Martin Carr reviews Jupiter’s Legacy…
This is landmark stuff. Mixing dysfunctional family dynamics with enhanced human protagonists, Jupiter’s Legacy feels mythical. Author Mark Millar already has form at Marvel, is lauded for Kick–Ass as well as secret service curveball Kingsman: The Secret Service. He is an edgy Scot with mainstream pretensions, who has fine tuned his own brand of comic book creation into something unique. With Netflix sponsors, an evidently sizable budget and apparent free rein Jupiter’s Legacy takes a big swing and connects with full force.
There is a sense of depth in this adaptation which veers away from comic book gloss, embraces human failure and shows enhancements to be a burden. With Josh Duhamel taking on alpha male Utopian duties as Sheldon Sampson, this is an origin story which covers a lot of ground. Leslie Bibb’s Lady Liberty is his partner in crime, trying to exist in a society where superpowers have become a matter of course.
There are grandstanding set pieces, disturbing visions and an all encompassing approach to these characters, which really provides a tangible history. Alan Moore’s Watchmen is a clear influence, while The Boys and Amazon’s Invincible also feel strangely relevant despite obvious tonal differences.
Jupiter’s Legacy takes time to click and every episode changes things up, melds divergent time periods and taps into socially relevant topics. Millennial concerns, flagrant nepotism and the unionisation of super powers are also drip fed into story arcs which run concurrently. Red tape, internal rivalries and the inherent impact on society all get tackled. This is a story which crosses generations and weaves contemporary concerns into superhero folklore. Stand outs beyond Josh Duhamel and Leslie Bibb include Tyler Mane as Blackstar and Ben Daniels as Brainwave.
With revenge plots running in conjunction with Dickensian journeys of self-discovery, trying to categorise Jupiter’s Legacy is problematic. This show comes with no easy pay offs and thrives on the majorly marginalised being placed in plain view. Those once considered defective are now idolised and lionised in equal measure. A fictionalised phenomenon which blatantly ties into contemporary discussions around celebrity.
Beyond the multitude of conflicting, yet complementary elements which occur throughout, Jupiter’s Legacy also strives for optimism amongst the uncertainty. A need to live up to previous generations is inherent to this show, whether the legacy is superhuman or otherwise. Buried beneath the histrionics, flowing manes and spandex is something universally acknowledged. Lineage and legacy are nothing but dreams made flesh for others to nurture.
On a broader level this show questions the relevance of human achievement, in a time defined by minimal personal and professional contact. As the world metaphorically shrinks and success is defined by digital footprint, how important are monuments to human endeavour. That is the broader question being asked by Mark Millar and illustrator Frank Quitely, in this adaptation for the ages.
However, for those audience members not prepared to dig that deep there is still plenty to enjoy. Set pieces, bloodshed and a rich roster of clearly defined characters await anyone prepared to dive in. This world is devilishly detailed with infinite depth, yet manages to embrace the FX heavy elements viewers find so familiar. A balancing act which allows Jupiter’s Legacy the widest possible reach and biggest shot at a second season.