The Inhumans and Marvel’s Ongoing Struggle To Bring Everyone Back Into The Fold

The Inhumans rolled out their pilot episode synopsis today, reminding us how much those on the show will differ from those other Marvel characters, the X-men.

The Inhumans is rolling their way towards their big début next September, with a very early synopsis release of the opening episode (which is part of what will be shown in IMAX theaters for two weeks before the ABC début.)

First, let’s hit the synopsis, via Spoiler TV:

After the Royal Family of Inhumans is splintered by a military coup, they barely escape to Hawaii where their surprising interactions with the lush world and humanity around them may prove to not only save them, but Earth itself.

The first thing to note here is that this has zero to do with Agents of SHIELD. The Inhuman royal family has not been introduced in the slightest. Instead the Inhumans are something that no one on earth knows about at all, until some terrigen crystals were uncovered. this is not taken from any comic book storyline that I’m aware of. The second thing to note is that this doesn’t have anything to do with the comic books as far as I am aware. (I thought Inhumans went to Wisconsin University or something).

This suggests that the TV show is starting them from scratch completely, an interesting choice. Especially since this was originally supposed to be a movie. And elements from the movie are clearly crossing over. Take for example the logo from the TV show (above) and the movie’s original one:

Image via Marvel

This begs the question, is the IMAX opener episodes a repurposing of the original movie plans? And why doesn’t it tie in with the TV show?

After all, when the Inhumans movie was originally announced back in 2014, Agents of SHIELD was only just delving into what would become Season 2’s introduction to the concept. And though nowadays we see stars of the Marvel movies outright claiming that the TV shows and the films were never part of the same universe, we who sat through AoS‘s terribly flat first season know that was not originally the plan. The plan was for them to crossover, and the TV show spent nearly an entire season legshackled because of it.

So why has the plan changed? And why move The Inhumans out of the movie-verse and into the TV one, which is clearly considered second tier by those in charge? The answer, I think is The  X-men.

let us rewind the clock, if you will, back to the late 90s, when Marvel was badly underwater, and in need of cash flow. At the time they sold The X-men to 20th Century Fox, and not long after Spider-man to Sony Pictures. Both of these production companies went on to score major hits with both.

Fast forward nearly two decades to 2014, and it’s a different reality. Sony and 20th Century Fox were in a horrific position vis-a-vis the Marvel characters. The contracts stipulate that there must be a movie in development using those characters every 18 months, or the rights revert back to Marvel. In the 90s this seemed like a perfectly practical deal–if the movies were hits, they’d keep making them, if the movies were flops they’d let the rights lapse and stop paying for them.
Except then 2008 happened and Iron Man and the MCU being bought by Disney. This leaves both production companies in a situation where DESPERATE to keep a movie in production every 18 months, lest the rights to those characters lapse to Disney who will make piles of money off them instead.

Image via Marvel

In 2014, signs of wear were starting to show from this battle. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had just been released, and Sony’s lack of ideas for how to continue was becoming obvious. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox was continuing to pound out Wolverine movies in between X-men franchise installments, giving themselves some breathing room. Of the two, Sony looked like it might give out, but the X-men were still pretty locked up. Hence the MCU’s decision to push the Inhumans (a version that was a very obvious variation of the same “mutant” theme) front and center on Agents of SHIELD, introducing them for a movie down the line.

Only a few months later, Sony had admitted it was out of ideas for Spider-man and had gone to the MCU to make a deal, which was announced early in 2015. The MCU was so keen to get Spidey back in time for 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, they agreed to a partnership instead of waiting Sony out properly and getting all the rights back. (That means Sony *still* has to have a movie in production in the Spider-man world, lest it lose the rights to all the characters. (See, also: that just announced Venom movie). But it bought itself some time. Homecoming would count towards their 18 month structure, and Sony would be guaranteed a hit. After all, most people don’t realize it’s Sony funding the stand alone. They assume it’s MCU/Disney film and are going to turn out accordingly. Meanwhile the MCU gets to crow it got Spider-man back.

This was the point when The Inhumans suddenly bumped off the schedule and disappeared all together. Why? The MCU said it was to make room for Sony’s standalone Spider-man movie. But in reality, it was now a liability. X-Men: Days of Future Past had been released to meh reviews, and an uncertain future of how the franchise would proceed. The Wolverine movies were on diminishing returns. 20th Century Fox was gearing up for the disastrous Fantastic Four release. The MCU seemed to have decided maybe they were hasty in writing off what would be the crown jewel of the franchise, if only they could get it back. Moving The Inhumans to the TV show back burner–and deciding that never the twain shall meet again–guarantees if they do score their characters back, there will be no embarrassing issues of why there are two very similar mutants-types in the same world.

Image via 20th Century Fox

But perhaps they were too hasty to decide they had been hasty. Because only a few months later, 20th Century Fox discovered the secret to keeping these characters–compete in a completely different way. Someone actually decided to listen to Ryan Reynolds, and the first R-Rated Superhero movie arrived in the form of Deadpool–a movie, we should note, that was an open parody of the MCU films. It’s given a shot in the arm to the X-men franchise. Ffilms like Logan are breaking R-Rated records, and even better, they can convince audiences these aren’t even really X-men movies anyway. It’s bought them probably a good decade before they’ll be facing down the barrel of having to make a deal with Disney for the X-men to join the MCU.

But when they finally do, at least the MCU will be ready and waiting for them, without having any potential embarrassing conflicts. Sorry Inhumans.

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