‘Jupiter’s Legacy’ review: Netflix’s comic book series is a superhero snooze-fest
A superhero has a simple job description: fight evil forces and prevent them from changing the world as we know it. However, what happens when a cape-wearing crusader starts losing grip on reality, subconsciously blurring the lines between nobility and repugnant self-righteousness?
Well, for starters, one is unlikely to get an answer from watching Steven S. DeKnight’s eight-part series Jupiter’s Legacy. Despite its earnest attempts at subverting genre expectations, this Netflix adaptation of a graphic novel written by Mark Miller and Frank Quitely ends up emulating everything it tries to rebel against.
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The show traces the lives of the first generation of superheroes on earth and their tryst with the supernatural. Even after being blessed with unique abilities and vast reserves of resourcefulness, they end up unhappy, especially with their children (who also have superpowers).
To uncover the reasons behind the same, the show chooses to navigate between two different sub-plots, with one set in the Depression era-United States where we learn the origin stories of the early superheroes.
After his father commits suicide in the aftermath of the Wall Street crash of 1929, Sheldon Sampson (Josh Duhamel) finds himself lapsing into psychotic fits and strange dreams. As a result, he decides to assemble his crew, which includes his brother Walter (Ben Daniels), and friends George (Matt Lanter) and Grace (Leslie Bibb). Together, they embark on an adventure to a mysterious island.
Once there, they indulge in Indian Jones-esque antics to overcome various obstacles guarding their paths, and soon, they hit the proverbial jackpot. The island grants them superpowers.
The other parallel storyline is set in present-day America. Here, the central characters appear age-worn. It has been years since they became all-powerful, and yet, even their kids seem to be annoyed by their presence, questioning their monochromatic ways of looking at life and morality. Rebellion leads to drug overdose, hooking up with a supervillain’s son, killing an adversary and getting shamed for it by one’s father, and the likes.
What is hard to ignore is the jarring nature of the show’s narrative. It keeps on jumping from one era to the other without paying proper attention to either, preventing the production from packing a powerful cinematic punch. And yet, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
As the clashes between the two contrasting generations intensify, one cannot help but marvel at some of the rather delightful moments that the show manages to whiff up. In the first episode, the Utopian (Sheldon’s alter ego) says: “And with great power…” but before he can finish, his daughter chips in irritably, “comes great responsibility”. But such displays of genuine irreverence are few and far between.
However, the performance by its stellar cast stands out from among the mediocrity that comprises the rest of the endeavour. Duhamel as Sheldon looks the part, and so does Daniels, who plays his mind-reading brother. Matt Lanter as George aka Skyfox basks in the flamboyance of his character, forging between the three of them an authentic and palpable on-screen chemistry, that anchors the show through troubled waters.
Stunning visuals and off-the-cuff camera angles provide each episode with a distinct quality, rendering them visually stimulating. The high-quality special effects deployed to bring the superhero story to life is breathtaking as well, helping viewers to immerse themselves in its world of make-believe. The dialogue writing and production design are areas in which the show excels too.
Regrettably, the fight sequences are sparing in their frequency, with the monotonous family drama taking the front seat. The latter is adversely affected by a lack of proper character development plaguing its central figures, especially from among the younger lot.
All in all, Jupiter’s Legacy is a grand tale of even more grandiose demi-Gods, each battling the other using some inventive powers. But beneath its glossy facade of a sleek superhero offering, the series is an empty shell of unexplored potential and half-baked plot points, one following the other in an uninterested daze.