeing Inhumans is more likely to be toxic.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."