Superhero movies & TV shows have been all the rage for well over a decade now. Jupiter’s Legacy, a Netflix original, is the latest offering in the genre. Having now been able to watch the series, here I offer up my thoughts on the show.
There’s a debate to be had about the origins of what seems in 2021 to be the ubiquitous nature of superhero films & TV series. Christopher Reeve’s Superman in the late 70s/early 80s was well ahead of its time & I remember queuing up with my friends outside the long-lost Cannon Cinema in Walsall from about 8 am to be one of the first through the doors to see the lunchtime screening of Batman on its first Saturday of release in 1989.
But the real start of the trend for these movies is usually credited to the success of Fox’s X-Men movies and Sam Rami’s Spiderman trilogy in the early years of the Millenium then it kicked into overdrive with the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe)—or more precisely with the huge mega-hit The Avengers in 2012, which brought together a team of heroes who’d all already stared in their own movies. All these films were massively helped by the huge leaps in CGI special effects that those years saw.
The same year saw the first season of Arrow on The CW (and on Sky One in the UK), which served to prove that superheroes were not only suited to major event movies but could also work just as well on the small screen, where time can be taken over a full season arc to fully develop characters and storylines in more depth. Arrow led to a whole superhero universe of TV series itself, all of them interconnected and with yearly “crossover events” that saw characters from all the shows team up to tell a bigger, longer story.
More recently the launch of the Disney+ streaming service has allowed Marvel to bring the MCU to the small screen as well (because Marvel is, of course, owned by Disney), in the form of WandaVision and The Falcon & The Winter Soldier, which were very different from each other, but both excellent bits of television.
Jupiter’s Legacy is the latest superhero series to hit our screens, this time on Netflix. It’s based on the comic book series of the same name by Mark Millar of Millarworld, his own company that was purchased by Netflix in 2017. That means we’re likely to see more Netflix adaptations of Millarworld‘s comics over the years to come.
It’s an eight-episode series, each episode in the region of an hour long. I watched it over the period of about two weeks, which is about average for me for a series of this length since I don’t have a huge amount of time for sitting in front of the TV. Over those eight hours, the series tries to tell two separate stories—one set in the 1920s when the original group of heroes got their powers & one set in the present day when that original group are old and grey and worried if their children are up to carrying on their legacy.
Arrow did something similar over its first five seasons or so, telling the story of what happened to Oliver Queen during the years he was missing presumed dead before he turned up very much alive in the first episode of the first season. Arrow kept the flashbacks brief and to the point and they generally worked well with whatever the theme was of the present-day episode’s story. Jupiter’s Legacy isn’t quite so adept at telling part of the story in flashback and part in the present day. Oh, the two eras look sufficiently different, but other than learning how the six original heroes came together and went on a quest to be gifted with powers, it didn’t really add anything to the parallel present-day story in the way that Arrow’s flashbacks did. We never really learn anything about the characters or their present-day motivations from our time with them in the past.
Another issue is that we meet the character of George in the flashbacks, but he doesn’t feature at all in the present day, because at some unspecified point and for some unspecified reason, he became a supervillain rather than a superhero and he’s since gone missing. It may be that this is laying the ground for future series, but right now at the end of season one, it seems redundant.
Back in the present, the story, for me at least, lacks any sense of peril or urgency. There’s no looming Big Bad, no sense of threat. Instead, the story is a question of morals. Is The Code that the original heroes have lived by since gaining their powers still applicable or appropriate to the modern world? Are the younger heroes up to the task of carrying on the legacy of their parents? But these questions are not really answered by the end of the series, which kind of makes you wonder what the point of the series asking those questions was in the first place.
Which in turn makes you wonder what the point of the series was at all.
It does feel as if Jupiter’s Legacy is trying to say something different to Marvel or DC, to be something different from those two behemoths of the comic book world, but it ends up not really saying anything and taking itself far too seriously, something you can see in the superhero names—The Utopian, Lady Liberty & The Paragon.
It doesn’t help that it in trying to do something different with superheroes Jupiter’s Legacy is inevitably going to be compared to Amazon’s The Boys. And it really doesn’t compare favourably at all. The Boys was ballsy and in your face and didn’t take itself too seriously. It was also genuinely different in that most of the Heroes were not actually all that heroic. In fact, you could go as far as to say that they were actually the bad guys. If you’ve not seen The Boys then I do recommend it.
Overall, I was disappointed in Jupiter’s Legacy. It was too long, too slow, too serious, too dour. It lacked a sense of fun or a sense of escapism. And what’s the point of superheroes if not to escape from the world? I think that it perhaps would have benefitted from being two hours shorter, forcing an increase in the pacing of the show. It also could have benefitted from having a few more superhero set pieces and some more light-hearted moments—a little levity to light the gloom.
Will I watch season two? Probably. If there is one. But at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if Netflix abandoned it and moved on to other works in the Millarworld stable—they certainly have a few to choose from.