From executive producers Mark Millar, Frank Quitely, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, Dan McDermott, Steven S. DeKnight, James Middleton, Sang Kyu Kim, Jupiter’s Legacy stars Josh Duhamel, Leslie Bibb, Ben Daniels, Elena Kampouris, Andrew Horton, Mike Wade, and Matt Lanter. The eight-episode season streams from today.
After nearly a century of keeping mankind safe, the world’s first generation of superheroes must look to their children to continue the legacy. But tensions rise as the young superheroes, hungry to prove their worth, struggle to live up to their parents’ legendary public reputations — and exacting personal standards. Based on the graphic novels by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, Jupiter’s Legacy is an epic superhero drama that spans decades and navigates the complex dynamics of family, power, and loyalty.
With the rise of the grittier, dysfunctional super hero series on streaming services the time was right for Netflix to take the plunge. Having more than proved its worth in scripted drama the streamer should have had no problem in taking the world of Mark Millar’s comics and bringing them to the big screen.
Jupiter’s Legacy has everything going for it. The production values across these eight episodes are excellent. Set design is inspired. Costumes look both authentic to the comics and functional to a live action world. The cast might often be at odds on screen but clearly there are some strong dynamics off-screen.
But somehow these eight episodes fail to coalesce in to something which is fully functional. The final product has boundless potential and in the end shows flourishes of what could be. But getting there is something of a difficult journey.
From the outsell Jupiter’s Legacy sets to achieve something original: to tell two entirely separate stories across one season. The first, set in the 1930’s, tells the story of how The Union gained their superpowers. The second, in the present day, follows a generation of super-children and how their existence complicates the rules of the past. In isolation the two stories work well. But spread across eight episodes and interspersed as they are, both struggle to gain traction.
The Union’s origin story is packed with intrigue, its scope is also huge. Starting out with a tragic death and leading up to the group’s emergence in to the world. Sheldon (Josh Duhamel) is at the centre of the action as the series de facto lead. His perceived descent into madness from grief anchors the Prohibition-era scenes as the supporting cast write Sheldon off as a crackpot. It leads him to some dark and twisty places but ultimately ends up in a quest which leads Shedon, his brother Walter (Ben Daniels) and future-wife Grace (Leslie Bibb) and others to a mysterious island.
The problem is they don’t begin that journey until over half-way through the season. There’s an abundance of moving chess pieces around the board before any moves are made. Whilst the pay off is substantially rewards some will find it too far out of reach to truly enjoy what is on offer here.
In the present day Jupiter’s Legacy is able to present something more gripping. The pilot episode sets up an internal confrontation amongst the first family of The Union which is strong enough to carry through the season. It isn’t the action-packed story which I had anticipated but instead offers the viewer a more complex, superhero family drama. In honesty it lacks the dysfunctional humour of The Umbrella Academy and the biting wit of The Boys but Jupiter’s Legacy is still something different for the genre.
In researching my review I learned that original showrunner Steven DeKnight left the series part-way through production. He was replaced by Sang Kyu Kim, who would steer the season through the end of production. Whilst not evident when watching Jupiter’s Legacy, it does feel like a contributing factor to the series rocky start.
Ultimately the series has a lot going for it. A brilliant score from composer Stephanie Economou elevates the narrative beautifully. The use of shifting aspect ratios also livens up the cinematography in a near-literal translation of comic book panels to the screen. But is it enough to see Jupiter’s Legacy continue with a second series? Only the viewership can decide.
Jupiter’s Legacy is unique enough in its approach to stand out from network superhero fare. But taking six of its eight episodes to find its footing will give Jupiter’s Legacy an uphill battle to find success.
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