Jupiter’s Legacy

Perhaps this is riding the comic book adaptation wave, or the wave of comic book social critiques on hero worship. Jupiter’s Legacy is an odd series that attempts to transcribe complex comic concepts to visual media.

Setting the stage here… the bar for a successful comic book adaptation is quite high. The actors have to be solid, the effects believable, the script clean. We’re not comparing to Fantastic Four here, but the Marvel Universe and The Boys. Jupiter’s Legacy has none of these things. But it has an interesting thought, and you have more than enough time, so…

Based on a series by Mark Millar, who’s largest successes are based on deconstructing super heroes (Marvel Civil War, Old Man Logan), the underlying story is how does a golden age super-hero fit into today’s complex geo-political world. The world isn’t beset by bank robbers or purse snatches, but supervillains who will commit crazy atrocities, along with corporate controlled governments that care only for profit than people. The concept here is really interesting. The series has multiple challenges though, and while I can easily forgive the special effects, the writing and acting is much harder. Josh Duhamel is not someone with range or nuance. To pin an entire series around his character’s ‘do good’ mantra requires a crazy level of balance of crotchety and good intentions. Instead, he comes off as out of touch, overbearing, and unfocused. It’s not all his fault though, as the adaptation itself is really, really heavy handed.

The first episode is borderline Power Rangers. A monster of the week setting in a rubber suit, lots of weird ninja moves, lots of speeches, and slow motion. It’s like 10 heroes vs 1 villain, none of whom are actually strong enough to take him solo. Which, you know, is borderline Thanos. He successfully kills 3 heroes, with little effort and is about to kill more when one hero decides it’s enough and with 1 punch kills the bad guy. There are multiple red flags in this battle that just don’t make any sense as there’s no stakes at hand, and no character build-up. The first scene in the series contradicts this battle too!

It doesn’t help that none of the main characters aren’t endearing in any form. The lead is called Mr Utopia and is an idealist that continually causes conflict in every situation. Lady Liberty flips flops between truth above all and mother instincts. Paragon is a try-hard that cannot please his father. Chloe is a drug addicted rebel with absolutely zero redeeming qualities. Brainwave is a pragmatist who can read minds… so it’s pretty damn clear where that arc goes. The mystery is Skyfox, who you’re told broke the code long ago and was exiled. Never why though.

And yet, the series does have some interesting mysteries to it. How they got their superpowers in the first place… how there are other superheroes (who appear technically to all be genetically related to the original 6), how the powers manifest. There’s a bit of LOST flavor here with visions and epic journeys. Since this portion of the story is the progress towards power, it’s actually quite interesting.

The concept at the start, how do golden age values work in a complex world… that’s never truly answered. There are no simple answers here, hence the complexity, but at the same time no real effort is put into that question. Kingdom Come told this story nearly 30 years ago, and did a much better job. I’ve yet to read Millar’s comics on this, but I’d have to assume they do better as well.

I’ve been somewhat negative on this so far, but it’s really because the potential here is so high and the delivery underwhelms. It’s not bad (there’s a lot of bad on Netflix) and is a decent watch if it’s raining outside. Season 2 is set up for some solid potential, and maybe this is just season 1 jitters (look at Parks and Rec!).

5 thoughts on “Jupiter’s Legacy

  1. I’m on Episode 6 tonight so I didn’t read the post just in case of spoilers. I’ll be back to read it when I’ve finished the season. After the first two episodes I was very keen to post about it msyelf but there are only eight in the season so I’m forcing myself to wait until i see how it turns out. The reason I wanted to write something right away is that the actual superheroics (the fights, the powers) are possibly the closest I’ve yet seen to actualizing the true comic book impact impact of those things on screen. Certainly closer than anything in any of the big MCU movies.

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      • I had been watching one of these a day but after I watched Episode 6 I couldn’t wait to see how things turned out so I watched the last two episodes as well. I’m almost certainly going to post something about it but in general, although I share your overall imprsssion of the series as not meeting its potential, that’s for almost diametrically opposed reasons. The bit I didn’t much like and didn’t think worked at all was all the muddled, confused, Lost-Lovecraft-Horizon mysticism. That can only go one of two ways in future seasons, if there are any: it all gets explained, in which case it will be overblown and irritating as these things inevitably are, or it will remain a never-solved mystery, which will be more ittitating still.

        Other than that, I loved everything about it. The dialog was solid throughout, characterization was great (I can’t believe you think Chloe has no redeeming features – she’s the most compelling character in the entire show and everything she is and does makes enormous sense given what we know about her life. I thougbt she was pretty much the lynchpin of the entire series.) As I said, though, it was the fights that really sold me. especially the big set piece with the Blackstar clone and best of all the moment when Chloe punches one of Hutch’s crew into space. All of that is proper comic-book fighting the like of which we almost never see in anything other than animated cartoons. The problem with similar fights in the MCU is they’re far too cinematic. These looked like comic book panels brought to life. Maybe that’s a function of the constraints of the special effects but if so it works extremely strongly in the show’s favor.

        I think this is why I find many TV superhero series much more impactful and convincing than most of the big, Hollywood movie versions. They just look and feel so much more like real comic book action and the extended storylines feel much more like proper comic book soap opera plotting. Anyway, better save something for whatever post i end up writing. Suffice to say I hope there’s going to be a second series and I hope it’s more like the first four episodes of this one than the last four (although Episode 8 was great!).

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      • I can see that perspective. I guess it depends on what you’re going in with as expectations. My challenge here is that there’s zero depth to anyone, and I’ve been spoiled by the multiple conflicting dimensions of something like WandaVision or The Boys. Brandon starts trying to please his dad, ends trying to please his dad. Chole starts hating the obligations of a superhero (yet exploits them) and ends in the exact same spot (the hookup with Hutch is because she hates her dad).

        Again, it’s not bad it just didn’t meet my expectations on storyline.

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  2. Overall I really enjoyed Jupiter’s Legacy. No debate on the special effects being noteably behind the other big things you compare it to. I also watched (and adoooored) Invincible lately which is an animated show, and I thought it didn’t hold up to this either.

    On the acting front, I had no real issues. Duhamel’s Utopia character I took to be overbearing and out of touch by design, in no small part due to his do good above all else mantra to be sure, but I think just a slight flip of the view from what you had turned this from an issue to just… what it was.

    The moment when he was presented with the conflict between mantra and family similar to the beginning was interesting to me. I won’t say too much about it here to save Bhagpuss and others who may not have finished it yet — but there was a lot going on here and I quite enjoyed the nuance of it.

    Overall though — like you, I see this as for the most part a stepping stone for a season 2. So hopefully it has gained enough traction to warrant one, I haven’t really looked at how it’s gone yet.

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