In the US: Fridays, , ABC
In the UK: Acquired by Sky1. Will air this Autumn
Famously, infamously or “Really? Jesus. What’s wrong with you?”ly, I’ve now seen Marvel’s Iron Fist three times.
What can I say? I don’t think it’s excellent, but neither do I think it’s terrible. It’s enjoyable, does some interesting things with a B-grade Marvel character and has some good superheroics. Even watching the trailer below again makes me almost giddy with excitement. Number four viewing isn’t far off now, I reckon.
However, I’m almost certain I’m the only person on the planet to do so, outside of Gitmo and various institutions for the criminally insane – indeed, 10 years from now, repeatedly viewing of Iron Fist will almost certainly feature in some supervillain’s origin story.
Because the general critical reaction has been negative. Oh so very negative. Many critics were especially surprised by how bad it was, because Iron Fist‘s showrunner was Scott Buck, who was a producer and/or writer on Six Feet Under, Rome and Dexter. Not a shabby credits list, hey?
Yet I imagine some of them even wondered if they’d make a mistake in retrospect in liking those shows, such was the perceived awfulness of Iron Fist.
I’m having the same issue now I’ve seen the first two episodes of Marvel’s Inhumans, whose showrunner is one Scott Buck. Was I wrong to like Iron Fist? Did I make a mistake?
Because Inhumans… is pretty terrible. Based on the Marvel comics of the same name created by the dream team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, it’s focused on the ‘inhumans’ – genetic mutations of humans with superpowers whom you might already have seen in the increasingly inept Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (still watching? And you think I’ve got problems?).
A while back, a whole bunch of them left the Earth and decided to build themselves a city on the Moon.
As you do, obviously.
There they set up shop and created a new society, complete with weird genetic rituals, a monarchy, a council and a caste system. Current King: a mute, but maybe telepathic bloke called Black Bolt (Hell on Wheels‘ Anson Mount). Current Queen: a woman called Medusa, who has superpowered hair that can pick things up and hit people (Graceland/Breakout Kings‘ Serinda Swan).
Trouble is, the population is increasing but the city and resources aren’t getting any bigger. Because it’s the Moon.
This is something that irks Black Bolt’s brother (Iwan Rheon of Misfits, Game of Thrones and Riviera), who fluffed the mutant-activation test and so is pure human, which would normally get him sent down the mine and certainly stops him from becoming King.
One day, though, he senses his chance for power so decides to mount a palace coup, in the name of re-taking the Earth for the Inhumans. However, that’s not before the Royal Family and some of their loyal followers escape to Earth. And they might have been noticed by someone who has been monitoring their activities (Ellen Woglom).
Which is all the sort of politicking and intrigue that made Iron Fist so enjoyable for me. Since he’s usually quite faithful to the comics, Buck also mines Inhumans for some more bonkers and comedic opportunities. The head of the Royal Guard (Eme Ikwuakor) has giant hooves. The family owns a giant teleporting dog. Their most trusted advisor (Lost‘s Ken Leung) is so cunningly strategic and able to predict what’ll happen, it’s almost like he has a heads-up display and can rewind time to have another go at things if he cocks up. Black Bolt has another power as well that’s rather cool, but telling you would spoil things.
At the very least, Marvel’s Inhumans is occasionally exciting and also quite funny at times. There’s imagination going on, the acting’s quite fun, with Mount likeable and expressive despite never being able to say anything, and Leung’s pleasing acidic. There’s also a huge budget for CGI-ing a city on the Moon – so huge that the first two episodes were shot and shown in IMAX.
Plus you’ve got to love a giant teleporting dog.
The trouble is that we have a double-punch combo of almost knock-out blows that render the show almost unwatchable.
First up, it’s all set in Hawaii. Yep, for reasons best known to ABC and the IRS, rather than to the script department, all the Inhumans decide to go to ground in Honolulu. Okay, so the dog makes the decision, but why Hawaii? You can barely see it from the Moon. It’s so stupid a choice (it makes the frequent attacks on Cardiff in Torchwood seem tactically sound), you spend your time laughing more at that than the actual jokes.
Maybe it’s not just for tax purposes, but to lure in some old Lost hands – certainly, Henry Ian Cusick is on his way at some point soonish. Which is nice for the actors for sure, but it makes crowd scenes a bit difficult for starters and the pool of supporting actors for the show to cast from isn’t huge either.
Secondly, it’s got the same, somewhat random approach to plotting that was on display in Iron Fist. Invariably, just as you expect it to zig, not only does it zag, it sits down and starts singing about gold instead of pushing the plot forward.
The bad guys have caught Medusa. Oh my god! What will they do to her?
Get out a set of barber’s clippers, that’s what. I kid you not.
Oh, the… horror?
Down on Earth, what do the Inhumans do, knowing that Rheon’s murderous lackeys could be on their tails at any moment? Go on – guess.
What did you call? Was it “go clothes shopping” or “take a ride on a tour bus for about 10 minutes”? No? In that case, you lose.
Sure, it’s not supposed to be taken 100% seriously, but most of the time it seems to be ultra-serious and ultra-dull and then Bolt will be doing magic tricks and posing for photographs, while a bloke with giant hooves hangs out with surfer dudes.
That juxtaposition of genres and pacing worked for me with Iron Fist. Here, it feels jarring, odd and frequently tedious. It feels like no one knows what they’re doing and haven’t yet worked out what the story is. Instead, they just want you to be absolutely sure a lot of money has been spent on it, Hawaii is a lovely place to go on holiday and that you’ll get to see the occasional bit of cool superheroics.
There’s just about enough in Marvel’s Inhumans that I can imagine tuning in for episode three. Just. But it’s a hard watch for a show that should be a bonkers laugh from start to finish.
Early cancellation? Maybe. What will Buck do then? Go back to Iron Fist? Somehow, I’m not sure I want that any more…