Reel Reviews | Jupiter’s Legacy

by Tim Gordon

In an alternate world, two generations of superheroes grapple with the past and future in the upcoming Netflix series, Jupiter’s Legacy.

The multi-story series follows the world’s first superheroes, who received their powers in the 1930s. In the present day, they are the revered elder guard, but their superpowered children struggle to live up to the legendary feats of their parents. Created by Steven S. DeKnight, based on the comic book series by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, The series stars Josh Duhamel, Ben Daniels, Leslie Bibb, Elena Kampouris, Andrew Horton, Mike Wade, and Matt Lanter.

With the popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the overwhelming name recognition of DC Comics galaxy of stars, we have been inundated with a variety of superheroes and their lives. That’s not counting recent films and series, such as Watchman, Invincible, Hancock, and The Boys as well as others that operate outside of more established universes. Jupiter’s Legacy is the latest group to join the fray is the series. Influenced by Star Wars, King Kong, Roman mythology, and origin stories from the Golden Age of Comics, the comic was written as creator Mark Millar’s treatise on superheroes’ connection to the American ideal.

Instead of the Justice League, this series has The Union, the original heroes who received their powers, led by The Utopian (Duhamel). Anchored by his almost fanatical pursuit to never abuse his powers for his own personal gain, he also vows to never use them to take a life. He is adamant that all members of the Union and the offspring follow this “code” or suffer his wrath. As sensibilities and villains evolve, it becomes harder for everyone to enforce.

With so much division existing today, Millar’s multi-generational superhero seeks to serve as a panacea. It begins at the dawn of The Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as the Great Crash, which served as a tipping point plunging the country into the Great Depression. While America was struggling with how to move forward, Sheldon Sampson (Duhamel) witnesses the suicide of his father, as well as the subsequent news of his mismanagement of the family’s business.

Reeling from his misdeeds (and subsequently, haunted by his spirit), Sampson becomes obsessed with a drawing that leads him on a pilgrimage to the Midwest to uncover the source, which he hopes will help him to answer questions about his emotional and psychological well-being. Full of contradictions, the story jumps back and forth to the present where The Utopian’s son, Paragon / Brandon (Andrew Horton) is trying to live up to his father’s high-minded ideas. Still struggling to emerge from his shadow, soon he is faced with an almost impossible choice and the fallout makes him re-evaluate his future in the Union.

The same can’t be said for his rebellious sister, Chloe (Kampouris) who resents both her physical gifts and her family, especially her father as she creates as much distance as possible between herself and the family superhero business. Spending her days modeling, getting drunk and high, she bounces around from one hook-up to the other, much to the chagrin of her father, who doesn’t quite know how to reach her.

Caught in the middle of this family drama is his dutiful wife Grace / Lady Liberty (Bibb), who spends much of her time upholding her husband’s ideas, at home and at work, and serving as mentor and role model for the next generation of heroes. There is also Sheldon’s older brother, Walter / Brainwave (Daniels) is the supportive brother who serves as a sounding board for the most powerful member of the Union.

Jupiter’s Legacy reminds me of the affluent details featured in Orson Welles’ legendary Citizen Kane follow-up, The Magnificent Ambersons, which also attempted to introduce strong ideas before inevitably being re-edited and transitioning from great to good. Millar’s ideas in the hands of show creator, DeKnight and his team attempt to navigate a multitude of ideas and characters into an interesting and entertaining narrative but ultimately the story feels too vast for the palette.

One would think that given eight episodes to unspool the story, specific elements could be prioritized to create a watchable narrative. By trying to bounce the story back and forth, it creates an effect of watching a cinematic superhero tennis match and it takes us far too long to get answers to the series of fundamental questions. It feels like by the time it gets to the meat of the story, the season is over. Much like by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ legendary comic, Watchmen, Jupiter’s Legacy feels like it has more time to tell its story but can’t solve many of the similar challenges that Zack Snyder dealt with adapting that story– namely, how to introduce a multitude of characters to audiences in a timely factor while laying out and executing a strong narrative.

While the series concept was appealing, the execution left much to be desired. Author Charles Dickens captured my feelings on this confounding show from the opening passage of “A Tale of Two Cities “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” Chock full of interesting characters with some interesting stories to tell, the popularity as well as watchability of Jupiter’s Legacy may boil down to how much patience you have and ultimately, how much you care?

Grade: C

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