I’m not sure if I’ve been spoiled by the Netflix end of Marvel TV or maybe I’m just too old, but holy cow, Marvel’s Runaways is just terrible. I’m not just saying this as a fan of the original comic series run, but also as a fan of television. I really am not sure who is the target demographic, seeing how it’s not flashy/fun enough for a teenage audience and the unlikable millennial leads make it near impossible for an adult audience to latch on emotionally. It certainly is something different, but perhaps it’s the wrong time, and the wrong place.
Once upon a time, Marvel was a comic book publication. It seems so quaint now, doesn’t it? When they published said comic books, there was a title called “Runaways”, which was, easily, my favorite Marvel title, and probably my favorite comic book series. My expectations for this tv series were high, because I read the comic series from issue one, all the way to it’s tragic end. I actually got the Dear John letter where Marvel regretted to inform me of it’s cancellation. Runaways should be X-Men meets breakfast club, but this iteration is Teen Mom meets X-Factor. Runaways should be a property that makes us feel the way we did back in our teen years, or make us want to be these characters, the way Spider-Man: Homecoming did.
The premise is simple: kids are rebellious teens, their overbearing parents are actually super villains. Not bad, right? The bad comes with the leads of our show being current generation teens. In a show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the dialogue wasn’t realistic for teens, but it was compelling from a dramatic standpoint. We need a likable protagonist, but this iteration of Runaways has a bunch of moody teens, which makes sense, but they are all so angry, depressed and miserable, which makes me lack enthusiasm for the show, because there is nothing for me to rally behind. At least in Breakfast Club, there were genuine moments of humor and joy despite the real issues buried behind those kids. When I see a bunch of mopey, angry, rich kids, it makes me angry, and I hope they fail.
I will say some good things about the series. The production design is very nice, and it is very pleasing to look at. The cast is good, even though every single character is a stereotype (not racial, but societal), which is the fault of the writing, not the performance. It is nice to see James Marsters in a post Buffy role that isn’t that embarrassing Dragon Ball movie. It also has decent visual effects for a TV show, so it isn’t a total loss. Sadly, aesthetic, can not save a show with a narrative focus. In a genre like this, especially for sci-fi/fantasy with numerous characters, we need strong characters and an engaging story.
I’ve been trying to be as vague as possible, like I usually do as to avoid the spoilers, and character changes. But it’s hard to describe this 2011 era, MTV-esque garbage without writing an essay about how, not only, each character is a mopey caricature of the cast of Dawson’s Creek, but a betrayal of character. Molly needs to be a small child, Chase needs to be a meathead. There are changes that make me feel like they don’t care about satisfying the fans of the comic series, and that wouldn’t be a problem if the characters were good. It may seem redundant how often I’ve used the word “characters” but it’s the most important aspect of this entire show. I hate them all, so I refuse to invest my time into them. Without compelling characters, there is no drama; therefore, no real story. Remember that show Freaks and Geeks? It may be a bit of an exaggeration of high school, but it had characters that were quirky, funny, and really felt human. Runaways fails in all the ways Spider-Man: Homecoming succeeds, and I can’t in good conscious recommend it to any audience.