JUPITER'S LEGACY Volume 1 Review; "[It] Feels Like A Prologue To A Much Better Series"
The entire first season of Jupiter's Legacy arrives on Netflix today, and while there's a lot to like about Volume 1, it ultimately feels like the best is yet to come for the Millarworld adaptation...
Based on the comic book series by Mark Millar (Kick-Ass) and Frank Quitely (Batman & Robin), Jupiter’s Legacy is the first in what looks set to be an entire slate of “Millarworld'' properties adapted for Netflix. With that in mind, all eyes are on this show to lay the groundwork for what could be the streaming service’s own comic book universe, something it desperately needs in order to compete with Disney+ and HBO Max, the homes of Marvel and DC content on the small screen. This series is certainly a decent enough start, but one that shows there’s still plenty of room for improvement, particularly when it comes to how a story like this is told in an episodic format.
The action plays out across two timelines; the 1930s and the present day. In the former, Sheldon Sampson embarks on a journey that ultimately leads to the emergence of the world’s first superheroes. Today, the children of The Utopian (Sheldon’s new moniker) and the people who joined him on that fateful journey are struggling to live up to the legacy of their parents. Both the past and present parts of Jupiter’s Legacy make for enjoyable viewing for the most part, but across the course of these eight episodes, the balance between the two becomes something of a mess, with the 1930s-set scenes proving to be a drag to sit through at times. As we near the end of the season, we know characters like The Utopian, Brainwave, and Lady Liberty well enough to mean that an overly long origin story is unnecessary, never mind having it dominate the runtime of those later episodes. It's stretched out and kills the momentum of a series that starts off in an exciting way. On the plus side, following the younger generation of heroes is fun, though it is a shame many of them feel like an afterthought at times. A powerful arc about The Utopian’s son killing a supervillain in the field boils down to him being stuck at home for several episodes while we’re watching what feels like Sheldon’s hundredth breakdown prior to him embarking on the adventure that gave him his powers.
Luckily, what works in the series does work really well, and almost all of these characters shine in different ways. At its best when it’s exploring what it means for Chloe Sampson to have become a celebrity rather than a superhero, for example, Jupiter’s Legacy presents a lot of interesting ideas that definitely aren’t the norm for the genre. The action scenes, while not as regular an occurrence as we might have liked, are also great, and have a big budget blockbuster feel about them. It’s also worth mentioning that the costumes look phenomenal, while any concerns about the makeup effects used to age up the cast quickly disappear.
The acting here is consistently strong, with Josh Duhamel, in particular, impressing as both Sheldon and The Utopian. Leslie Bibb matches him and has some great material to work with (especially when her viewpoints start to differ from her husband’s). Ben Daniels, meanwhile, puts himself on the map here as Brainwave, and if what we see in the finale is any indication, the best is still yet to come from him. However, it’s arguably Elena Kampouris who really proves herself the star of this series, and Chloe ends up being the character we probably enjoyed spending time with the most. We’d be remiss not to mention Matt Lanter, though, as the charismatic actor is responsible for saving many of the duller flashbacks we see here, and it’s just a shame that the series spends so much time talking about his transformation into the world’s greatest supervillain, only to do pretty much nothing with that.
Ultimately, that is perhaps Jupiter’s Legacy’s greatest flaw. Billed as a “Volume 1,” these first eight episodes definitely left us wanting more, but definitely not more of the same. We’re keen to see where the story goes next, but it’s never good to finish watching the first season of a show feeling more frustrated than anything else. That's thanks to the slow pace of the story and a fairly long list of ideas and arcs that never pay off, mostly because the show wastes too much time in the past (the clear lack of vision is possibly a result of behind-the-scenes issues that saw Steven S. DeKnight depart as showrunner). Its attempts to deconstruct superheroes are welcomed, but far more straightforward than something like The Boys, with attempts to replicate the brutality of the Amazon series falling flat as well. Despite that, it manages to exceed expectations, and the colourful cast of characters alone make it feel like a fitting addition to the existing Millarworld slate. It’s worth watching, though might be enjoyed most when we can immediately delve into additional volumes.
Jupiter’s Legacy “Volume 1” feels like a prologue to a much better series, but there are some fresh ideas to be found here, and a great cast mostly helps to elevate a disjointed story to not quite super, but still heroic levels.