Madison Gallup ’17/ Emertainment Monthly TV Section Editor
Between the premieres of Inhumans and The Gifted, an X-Men fan has much to be excited about this fall. SDCC 2017 drummed up support for the two new series exploring the stories of many mutants featured in comics. Marvel’s first foray into bringing the X-Men universe into the television world was Legion. Noah Hawley‘s creation proved to be hugely successful, paving the way for fellow mutants to step into the spotlight and attempt to win viewer’s hearts.
Inhumans took the stage directly following the Legion panel in Ballroom 20. This ensured that the room would be full of their target audience. Moderated by Jeff Loeb, a longtime Marvel producer, this panel was able to show a lot of exclusive footage from the show.
Loeb set the bar high before even introducing the panel: “I’d like to think the best is last. I’m extremely proud of this show.” He continued to speak directly about the real game-changer, Inhumans was filmed using IMAX cameras. The first two episodes of the series will be released in IMAX theaters.
Considering the expense and scale of this show, it isn’t very surprising that Loeb and Marvel need to stir up enthusiasm and excitement. Lest anyone leave Ballroom 20 with any uncertainty about how and when they could watch Inhumans, Loeb had the crowd continually chant back to him the IMAX release date and air date for the show (September 1st in theaters and September 29th on ABC).
Given that the cast is mostly made up of newcomers, the crowd most enthusiastically reacted to the stuffed animals of Lockjaw, Black Bolt’s giant teleporting bulldog, and to Iwan Rheon. Best known for playing the infamous Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones and known by some as Simon in Misfits or for his music career (he has one full album, Dinard, and a few EPs), Rheon takes on another antagonistic role in Inhumans.
Rheon ventured to say that “there are no clear villains in Marvel because you have such interesting shades to every character.” When Loeb asked about any fear the actor had about typecasting, Rheon admitted his concern when he first learned about the part. He became less worried when he learned that his character, Maximus, is a revolutionary. “He is the lowest of the low and the only reason he’s not working down in the mines is because he’s the brother of the king,” Rheon explained. He described the story of Inhumans as having a “Macbeth type vibe.”
The actual footage presented from the finished portions of the TV show was not without flaws. Mike Moh, the actor bringing Triton to life, addressed Ballroom 20, “you guys are gonna be really happy with the action.” Moh seems to be correct about this. There are many impressive visual effects and great fight choreography.
Unfortunately, some of the more character-driven and emotional clips fell flat. Rheon and Serinda Swan (playing Medusa) seem to have the most chemistry. Much of the dialogue seemed shallowly placed in an action sequence or simply did not make sense without context surrounding it. Black Bolt (played by Anson Mount), does not speak at all. Medusa, his wife, must translate for him; she doesn’t always let his exact message come through. Mount addressed the way he learned his lexicon by studying ASL and conductors. Swan explained, “if you pay attention throughout the show, you’ll start to recognize words and moments.”
Perhaps Inhumans will reward careful and loyal viewers, but it also has to have a big turnout to the IMAX premieres to truly be considered a success. The enthusiasm coming from Loeb and the cast is infectious, but the proof is not in the pudding yet. Time will tell if Inhumans becomes the next big victory for mutants.
On the other hand, The Gifted impressed primarily due to premise and execution. While Loeb did not moderate this panel, he sat among the cast as an executive producer. Stakes are considerably lower for The Gifted, but Loeb did point out that this is the “first time Marvel has had a TV show on Fox.” Ironically, the more relaxed nature of this panel made it easier to generate excitement for the new show. A lack of chanting dates repeatedly may have helped with that.
Ultimately, the difference in these two panels came down to the actual footage shown. Clips from The Gifted, while not filmed with IMAX cameras, were exciting, emotional, convincing, and dynamic. Matt Nix, another executive producer on the panel, described the show as mutants meet Running on Empty, the 80s film starring River Pheonix.
The story is centered around a family, the Struckers, who must go on the run to protect their mutant children from prosecution. Their need to hide is made more ironic because the patriarch, Reed Strucker (played by Stephen Moyer of True Blood fame), makes his living as a mutant prosecutor. Inhumans has a family-focused story as well, but betrayal and royal boundaries complicate the sibling dynamics in a different (likely less relatable) way.
The Gifted feels inextricably tied to the real world. Nix framed the central question of the show: “how much are we willing to take away from people if we are afraid of them?” In many ways, this is the same question echoing through all the strongest X-Men adaptations. Inhumans touches on the same concern, yet it seems to do so in a more limited and confusing way. Maximus, the sole human in a royal family of mutants, seems to be making good points. He is outnumbered and ignored, perhaps unfairly. Time will tell which theme Inhumans is primarily exploring, but, ideally, audiences should have a clear idea from the trailer.
Fortunately for both of these new shows, the X-Men franchise has always proved to be relevant to the times we live in. Now more than ever, discussions about how to treat and talk about people who don’t fit a certain mold are essential.
When The Gifted panel confirmed an audience member’s suspicion that the president in the show has a strong anti mutant policy, the crowd hooted and applauded. Sean Teale (the actor portraying the mutant, Eclipse) rode the wave of support, further explaining that the show is unique because it focuses on very real people with real problems and is relevant because “there’s a lot of persecution on the planet.” The crowd continued to clap, eager for more content which boldly and cleverly addresses the prevailing problems in the world.
Fans of X-Men ought to give Inhumans and The Gifted a try. The shows clearly strike different tones and operate separate and apart from the X-Men film franchise. They will each play a role in expanding and diversifying the world of X-Men, and therefore deserve viewer’s support and attention.
Catch Inhumans in theaters on September 1st and The Gifted on Fox, October 2nd!