By Jeffrey Waitkevich
Marvel and IMAX came together to bring a television show to the big screen. “Inhumans,” Marvel’s newest superhero installment, debuted on Aug. 31.
This was the first time in history a TV show premiered in IMAX theaters. In the past “Game of Thrones” has appeared in IMAX — but those episodes were from the fourth season rather than debuting in the theaters initially.
Advanced showings of television shows are not a new concept. Networks air episodes early all the time in order to introduce new shows or season while creating hype and gauging how receptive viewers are.
However, taking that idea and projecting it onto the big screen is changing the game.
It is tough to say how this might affect the way entertainment is distributed in the long-term. With streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu creating more and more of their own content, the lines between what belongs on a big screen and on your home television are already becoming blurred.
Whereas Netflix and Hulu original movies are going straight to people’s homes, “Inhumans” takes the opposite approach by making the leap to theaters.
This is remarkable because the cinema experience doesn’t always lend itself well to the average TV show. Just because a show has entertainment quality doesn’t mean it will translate to the big screen.
If “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” was being shown in theaters, would anyone go?
Let’s be real — for something like that, the giant screen adds nothing to the experience.
As a pioneer in this medium, “Inhumans” sets the bar high for other TV shows hoping to reach the big screen. For it to work, of course, the show needs to be a success. I’d argue that the key to that is giving the audience their fill of action scenes — with a superhero show, that shouldn’t be a tall order.
Unfortunately, this is the one area where “Inhumans” falls flat. The characters were intriguing and the plot was solid; but the lack of action weighed and slowed the show down.
“Inhumans” is about a royal family with superpowers that are activated by an element called terrigen. In this family, like others before it, there is a black sheep.
The king’s brother Maximus does not have superpowers. But what he lacks in the supernatural, he makes up for in his ability to convince the royal guards to help him overthrow his brother’s rule.
This action sends the Inhumans from their hidden moon city to Hawaii, where the royal family encounters traffic, Maximus’ henchmen and the power of the sea.
The king and queen, Black Bolt and Medusa, have superpowers that are perfectly suited for the big screen. Black Bolt’s voice sends out seismic waves of energy, while Medusa can animate her hair via psychic powers. This allows her to use her hair in combat, which is the coolest part of the show.
However, neither Black Bolt or Medusa use their powers enough to make up for the lack of action in the rest of the show.
Black Bolt is essentially mute—using a form of Inhuman sign language instead of sending out monstrous waves of energy every time he talks—and Medusa gets her hair cut off after just two fight scenes.
While this adds adversity to the royal family, why even bother including Medusa if she doesn’t have the powers that made her special in the first place?
Rounding out the royal family are cousins Karnak, who has reality-altering abilities, and Gorgon, who is essentially just a minotaur with a super stomp. They provide some comic relief and short action scenes that balance the show out.
Lockjaw is the real treat in this show. For the uninitiated, he is a giant, teleporting bulldog. While his only real purpose so far is teleporting the royal family from the moon to Hawaii, he is the perfect goofy pet for this otherwise serious family.
Overall, the first two episodes are decent.
Aside from Medusa’s hair and Lockjaw’s CGI glory, the special effects were underwhelming. But the plot and the diverse superpowers should be enough to keep viewers interested throughout the entirety of the first season’s eight episodes.
As far as the IMAX experience is concerned, the show does an okay job but isn’t the perfect fit for the format. The first chapter of the series ends with a predictable cliff-hanger that pulls you out of the experience and makes it feel like a really long commercial as opposed to an innovative way to watch a show.
CW’s “Arrow” would have been a far better fit, but “Inhumans” was a perfectly average choice to get the IMAX ball rolling.
Marvel’s “Inhumans” will also air on ABC on Fridays starting Sept. 29.