Runaways early buzz

With Hulu riding high off their first Best Drama win at the Emmys for The Handmaid’s Tale, the streaming service is about to debut their first Marvel series with Marvel’s Runaways later this month. They sent the first four episodes of the show to some TV critics, and the review embargo has officially been lifted. Early buzz: commence!

Inspired by the comic series by Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona, Runaways follows a group of teenagers who unite to battle a common foe: their parents, who secretly operate as a group of supervillains known as the Pride. The show hails from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the duo responsible for shows like The O.C. and Gossip Girl, and from the trailer that dropped in early October, it looks like they’re treating this show with that same level of elevated soap opera style.

But what do the critics think?

IGN says the show is an accurate adaptation:

For those who are fans of the comic book series, worry not, because the show fully embraces the source material. It looks like every member of the cast got up off the comic book page and walked onto set. There are even hints at all the signature powers and abilities, from a special staff to a pair of gauntlets and even a certain character’s trusted pet. Showrunners Joshua Schwartz and Stephanie Savage wisely put the teen drama first and slowly mix in the superhero-y elements as the plot unfolds.

Comic Book Resources also praises the show’s faithfulness to the source material but explains how they tweaked one aspect in order to improve the story:

Although Runaways ditches the notion of “supervillains,” it keeps intact the Pride as a secret society united by intertwining business interests (property development, pharmaceutical research, etc.) and far more sinister pursuits, somehow tied to the Church of Gibborim, a Scientology-like New Age group headed by Leslie Dean (Annie Wersching), mother of Karolina (Virginia Gardner). Wealthy pillars of their communities, they meet once a year at the home of Geoffrey Wilder and Catherine Wilder (Ryan Sands and Angel Parker), purportedly to plan their philanthropic activities. The truth is, of course, much darker, to say nothing of weirder.

Forbes agrees, calling this “the weirdest MCU show to date”:

Runaways is YA television. Fantastical is to be expected, but the weirdness of this show is next level for Marvel. And it’s pretty fun. Once audiences get past the very slow-paced premiere episode, a mystery begins to unfold that takes some wild turns that are going to entice even the most cynical of Marvel’s television viewers.

WeGotThisCovered says the teenage angst and drama feels natural and organic:

That slight tinge of Marvel’s usual sci-fi mysticism is just enough to make the rest of Runaways sing. The characters have believable and normal problems, and played against a supremely heightened version of a normal teen trope — “Eugh! My parents are evil!” — the drama pops even more.

But it’s not just about the kids. Episode one tells a story from the kids’ perspective, and the second episode tells the same story from the POV of the parents. The Hollywood Reporter says that’s a smart decision:

In the comic, the focus is largely on the kids and it’s accepted in short order that Pride is a group of varied supervillains, including witches, aliens and dimension-travelers. Some of the parents gifts, magical and extra-terrestrial in nature, are imparted to their kids and in the early TV episodes, a couple of the Runaways teens may have comparable powers, that are being slowly unfolded as they investigate Pride.

Schwartz and Savage made the decision to entirely scrap the comic’s Pride backstory in favor of a more layered depiction of the parents, in which they’re simultaneously pillars of the Los Angeles social and business community — lawyers, bioengineers, real estate moguls, investors — and tied in some way to a religious group called the Church of Gibborim, the latest TV cult that for legal purposes definitely isn’t based on Scientology, but for practical purposes is totally based on Scientology.

The advantage of this choice is immediate, because it means that in addition to a younger cast of relative unknowns, Runaways is able to cast a group of much more recognizable older actors as parents. The ability to take properties that might have been ghettoized as “teen TV” and make them into multigenerational stories has always been a Schwartz/Savage hallmark, and there’s no question that the parents in the Runaways TV show are much more nuanced characters much more immediately than they are in the comic. Spending more time with the parents helps ground the kids more and it helps situate these families within the Los Angeles community, which is utilized as a varied backdrop.

BleedingCool calls Runaways “a solid start to a new corner of the Marvel universe that feels fresh and new,” which seems to be the general gist from most of the reviews I’ve scanned through today.

But this next section may be a spoiler, so if you’re worried about going in completely fresh, I’d skip this excerpt from ComicBook’s review:

The production values in Marvel’s Runaways are surprisingly wonderful. It doesn’t have the sheen or polish that you might find in its big screen counterparts, but it’s done well enough that it looks good on the TV screen…

But what’s most surprising is the use of practical effects, specifically in the scenes with Old Lace. Yes, Old Lace is an animatronic puppet on par with Jurassic Park.

The show does well in building up the dinosaur’s presence, and when she finally shows up in full glory, fans get their first chance to admire the craft put in by the effects team.

The first three episodes of Runaways debut on Hulu on Tuesday, November 21, 2017, with a new episode following each Tuesday until the ten-episode first season concludes.

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