REVIEW: INHUMANS: THE COMPLETE SERIES

MAIN CAST

Anson Mount (Safe)
Serinda Swan (Smallville)
Ken Leung (Lost)
Eme Ikwuakor (Ink)
Isabelle Cornish (Homeand Away)
Ellen Woglom (April Showers)
Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Mike Moh (Street Fighter: Assassin’s fist)
Sonya Balmores (Soul Surfer)
Henry Ian Cusick (Lost)
Jamie Gray Hyder (Voltron: Legendary Defender)
Chad Buchanan (Star)
Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet)
Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel)
Marco Rodríguez (Nightcrawler)
Tom Wright (Creepshow 2)
Krista Alvarez (Wawaii Five-O)
Bridger Zadina  (Bosch)

… And Finally: Inhumans is done. Not officially, mind you — there’s always a chance that this sucker will scrape through to renewal somehow, so until you see a headline confirming its cancellation, assume nothing. Still, whether Marvel’s underwhelming series gets a second go-round or not, the series we saw at the end of September is done for. No more moon city. No more quiet room. No more magic wall face. No more minimalist, uncomfortable throne, at least until it’s revealed what the squiggly blue letters mean. That reveal will never come, because seriously, Inhumans is probably done.It’s tempting to dive into this review by cataloguing the miscalculations, wrongs turns, and missed opportunities that have plagued Inhumans since the beginning. It’s a total buffet of bad judgment, with options ranging from ‘takes the entire premise far too seriously’ to ‘spends too little time with the giant teleporting dog,’ but a roster of missteps isn’t particularly useful or interesting. Still, there are chronic problems worth digging into, because the issues that have most troubled this series are the same ones that sink what was surely meant to be a gripping finale. As it turns out, when you don’t invest at all in your characters, their motivations, and the consequences of their actions, you wind up with a dismal, easily forgettable slog.Some of the failure in this area comes down to casting. The Inhumans ensemble isn’t uniformly bad — despite being given basically nothing of sense to do, Ken Leung, Iwan Rheon, Ellen Woglom, and a few others work their asses off to make a few individual moments work. It should also be said that even highly capable performers can’t do much when they’re desperately miscast. Still, there’s no getting around the fact that Anson Mount’s apparent inability to emotionally engage with the other actors, with the story, with the camera, and with the audience tanks pretty much any scene in which he plays a part. That’s been a problem from the get-go, but it’s a more significant issue here. It’s right there in the title: this is meant to be the Black Bolt variety hour, and yet it’s likely that the biggest response he’ll get will come courtesy of the moment he taps Maximus right over his heart, and said response will probably come in the form of a snort.Mount’s fighting an uphill battle no actor could possibly win. Viola Davis couldn’t make this stuff work. “… And Finally: Black Bolt” centers on a relationship in which the show has not invested, made up of two people the show has taken no time to develop. As the episode meanders toward the scenes meant to make up its climax, it drops information by the wayside, hoping a confession to a crime might help up the stakes. It seems to hope that time spent wandering empty hallways can trick an audience into suddenly caring about the fates of people about whom they know almost nothing. If Inhumans aims to make Maximus a sympathetic character, that ship has long since sailed. If it wants to give Black Bolt some kind of emotional journey, the point at which we’re all supposed to begin to care remains unclear. And if it thinks Black Bolt choosing to break his silence is a powerful moment, its writers should probably have done more to set that up than simply having an actor stay quiet for seven long episodes.The moment Black Bolt whispers “Goodbye, brother” falls flat for any number of reasons. As stated above, there’s no reason to care about the relationship between the two brothers, and that failing alone pretty much dooms the scene. But there’s more to it than that. In fiction, the destruction of one’s home is often symbolic, representing a loss of identity or links to the past, or signalling a future in which old wounds and baggage are left behind. That seems to fit, but because there’s no sense of what Black Bolt’s journey has been, how his perspective has changed or how his beliefs have shifted, there’s no reason to believe the crumbling of that building is anything more than an easy way to block some doors. He doesn’t want to kill his brother, but he’s willing to condemn him to a life that will be lived entirely alone uncase some creepy space invaders show up. That’s a choice that could make sense for the character, but even if it did, we’d have know way of knowing, because Black Bolt lacks any kind of internal life. He’s just a guy who’s a king, a man with a wife and his own sign language. That’s what we’ve got.That’s one example of many — “And Finally” treats the motivations of its characters with a similar level of disinterest throughout its too-long running time. Why does Medusa ask Louise for help, and what’s the help she needs? The answer to the former seems to be that Louise is the only human she knows; the answer to the latter is most likely something along the lines of “oh who cares, just write the scene.” Why does Karnak want to keep Gorgon alive, despite Gorgon’s obvious misery and lack of control? Because it’s better than than Gorgon being dead, one assumes, despite some evidence to the contrary — and the emotional effect of that evidence on Karnak is unclear. Why does Auran make any of the choices she makes here? Absolutely no idea. It’s not even all that clear what those actions are. Medusa smashes the crystal, because that seems dramatic. Maximus reveals his role in the death of his parents, because that was something on the episode checklist.What all this stuff — the lack of development, the unanswered questions, the unexplored ideas, the plot holes, the inexplicable choices — what all these things have in common is total lack of thoughtfulness. It’s there in the uneven effects and the inconsistent tone and the lack of any kind of cohesive written or visual story. It’s evident in the lack of planning that leads to casting Henry Ian Cusack, giving him almost nothing to do for eight episodes, then killing his character to solve a plot problem that doesn’t actually even matter because of other developments to come. It’s even clear in the relative lack of Lockjaw. Failing all else, one should at least try to make a finale entertaining. Even if Inhumans doesn’t give a damn about the people in “… And Finally: Black Bolt,” the show could at least have given half a damn about the dog.

Advertisements

REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR (1994): THE COMPLETE SERIES

CAST
Beau Weaver (Transformers)
Lori Alan (Family Guy)
Chuck McCann (Ducktales)
Brian Austin Green (Anger Management)
Quinton Flynn (Digimon)
Neil Ross (Being John Malkovich)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Clyde Kusatsu (Alias)
Robin Sachs (Buffy)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Robin Sachs (Buffy)
John Rhys-Davies (Lord of The Rings)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Jane Carr (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
John Vernon (Batman: TAS)
Simon Templeman (The Neighbours)
1030667-0-q80
Launched in 1994 as part of Marvel’s Action Hour in the USA (alongside Iron Man), this then new cartoon attempted to bring Marvel’s First Family  to the attention of a new generation. The main US comic book of the time included a free ‘animation cel’ with #394 to promote the series and later a spin off comic book of the cartoon was launched. In its first season, the show is disappointing. Reduced to a crude sitcom, the show is creaky, toe curling and cheesy beyond belief.  Worst of all, Sue Richards is reduced to mere ‘damsel in distress’ for the entirety of the season, functioning only as a simpering wife and mother to the men on the team. Compared to the superior Batman: The Animated Series of the time and even Marvel’s other cartoons of the period Spider-man, X-Men and Iron Man, its not hard to feel disappointed with the translation of the Fantastic Four to the small screen.

Thankfully, the approach of Season One , with its comedy landlord and irksome stereotypes don’t seemed to have found favour with audiences either and the show was given a serious overhaul for Season Two. The improvement in storytelling is immense and does a much better job of servicing the characters and situations they find thermselves in. The theme tune and accompanying score are still pretty naff though, all synthesized fanfares and flat sounding parps.
ff-toon-90s-121720
The Inhumans three parter is my favourite, giving all its key characters a chance to shine and the romance between Johnny Storm and Crystal is nicely done, There’s also some neat guest appearances for The Avengers, Black Panther and even Ego – The Living Planet. As with all of Clear Vision’s Marvel releases, the set is attractively packaged with some nice artwork by Simon Williams and the picture is pin sharp and vibrant. The sound is superb as well, being dolby 5.1 stereo. There’s nothing in the way of any extras though, just the usual language and episode selections.

REVIEW: THE INCREDIBLE HULK (1966)

CAST (VOICES)

Max Ferguson (Spider-Man 60s)
Paul Soles (The Score)
Peg Dixon (Strange Paradise)
John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Bernard Cowan (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)
Paul Kligman (Spider-Man 60s)

1280x720-6ImThe Incredible Hulk. Initially aired as three seven-minute segments in the (weekly) animated Marvel Superheroes hour in 1966, this two-disc box set compiles all 39 Hulk episodes into one fantastic collection and provides a fascinating window into the cartoons of old. Lifted directly from the early Marvel comics in which he first appeared, most of what we know and love about the Hulk is already here. Following the classic origin story to a tee, Dr Bruce Banner, missile expert and genius scientist, runs out onto a missile test range to rescue wayward teenager Rick Jones. But in doing so, Banner is caught in a detonation of his own making and blasted with gamma rays. Waking in the infirmary sometime later, Banner feels a change coming on and is soon busting through clothes and turning a darker shade of green.hqdefaultCreated by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby four years earlier, it’s fair to say the character was still in development at this point and, playing more into the monster myth on which the Hulk was originally based, Banner’s transformations are initially triggered more by the sun going down rather than losing control of his emotions. Nevertheless, all the other character traits we associate with the green-skinned one are here – the lack of intelligence, the uncontrollable rage, and the complete disregard for his or anyone else’s safety (with the exception of constant love interest Betty Ross). Other familiar faces play their part, General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, Betty’s father, continues his life-long mission to capture and control Banner’s monster, while other Marvel characters, including Iron Man, Thor, The Wasp and Captain America, also make a guest appearance as The Avengers. It’s a shame The Avengers don’t feature more heavily, although a few of them do return individually in later episodes. That being said, this is Hulk’s show and it’s only right that he takes the starring role, and that he does.nick-furyAnd it’s not just the Marvel heroes who turn up, classic villains like the Gorgon, Leader and the Metal Master also take their respective turns as enemies of the Hulk and do their best to enrage the muscle-bound giant. Each of the villain’s are brilliantly voiced, lovingly drawn and serve as suitable adversaries for the Hulk, doing their best to either thwart, capture or kill our favorite beast. Another character to feature heavily, and of some annoyance, is the already mentioned Rick Jones, the Hulk’s guilt-ridden sidekick who blames himself for Banner getting caught in the radiation blast. And while, at first, Rick seems a welcome addition to the Hulk origin story, he soon begins to grate and becomes something of a boy wonder, and proves just as annoying. That aside, the characters, friend and foe alike, really make the journey from page to screen and make these episodes all the more enjoyable for being there. And at only seven minutes long, each episode is easy to watch and doesn’t ask too much of the viewer in terms of investment and commitment, making the stories easy to follow and extremely watchable.untitledIt’s also worth mentioning that while these episodes will hold fond memories for most Marvel fans, the series has received criticism in the past for it’s almost entirely static animation, save for the movement of mouths, eyes and the occasional arm or leg. But such criticism is unfair and unwarranted, especially when you consider the limitations of the time and the quick turnaround required for the weekly episodes. It goes without saying that, when compared to the animation standards of today, that the artwork here seems crude and almost basic, but again it was fitting with the times and served as an accurate representation of what many consider to be Marvel’s Silver Age of comics. So accurate, in fact, that the artwork was directly lifted from the comic books themselves and, through a process known as xerography, printed directly onto the animation cells. This process allowed for the series to act as something of a showcase for the wonderfully nostalgic artwork of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Don Heck, Marvel luminaries themselves and just as deserving of our adoration as Stan the Man himself.