With 'Jupiter's Legacy,' the "Self-Aware Superhero" Genre Has Jumped the Shark Created by Steven S. DeKnight
Josh Duhamel, Ben Daniels, Leslie Bibb, Elena Kampouris, Andrew Horton, Mike Wade, Matt Lanter
Published May 10, 2021Jupiter's Legacy is the latest misanthropic Mark Millar comic adaptation — he of Kick-Ass, Kingsman and Wanted fame. Like all of those properties, it's a deconstruction, this time of superheroes. Kinda. It doesn't really matter, since the capes-and-tights genre is already oversaturated to the point where the deconstructions get deconstructed. "What if there was a Superman that wasn't a perfect guy?" these shows dare to ask. Audiences already have The Boys and Invincible, so here's another show to tell you that in "real life," superheroics would actually be extremely violent and morally compromised. Isn't that just a wild idea?
The show's problem isn't just that we're already privy to the self-aware superhero. It's that it's just not very good. The acting is mediocre across the board, more or less. Lead Josh Dumahel gets off the easiest, except in the present-day storyline where he's saddled with some of the worst old-man makeup on screen. Of course, there's only so much the actors can do with leaden, obvious dialogue that doesn't so much hold the audience's hand as it sears the exposition, themes and the same two or three character dynamics onto their eyeballs.
In the first episode, Hartnett's Superman analogue by way of Santa Claus is arguing with his brother Walter (Ben Daniels) about the times and how they are a-changin'. "The real evil nowadays isn't black and white, it's corrupt corporations, politicians," Walter replies in earnest. An elementary school book report this is not. For all its talk of generational conflict, the show spends most of its time wallowing in the 1929-set storyline, where Hartnett and company are saddled with only slightly better young-adult makeup, and one gets the sense this season-long prologue should have just been one episode.
For some, artistic value falls by the wayside if the action slaps. Unfortunately, while it's not as cheap as a network TV show, these characters tend to just look ridiculously uncanny as they see who can punch the hardest in flatly staged scenes.
At the end of the first season, whatever Jupiter's Legacy had to say about families, legacies, ideals or America has already been said — by the show's first episode, and in other, better superhero stories. This sort of misfire could never signal the death knell of the genre, seeing as the MCU is the most popular media in the world, but it does bring to mind how Alan Moore said everything there was to say about superheroes 35 years ago. And then we just kept making the same stories. (Netflix)