Netflix ad for "Jupiter's Legacy";
Generation conflict in the superhero dynasty
NETFLIX / Netflix © 2020
The kids have not been able to hear it for a long time: "Yes, great strength must also lead to great responsibility," says little Chloe at the very beginning of this new Netflix series, annoyed to her already slightly graying superhero dad, who has been for almost a century as "The Utopian" protects the world from villains.
Connoisseurs know: Marvel guru Stan Lee gave this motto to his young Spider-Man on his long heroic journey in 1962.
In “Jupiter's Legacy”, an adaptation of the comic strip of the same name by Mark Millar (“Kick-Ass”, “Kingsman”) and artist Frank Quitely, the question is raised whether this noble mantra has long been a burden.
Superhero stories have been booming in streaming format at least since the success of the Marvel blockbusters in the cinema.
Whether "Doom Patrol", "Umbrella Academy", "Watchmen" or "The Boys": Above all, the more recent postmodern comic models published outside of Marvel and DC, in which the supernaturally gifted are mostly broken antiheroes, are popular in Translated series.
»Jupiter's Legacy«, the first of several planned film adaptations from the so-called »Millarverse«, bursts into this flood late, maybe too late.
Because a certain superhero fatigue has long since set in: Even more supermen and women?
More glowing gazes of heat and CGI laser flashes thrown from the wrist?
More god complexes and stupid crooks?
Scene with superhelpers Sheldon (Josh Duhamel, r.) And Walter Sampson (Ben Daniels): How was that about responsibility?
Photo: STEVE WILKIE / Netflix © 2020
So it won't be easy for the extensive staff of this saga, with colorful costumes and imaginative names like "Tectonic", "Liberty Girl" or "Blackstar", whose first season is now starting with eight episodes. On the one hand, it tells a dysfunctional family story between the »Utopian« Sheldon Sampson (Josh Duhamel) and the now adult siblings Chloe (Elena Kampouris) and Brandon (Andrew Horton).
While the daughter pulls one line of coke through her nose, makes a career as a glamor model and doesn't care about the whole heroic legacy, Sohnemann wants to emulate his superdaddy, but can't please him. With his "Union of Justice", Sampson himself took care of saving the world for far too long, but not enough about the children, so that the generation conflict is escalating with all the violence: keeping up with the supreme beings.
And what does teenage rebellion look like in these elite circles?
One quarrels and breaks the code that the now Moses-bearded utopian has imposed on his troops: "Service, compassion, grace" - and above all: There is no killing, no political influence is exercised, responsibility and so on.
But the kids are cynical, they are dissatisfied - and they don't see why they should restrain themselves and limit themselves.
Brandon alias "The Paragon" (Andrew Horton): Willing to emulate his Überdaddy - in vain
Photo: NETFLIX © 2020
Sheldon's older brother Walter, a telepath by the name of "Brainwave" (Ben Daniels), sees it that way. He was already pragmatically guiding the fortunes of his father's steel empire through the stock market crash in the late twenties. "We could have saved so many lives in Dachau and Auschwitz that the atom bomb would not have had to fall if the superheroes had intervened more strongly in politics as early as World War II," he says.
The plot of the series jumps again and again between the present and the "Great Depression" era of the USA in order to insinuate historical parallels and to trace the ludicrous genesis of the "Union". Walter believes that it is no longer enough to put bank robbers behind bars, that the world is no longer as black and white as it once was. Sheldon sees a totalitarian heroic dictatorship on the horizon: "Where does that end," he asks his power-hungry brother, "and more importantly: Who should stop us?" That sounds like an echo of "Who watches the Watchmen?" A sentence from the history of comics, which is taken up and renegotiated here.
All of this is interesting enough and works pretty well in Millar's template, which will be continued in June with another series of issues.
But the series lacks, at least after four episodes viewed, the staging finesse and visual impact to effectively link the various levels of plot, meta and time.
Actors and dialogues also leave a lot to be desired, especially wit and charisma.
It's more exhausting than exciting.
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It was also obviously not helpful that the accomplished showrunner Steven S. DeKnight ("Spartacus", "Buffy") threw in the towel during the production of the first season because of creative differences.
So the overloaded »Jupiter's Legacy« threatens a similar fate as the no less grandiose and spectacularly failed »American Gods«: Great comic power can also go hand in hand with great series botch.
But maybe it will get better.
: from Friday, May 7, 2021 on Netflix