‘Jupiter’s Legacy’ has been pseudo-canceled by Netflix. Or canceled, for practical purposes, since the actors are free from contractual commitments, but Millar is already selling that we are actually facing an anthological series and that the second season will focus on the villains, something that we may not see. A situation that is not too surprising.
Leaving aside that the series did not offer anything that was not doing more and better Disney + with its exploitation of the MCU, is one more nail in the already huge coffin of superhero series of the streaming platform. Netflix has tried, practically from the beginning of the success of the Marvel movies, to assemble its own superhero cosmogony, and it has never been successful. These are some of the reasons.
Marvel according to Netflix
In 2015 Netflix premiered the first season of ‘Daredevil’, coinciding with the end of Phase 2 of the MCU in theaters, a phenomenon already fully consolidated although still with the capacity to grow. To get used to the idea: ‘The Age of Ultron’ had just arrived, one of Marvel’s most irregular films, and there was still to land in the franchise the steamroller of the Russo brothers, which would regurgitate with a aesthetics and common tone throughout the long Phase 3, already openly oriented to the cosmic epic with Thanos as the great villain global.
It’s been six years, but it seems like an eternity: Marvel was willing to license its properties to other companies, and Netflix was at that time in full international expansion, with increasingly powerful investments in own content. In 2016, for example, it spent $ 5 billion on its own content. The Marvel series were part of that investment, and their bet was to give them a more urban and “mature” tone than the movies had.
The result of that ambitious bet, for many not surpassed by Netflix itself, were a handful of series loosely based on the heroes that made up the Marvel Knights label: ‘Daredevil’, ‘Jessica Jones’, ‘Luke Cage’, ‘Iron Fist’ and ‘The Punisher’, plus a joint series, ‘The Defenders’. The last to be canceled was ‘The Punisher’ in 2019 and none of them made it past the three seasons.
Among them, some achieved notable public and critical success, and others not so much. In any case, the experiment was thwarted when Disney decided to produce its own superhero series for Disney +. Even so, and although it can only be conjectured what would have happened if Netflix had renewed the Marvel licenses, the truth is that It cannot be considered a failure of the platform, but a mixture of bad luck and little vision of the immediate future in which Disney, obviously, would want to exploit its properties without the help of third parties. Netflix had to look elsewhere.
Superhero Movies: Out of Orbit
Recently, and already with the MCU fully implanted in the most influential trends in modern audiovisual narrative, Netflix has tried to make their own superhero movies curdle. None of them has ended up with a triumph comparable to Marvel cinema, and in some cases, in fact, it has been far below. We are talking about the very lazy ‘Project Power’, a failed attempt to unleash a superhero universe of its own and whose only value is some intoned and somewhat unsympathetic interpretations of Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
More lucid was ‘The Old Guard’, an interesting story of immortals tormented by the extent of their powers and who spun the superhero epic somewhat better, possibly because it was based on an independent comic by Greg Rucka. The appropriately appropriate Charlize Theron put the appropriate dramatic twist on a low-key superhero story that fit the limitations that a Netflix production can aspire to. However, it did not reach the desired impact.
To some more minor production (the parodic and very funny ‘Thunder Patrol’, which in any case does not seek to compete with Marvel and DC on the same terms) are added, of course, lto search for third-party films that have fattened the platform’s catalog with superhero fictions, and varying according to countries. Recently, for example, Netflix and Sony reached an agreement so that – among others – the Spider-Man films were on the platform, but they are agreements for a limited time. Netflix needs its own franchises.
Superhero series: between intimacy and the mainstream
Netflix has experimented, beyond its series originating from Marvel characters, with different approaches to the genre. One of the most curious, for what it is intimate, is ‘How to raise a superhero’, which went somewhat unnoticed despite unifying child drama and super-powerful codes. The second season will be released soon.
In a wave that seeks acceptance from the public more accustomed to Marvel films are ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’ and ‘Umbrella Academy’, both based on previous comics by Mark Millar and Gerard Way. Even if They are well overflowing with spectacularity and color, and are in tune with the mainstream superheroic more cleverly than the genre movies Netflix has produced, they haven’t quite found their niche either. The muted rhythm and uninspired aesthetics of the first and the eccentricity of the second (which, however, is far from much more round nonsense like Warner’s ‘Doom Patrol’) have not finished giving rise to that flagship series of superheroes that Netflix is looking for.
Also in this field Netflix has licensed third-party series, but its variable availability according to territories and, above all, the passing of licenses prevent Netflix from turning them into “Netflix Originals.” For example, in Spain ‘Titanes’ is a Netflix series, and in the United States The CW is on the platform, while only some of the channel’s DC series reach Spain.
Why have they all failed?
A recurring criticism of ‘El vecino’, the Spanish superhero parody based on a hit comic, has been that Netflix has canceled it just when it began to find its own and differentiating rhythm and identity. This may be one of the big reasons Netflix struggles to find an appropriate superhero series: its lack of patience when it comes to letting the series run.
In the case of the Marvel series, it coincided with business decisions that Netflix could not influence, but even there it series like ‘The Punisher’ or ‘The Defenders’ were clearly products in search of an identity, and with enough talent involved to end up finding her. Netflix’s need to quickly make its most expensive productions profitable ends up playing against it, except in immediate hits like ‘The Witcher’.
Since Netflix has Marvel as a clear reference, from the original comics I could learn a detail: building a complex and profitable mythology takes years of interweaving stories, making mistakes and insisting. The multiverses are not built alone, but in a single season, even less.