Four years ago, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige announced a nine-movie slate in front of a packed El Capitan Theatre. It was Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which would span from Captain America: [
Serpent Society] Civil War in May 2016 through Avengers: Infinity War Part II in May 2019. The penultimate film in that slate was Inhumans, originally set for release today, November 2, 2018, and the only movie in that Phase Three slate that did not and will not (for now) make it onto the silver screen.
To date, Marvel has released six of the nine movies announced in October 2014, plus two more that were subsequently added (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Ant-Man and the Wasp). The only two that remain are Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, and Avengers: Infinity War Part II (now Avengers 4, until we get the real title) on May 3, 2019 (or perhaps April 26). Inhumans holds the dubious honor of being the only potential Marvel Studios film to be announced and dated but then dropped from the slate entirely.
The first sign of trouble for Inhumans came just a few months after it was announced. In February 2015, Marvel Studios shifted Phase Three release dates to accommodate Spider-Man: Homecoming after making a deal with Sony to share the title character so he could be in the MCU. It seemed harmless at the time, but Inhumans was bumped to July 12, 2019. That put the film after Avengers 4, which meant it could not be a big part of the Phase Three story. It could be an epilogue, as Ant-Man was for Phase Two, or the beginning of a more cosmic Phase Four.
There had been several rumors swirling around about Inhumans for years. Some of them were fueled by Vin Diesel, whom fans were convinced would play Black Bolt. Marvel Comics had been making a big push in an attempt to have Inhumans replace mutants as the dominant group of super-powered characters in their universe. Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity event series in 2013 featured a literal explosion of a Terrigen bomb that turned into a figurative explosion of the Inhuman population on Earth.
The Inhumans, who are enhanced beings created via Kree experimentation on humans, were becoming a big deal in the comics and on television. The characters began playing a major role in the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC. It all appeared to be building toward the eventual movie, but changes at Marvel suggest the interest in the film may have been coming from those who don’t actually make the films.
In August 2015, it was reported that Marvel Studios had been moved out of Marvel Entertainment. Feige and his team would no longer report to anyone else at Marvel. They would report directly to The Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, the same as all other Disney-owned studios (Pixar, Lucasfilm, etc.). Marvel Television, however, still rolled up to the larger Marvel Entertainment on Disney’s organization chart.
Evidently, Feige and company were not all that interested in Inhumans. In April 2016, not long after Feige had moved Marvel Studios out from under Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter, Inhumans was dropped from the release slate. Further proof that Inhumans was more for Marvel Entertainment than it ever was for Marvel Studios came seven months later.
In November 2016, Marvel announced Inhumans was heading to ABC. It was going to be a series but had the potential of being something much more epic than we had ever seen for superheroes on the small screen. That’s because the show was being co-financed by IMAX and the first two episodes would get a brief run in IMAX theaters before they premiered on ABC.
All of that happened, but the potential of the series was never truly realized. Inhumans was a disaster with scathing reviews, which it deserved, and poor ratings for its entire eight-episode run. It took ABC several months to officially cancel the series, but the writing as on the wall the entire time. Inhumans, instead of being a Marvel Studios movie, went down as being the worst live-action adaptation of a Marvel property since Marvel started adapting their own IP with Iron Man in 2008.
The Inhuman experiment failed to take off and Marvel has since abandoned the initiative in the comics. There is still value in the property, as it includes several terrific characters, but it’s going to take time for the stink of the failed television series to clear out. With Marvel Studios soon having access to Fox-owned Marvel mythologies, however, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
The Inhumans originally got their start in the pages of Fantastic Four and maybe it will play out the same way on the big screen. One prominent Inhuman from recent Marvel Comics, Ms. Marvel, is definitely part of Marvel Studios’ plans, though it’s possible her origin could be changed.
They never could have been “the mutants of the MCU,” but now the Inhumans don’t have to be. They can play the smaller, but far more interesting role they’ve played throughout Marvel Comics for decades. It’s going to take some time, but Kevin Feige may one day announce Inhumans as part of a Marvel Studios release slate again. Only this time, it will stick.