Somehow we’re only slightly less than a month away from the theatrical release of Marvel’s Inhumans. On September 1, 2017, the ABC show will premiere on over one thousand IMAX screens across the country. Combining the first two episodes into a 75-minute film, Inhumans will run for two weeks in theaters before moving to television on September 29. To entice fans to watch the premiere twice, the small screen premiere will include an additional nine minutes of footage. Afterwards, Inhumans will air an additional six episodes, for a first season total of eight.
If this sounds convoluted, that’s because it is. Never before in television history has a show had this kind of structure. Yet, despite breaking new entertainment ground, it’s now coming to light that Marvel shackled Inhumans to the same production schedule as any other show. In a recent interview with CNET, director Roel Reiné discussed the challenges of filming the first two episodes of the series.
“It was not a feature film, it was a TV episode, but they still wanted to have the scope. The schedule was super-tight. I had TV schedule time to shoot it with IMAX cameras, 20 days to shoot two episodes. It’s nerve-wracking.”
What Reiné calls nerve-wracking, I would call insanity. IMAX is notoriously difficult to work with. The camera rig alone can weigh nearly 250 lbs. compared to a typical movie camera rig’s 40lbs. IMAX can only film for about three minutes at a time due to the sheer amount of detail the camera is taking in, and takes upwards of 20 minutes to reload. On top to that, any post-production VFX for IMAX must be flawless as the medium is hyper-realistic and any inconsistencies will be immediately noticeable. All of this adds up to time and money. IMAX is incredibly expensive and time-consuming. To only have 20 days to film a product whose final runtime is between 75 and 84 minutes would require a ludicrously grueling speed.
Marvel clearly wants Inhumans to be its flagship television show. Why else spend all this money? But why then did they feel the need to rush the show out of the door? HBO has proved with Game of Thrones that high-quality television can be done, but excellence takes time. Unlike most shows, Game of Thrones begins with all of the current season’s scripts ready to go. Directors, cinematographers, and their teams then travel to the different locations and film concurrently as the cast remains on location for months. For example, the most recent season began production in August of 2016 and ran until February of the following year. That’s six months. Compare that to the scant three months for Inhumans — from March to June. In no universe does HBO have more money then Disney, and yet…
And it’s not as if Marvel has been blasé about Inhumans. In the same CNET interview, Reiné talks about how there was never a moment on set when he wasn’t being shadowed by a Marvel executive to make sure things went smoothly and protect the broader interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe. Will the rushed production schedule end up hamstringing the network’s ambition? We’ll find out soon.