Netflix does it again.
The Umbrella Academy is an American web television series developed by Steve Blackman for Netflix. It is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, and published by Dark Horse Comics. The plot revolves around a dysfunctional family of superheroes who reunite to solve the mystery of their father’s death, the threat of the apocalypse, and more. The series is produced by Borderline Entertainment, Dark Horse Entertainment and Universal Cable Productions.
The ensemble cast features Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher and Mary J. Blige. The adaptation began development as a film optioned by Universal Pictures in 2011. However, it was eventually shelved in favor of a television series in 2015, before being officially greenlit by Netflix in July 2017. Filming takes place in Toronto, Ontario. The first season was released on Netflix on February 15, 2019. It received positive reviews from critics, with many praising the cast and visuals, though the tone and pacing was criticized.
What is this sorcery. I am genuinely a little mad that I did not know about this series. I love fantasy, sci fi, superhero comics (if it wasnt obvious already). And given how the movie and TV scene is a little fatigued by DC and Marvel superheroes, stuff like this is so refreshing. Somebody on google called it terrible saying dont expect anything like The Magicians. Ha haha. What? But I will criticize the magicians in some other post. I guess the Umbrella Academy does not have enough young actors playing teens having sex for this person. Goodness.
The Umbrella Academy is amazing!
The Good, the Bad and the inconsistent
It has its problems. But the show looks really good. It does have a dark and grim tone and a gray black palette for most of the time. If it weren’t for the accents, I might have thought the show was set in London. The only colorful thing was the android/robot Mom. Even though No 3 wears mostly colorful clothing, even her colors seem to be toned down for the show. I liked that. It suits the overall theme.
Even though the show is set in a dark and drab world, the action is actually very well lit. The effects on the non human characters are not the best, but passable. I mean, this isn’t Planet of the Apes, but the effects aren’t so bad that you are taken out of the story. The special effects for the characters’ powers are also pretty good and descriptive. Though the story is adopted from the comics, I cannot think of a better way to show the characters abilities. The camera does always seem to set on the characters side profiles. Constantly. If anything it felt more like a comic book panel to me. Though I dont know how much the shooting style actually resembles this particular comic. It does have a sense of comic/cartoon-ism to it. Its like a darker version of Series of Unfortunate Events in its tone. The screenplay is fantastic. There are times where powers are unbalanced and in contrast to what is shown earlier, but not to the point where it doesn’t seem believable for the characters. The story flows really well. I mean this is a very binge worthy show. You cant stop watching this at one episode. The story does feel slow but 2 episodes in , I was hooked.
Netflix seems to be developing a certain style
Whether intentional or not, Netflix seems to love pointless teen trite garbage, time travel and family drama where estranged siblings come together after a death in the family. And the siblings collectively hate the one person who wrote a book about their suffering growing up. The show has surprisingly more similarities to Haunting of Hill House than any other IP people seem to be suggesting online. And of the three, Netflix nails half of them, and half of them are terrible.
Its a sum of its unique parts
The music is definitely a big part of the show. Though it does not seem to be following a unique theme on its own, I think the songs peppered throughout are fun. There is a really fun dance sequence in the first episode and another later on. It is definitely awkward for the pacing, yet its interesting and heartwarming to see how in both scenarios the characters just tune themselves out from the horror of their reality, even if for a little bit. Just because its a dark and gritty show does not mean you cannot have fun. The visuals for this show are amazing too. The style and setup is very similar to A Series of Unfortunate events. Sort or modern, but still not. There is a lot of detail in each scene, and I am guessing Easter eggs for the comic book fans (I am yet to read the series).
The characters are very well fleshed out with each getting a rich backstory and a somewhat fulfilling arc in the season. The ensemble cast did a really good job. I was a little surprised at how, just downright miserable, you can make someone look. Like there are times I just want to hug Ellen Page and tell her she is special too. Which, is a success from the character’s and actor’s point of view if you think about. I was also really impressed by Aidan Gallagher. You really buy him as this cranky grandpa going through puberty again. Each actor sold their part really well, even the supporting cast. The show makes you want to root for the bad guys too, not reducing them to trigger happy morons. The series was created so extensively in this season, every detail, every character, you cant help but want to go back to this world even though it all basically ends at one point. (Not a spoiler, trust me)
There is no overall theme
I am guessing this is where reviews for this show turned negative. But they are missing the fact that there are seven main characters, not one. While the show does allude to no 7, Vanya, being the focus of the story, she only gets tiny scenes at the end for the first few episodes.. Granted no 6, Ben is sort of in the sidelines, it kinda makes sense since him being around would actually tip the power scales way too much in the academy’s favor. Each character gets an arc, a back story. And most of all, enough time in the show to explore all of them. Heck even the villains are very well fleshed out. I was a little surprised to see that they actually bother to explain things despite having an air of mystery around the whole setup. Its almost like the heroes in this are the middle ground for DC and Marvel. They dont necessarily hide themselves, but they are not focused on by the rest of the world. They were superheroes once, but the hype died down, and this is the aftermath. Each is shown to have weaknesses, current and past. Despite initially painting Vanya as this sorry person who is not special and has no powers, the show in fact explores the whole team and how they too were suffering in their own ways. There is too much depth for how silly it can get sometimes. The acting is great. And seriously though, kid who plays No 5, Aidan Gallagher. He is younger than the rest of the cast yet he holds his ground with them. This show was a lot of fun to watch and I cannot wait for season 2. There is also a bigger discussion to come, since this is one very well fleshed out universe and it seems disrespectful to not dive into in detail.