EXCLUSIVE: Brian and Mark Gunn Writing Jupiter's Legacy Film

Jupiter's Legacy

Screenwriters Brian and Mark Gunn are officially writing a film adaptation of the hit comic book series Jupiter's Legacy from writer Mark Millar and artist Frank Quitely. It was announced last year that Millar and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura had partnered to develop an adaptation of the story, but no updates had been released until today. The Gunns met with Millar yesterday and are currently hard at work on the screenplay.

Jupiter's Legacy is the story of a world filled with superheroes where the next generation decides to overthrow the status quo seizing control of the United States by force in an ill-advised attempt to improve the world around them. The comic series reflects both on the superhero genre and the nature of hope in the face of overwhelming problems, as well as the changing perspective between generations.

Bonaventura has produced a variety of major blockbusters before, including comics-related franchises like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Constantine. The Gunns are best know for previously collaborating on the story and screenplay for Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. They are also related to director James Gunn best known for his work on the comics adaptation Guardians of the Galaxy.

ComicBook.Com writer Chase Magnett had the opportunity to ask the Gunns a few questions about their plans to adapt the series to the big screen.

Brian GunnBrian Gunn

What attracted you to the concept of Jupiter's Legacy initially?

We love that it’s a superhero story about families. How it takes big superhero iconography and makes it relatable to anyone who wrestles with their relationship to their mom or dad, or brother or sister, or son or daughter. It feels very human-sized. We ourselves grew up in a sprawling Irish-Catholic family that was sorta like a discount Midwest version of the Kennedys. Our parents and grandparents were political leaders, lawyers, judges, titans of industry. So when we were growing up we struggled with this family legacy - this burden of living up to the standards of those who came before us, this sense that the past was noble and glamorous while our lives were somehow less than, a falling off. Some of us from this current generation have gone on to do cool things - while others of us have dealt with feeling like misfits and disappointments. It’s this struggle which is at the heart of Jupiter’s Legacy, and which we’re really excited to bring to the screen.

Comics written by Mark Millar have seen a lot of success in being adapted to the big screen, from Kick-Ass to Kingsman. What do you think makes his concepts so appealing and able to be adapted from comics to film?

Mark is a master at telling stories about superheroes in the real world. Even Secret Service, which is very elevated and stylized - it feels like a tall tale - has grounded characters with authentic backgrounds. This is one of the many reasons his comics make for good films: they make the unbelievable believable.

Frank Quitely has defined the look of superheroes in comics multiple times and is doing it again in Jupiter's Legacy. When thinking about transforming the comic into a movie, what visual elements do you think will distinguish it from the other superhero films of today?

We’ve been a fan of Frank Quitely’s work for a long time. In fact, many of his strengths are the same as Mark’s - he’s able to take big iconic heroes and, with just a slight shrug of the shoulders, or a heaviness to their gait, make them fallible, human, close to us. That mixture of larger-than-life and down-to-earth really informs our take on the material. As for what visual elements of Jupiter’s Legacy stand out from other superhero films - well, one big one is how Frank portrayed Walter’s powers. Think, for example, of the panel in the first book, where Walter traps Blackstar in a kind of psychic painting, the full-color image boxed within fainter pen-and-ink drawings. We found this incredibly evocative. It offers all kinds of fun surrealistic possibilities that aren’t quite like anything we’ve seen in other superhero films.

Superheroes have never been a hotter commodity in Hollywood and this is a comic that deconstructs the genre while also embracing it. How do you expect audiences to respond to a movie that's as much about their favorite genre of blockbuster as it is part of it?

Obviously fans of the genre will be able to pick up all kinds of allusions in the material - The Utopian, for example, as a version of Superman, or Skyfox as Batman. Even the sequences on the island can be seen as a play on King Kong or Indiana Jones. The important thing is to use these references as starting points - not just let them sit there as hyperlinks that you can pat yourself on the back for picking up on, but to expand on them, breathe new life into them.

Jupiter's Legacy isn't just about superheroes though. It's a story of politics, the future, hope, and generations. What themes and concepts are you discovering have the most resonance as you create your own treatment of the story?

One of the really cool things about Jupiter’s Legacy is how it encompasses the entire sweep of American politics over the past century - the Great Depression, World War II, the culture wars of the Sixties, and so on. But it’s not just about history - it’s very of-the-moment as well. Look at the candidacy of Donald Trump, with his slogan Make America Great Again, or look at the battles in the U.S. and Europe over whether to include immigrants and refugees and Muslims into the mainstream and you’ll see that the anxiety over who we are vs. who we used to be is at a fever pitch right now. These controversies really informed our take - particularly with how we see Walter, a paranoiac who wants to build higher walls, an entire surveillance/police state, to root out his enemies.

The story has a very epic scope with dozens of characters, time jumps, huge action sequences, and a significant thematic split at its center. Do you see this as a story that can be told in a single film, and how much of a challenge would that be to adapt?

We’re going to give you an annoying answer: yes and no.

Yes, we plan to tell a completely standalone story with a nice shape and a satisfying climax. And yet we don’t see it as completely closed-off either. The canvas is too big. The generations of characters too sprawling. The world Mark depicted can spiral off into so many different directions. It demands sequels!

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Chase Magnett is a freelance journalist, critic, and editor working with comics, film, and television. He has been hooked on comics since grabbing an issue of Suicide Squad from a back issue bin fifteen years ago. When Chase is not working with comics in some way he spends his time rooting for the San Francisco 49ers and grilling. He currently contributes to ComicBook.com and other outlets.

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