ABC is so hyped on—or so overconfident of—their newest comics-based TV series, “Marvel’s Inhumans” that they’re taking it off TV screens and hosting the premiere this weekend exclusively on IMAX movie screens. Yup, the pilot doesn’t air on TV until Sept. 29. But you can pay to see it this Thursday and Friday at your local movie theater.
So who are these Inhumans, and why are they so worthy of such an honor? Well, the Inhumans first started appearing in Fantastic Four comics back in 1965. Fictionally speaking, they got their start millions of years ago when the space-faring Kree race came to prehistoric Earth. (In comics the Kree are best known as the aliens who spawned the original Captain Marvel. In today’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ronan the Accuser—the villain from Guardians of the Galaxy—is Kree.) The brilliant and somewhat amoral Kree started experimenting on the primitive human race. The result was a super-powered offshoot known as Inhumans, who were prone to random, occasionally monstrous mutation in adulthood. The Kree eventually abandoned Earth, leaving the Inhumans to their own devices. The Inhuman race went on to build a hidden city, Attilan, located in the Himalayas—which later relocated to the moon.
When Marvel got bought out by Disney and started producing live-action movies and TV shows, a handful of intellectual properties (most notably the X-Men, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four) were stranded at other movie studios. Marvel was particularly angry that it was unable to capitalize directly on its popular X-Men franchise. In a fit of pique Marvel basically canceled all its X-Men comics and refused to utter the word “mutant.” Instead, the company focussed all its attentions on the way-less-popular Inhumans. Instead of saying half the heroes in the Marvel Universe were nuclear-age mutants, they’d simply retcon them to be the genetically altered descendants of alien experiments.
Marvel spent several seasons developing an Inhumans storyline on ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” It was to terminate in a major feature film version, which would finally unveil the royal family of Attilan, whose members are the subject of Marvel’s occasional Inhumans comics. Vin Diesel was reportedly desperate to play the notoriously silent king of the Inhumans, Black Bolt, whose softest whisper can level mountains. But Marvel and Disney could never seem to figure out a decent approach to the obscure property. Eventually, plans for a feature film were dropped, and a TV series was created.
Now we get a chance to see that somewhat downgraded concept. The 75-minute pilot—shot on actual IMAX cameras—picks up as the Inhuman royal family returns to Earth from its hideout on the moon. The story is described as a “Shakespearian saga” in which Inhuman king Black Bolt (Anson Mount from “Hell on Wheels”) and his wife, Medusa (Serinda Swan, “Graceland”), are deposed by the king’s scheming brother Maximus (Iwan Rheon, “Game of Thrones”). Also, there’s a giant teleporting bulldog. That, alone, should be worth the price of admission.