Why we never got to see an Inhumans movie

Now that Marvel has introduced most of the major characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's time for them to bring in everyone else—like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and the Inhumans. Revolving around a race of superhumans (who heavily resemble mutants), the Inhumans movie was originally going to arrive during Marvel's Phase Three, but was pulled from the schedule after a series of delays and replaced with a TV series. What happened, and why is Marvel holding back on an Inhumans movie?

The movie's screenwriter dropped the project

After teasing fans for awhile, Marvel finally started moving forward with Inhumans in August 2014, hiring Joe Robert Cole to pen the script. Later that year, Marvel announced the movie would be part of the studio's Phase Three slate and arrive sometime in 2018. Cole worked on the film for well over a year before eventually dropping the project in favor of another Marvel movie: Black Panther—which is only fitting considering Cole came out of the in-house Marvel writer's program that also spawned Nicole Perlman, who wrote the Guardians of the Galaxy script.

Despite being attached to the movie for over a year, Cole seemed as unaware of Marvel's Inhumans plans as anyone else. "I don't know if Inhumans is on the slate," Cole said in August 2016. In fact, he was unsure why people still believed he was writing the script. "For some reason, everyone thinks that I'm writing or have written Inhumans. There is not an Inhumans script yet, so I'm not sure how that will be moving forward." At the moment, there's no telling if Cole will jump back on board with an Inhumans movie following Black Panther—or if he'll be part of the Inhumans TV series.

Spider-Man took priority

When Marvel initially announced its Phase Three slate in 2014, the company had a very clear plan. But as things progressed, the slate changed—primarily through the sudden inclusion of Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After much deliberation, Marvel and Sony Pictures reached a landmark agreement in 2015 that would allow Marvel to use Spider-Man in the MCU while Sony retained distribution rights. Because of this arrangement, fans got to see Spider-Man alongside his fellow comic book Avengers in Captain America: Civil War in 2016; come July 2017, the web-slinger's first solo movie will arrive in theaters.

Bringing Spider-Man into the fray is arguably more important than introducing a new series of characters with the Inhumans movie. After all, Sony managed to amass almost $4 billion by releasing just five Spider-Man movies over the course of 12 years. Imagine how much money the character could bring both Marvel and Sony now that he's being joined by the likes of Iron Man. Aside from monetary assumptions, the evidence clearly shows Marvel prioritizing Spider-Man.

Marvel originally had Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 slated for July 28, 2017, which changed to May 5, 2017 in order to allow Thor: Ragnarok to accommodate its July 2017 slot. After some time, Thor: Ragnarok moved to November 3, 2017, thus allowing Marvel to inject Spider-Man: Homecoming right in the middle of their third phase. By delaying Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther moved from November 2017 to July 2018 but was then moved up February 2018 to accommodate Ant-Man and The Wasp. All of these changes forced Inhumans to move from 2018 to July 2019—but then to make room for Spider-Man 2, Marvel pulled Inhumans and gave its release date to the wall-crawler.

Inhumans are essential to Marvel TV

It's no secret that Marvel's first TV series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., got off to a rocky start when it debuted in 2013. Despite initially breaking records, the series' ratings dropped off, and they never quite recovered. The series has since found its footing and a steady stream of viewers—and more importantly, it's become a tool for Marvel TV to introduce new elements into the MCU, namely the Inhumans.

As comics fans are aware, the Inhumans are the result and remnants of experiments conducted by the alien Kree race on ancient humans, with the hopes of building a superior race. Millions of people in the MCU contain the Inhuman gene, and by being exposed to Terrigen Mist (the same substance used by the Kree in their experiments), they undergo Terrigenesis, cocooning in a rock-like exterior before emerging. In many cases, they appear different. If not, then they at least gain some sort of Inhuman ability.

By bringing the Kree into the fold, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was able to explain how Agent Coulson is alive (despite dying in Joss Whedon's The Avengers), as well as introduce the Inhumans. Ever since the superhuman race debuted on the show in 2014, they've become an integral part of the overarching narrative. It would be strange for Marvel to suddenly ignore all the development Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has done on the Inhumans in favor of reintroducing them on the big screen, to a wider audience. It wouldn't make sense, narratively.

The Inhumans TV series

In lieu of an Inhumans movie, at least temporarily, Marvel has decided to dive headfirst into an Inhumans TV series. Scheduled to air in September 2017, the eight-episode series will introduce and follow Black Bolt and the Inhuman Royal Family, including Medusa, Gordon, Triton, Crystal, Lockjaw, and more. Despite being an Inhumans series, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter it isn't meant to replace the Inhumans movie (more on that later), nor will it be an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff. However, that doesn't mean the series will be truly standalone—it'll certainly connect to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Moreover, the move will allow the studio to introduce the Inhumans royal family that comic book fans know and love, while also allowing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to continue their ongoing Inhumans narrative, with Chloe Bennet's Daisy Johnson at the forefront. At the moment, not much is known about the upcoming series, other than Iron Fist executive producer Scott Buck acting as showrunner, and Roel Reine directing the first two episodes (both of which will premiere first in IMAX).

The movie might be part of Phase Four

Despite being one of the most secretive companies in Hollywood, Marvel Studios loves to announce its slate years in advance. Right now, we know every movie scheduled to arrive from now through 2019, including two more Avengers movies. What we don't know is what comes after. Whatever it is, it'll surely be different than what we're used to. "I think there will be a finality to moments of Phase Three," Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige said, "as well as new beginnings that will mark a different, a very different, a distinctively different chapter in what will someday be a complete first saga made up of three phases."

Even though the studio pulled the Inhumans movie from the Phase Three schedule, and even though The Inhumans TV series is expected to premiere in September 2017, Marvel still plans to bring the fictional race to the big screen in the future, possibly in Phase Four.

"We've announced through 2019; we have ideas through 2021—it sounds like the future but it's not so far away—we're determining what we'll be doing then, and certainly Inhumans will be a part of that," Feige said during Marvel's panel at Comic-Con 2016. Marvel has already set release dates for a number of untitled films through 2020, so it's possible the studio is reserving one of those films for the Inhumans movie. "I think Inhumans will happen for sure. I don't know when. I think it's happening on television. And I think as we get into [Phase Four] as I've always said, it could happen as a movie. I think it would be super cool," Feige assured fans in November 2016.

Marvel might be holding out for a deal with Fox

In the late '90s, Marvel struck deals with a number of Hollywood studios to produce and distribute movies based on Marvel characters. Several of those studios' rights have since reverted to Marvel, but Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox have retained their rights. While Sony controls (and now shares) Spider-Man, Fox maintains control over both the X-Men and Fantastic Four. This has left some gaps open in the MCU, at least in comparison to the comics. That is why fans were excited to hear that Fox and Marvel TV would be working together in a joint venture to produce 2017's Legion TV series on FX, as well as a Hellfire series based on the Hellfire Club (though that series appears to be no longer in development). Unfortunately, neither studio has plans to connect either series to the current X-Men movie franchise or Marvel Cinematic Universe. As one can imagine, that put a damper on fans' hopes—but not all hope is lost.

In 2016, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese revealed that in order to get Negasonic Teenage Warhead for Deadpool, they swapped Ego the Living Planet (who will appear in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2) with Marvel for the character. That means there are already deals going on behind the scenes—which means there's always hope of seeing the X-Men join the MCU. Perhaps Marvel is holding off on releasing an Inhumans movie because they're hoping a deal will come through with Fox. Looking at how disconnected Marvel's movie and TV universes are, it wouldn't be far-fetched to believe the studio will eventually restrict Inhumans to television, leaving the big screen open for the X-Men (an arguably more recognizable race of superhumans).

Marvel wants to establish the Inhumans on TV first

Again, there's no secret that the Marvel movie and TV universes aren't as connected as they would have you believe. Even the actors themselves are aware of how disconnected the two universes are. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Chloe Bennet recently said she's ready to see an Avenger make an appearance on her series (which saw a few major appearances in its first season, but nothing since). "'People who make movies for Marvel, why don't you acknowledge what happens on our show?' Why don't you guys go ask them that? Cause they don't seem to care," she argued. "I would love [crossing over]. The Marvel Cinematic Universe loves to pretend that everything is connected, but then they don't acknowledge our show at all. So, I would love to do that, but they don't seem to keen on that idea."

There needs to be an event, or at least a story arc that transfers over from the TV side to the movies, and not only the other way around. The Marvel Cinematic Universe needs to be a two-way street, and perhaps the way to make that happen will be through the Inhumans TV series and Inhumans movie. By establishing the characters on television first and then bringing them to the big screen, Marvel will be able to bridge a gap that's been left open for too long. After all, the upcoming Inhumans series will be the first TV show ever to air on IMAX before premiering on television—meaning Marvel is already breaking ground between the two universes.