‘The Umbrella Academy’ Netflix Review
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you probably know that Netflix has a new hit on their hands (when don’t they, to be honest), after developing The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. Originally released in 2008, the comic has found new popularity and the first volume Apocalypse Suite is currently on back-order at Amazon.
The TV show is based roughly on Apocalypse Suite, with some minor changes to story and setting. Set in both the early 2000’s and present day, instead of the mid-20th century. The story is about an eccentric wealthy entrepreneur who adopts 7 children who were born on the same day to mothers who weren’t pregnant when the day began.
We jump forward to when the children are entering their teens and their adopted father, Sir Reginald Hargreeves, has turned them into a crime-fighting super team. It turns out that 6 of the 7 children, named Number 1, Number 2, Number 3, Number 4, Number 5, Number 6, and Number 7, have superpowers. They eventually end up being named Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus, Number 5, Ben, and Vanya.
Then we flash forward again to find that the children have grown up and grown apart. They are brought back together by the death of their adopted father. Luther believes that their father was murdered, while several of his siblings aren’t happy that he’s dead but they aren’t too upset either. We learn that many of the kids have some resentment about how they were raised.
The rest of the show is spent unraveling the mystery surrounding their father’s death and the return of Number 5 – who’s been missing for years, that’s why he wasn’t given an actual name. I won’t go into the story too much as I don’t want to spoil anything so let’s get to actually reviewing The Umbrella Academy.
The story spans 10 episodes and suffers some in the middle. It seems like Netflix has a requirement that their original series run 10 episodes. I think this is just too long. You could probably tell the story in 8 episodes and the pacing would feel more even throughout the series. That’s not to say that I was ever bored watching, but the first couple episodes and the last few are feverish in their pacing while the episodes in the middle contain a lot of exposition.
The acting is fantastic. All the actors do a great job with siblings’ relationships so they are believable and they feel emotionally connected. As the siblings come back together and relearn who they are as adults and how they connect with each other, they start to realize that maybe they didn’t know each other, as well as they thought when they were children. This is a realization that many of us have as we grow (“Was I really like that as a kid?”). There are some nagging issues in the writing here, as some of the interactions feel repeated. For example, Vanya and Allison seem to repeat themselves to each other with neither listening to the other a couple of times. But those are minor issues and don’t leave too negative feeling while watching.
Where The Umbrella Academy really shines is the…feeling…style…or attitude of how it tells its story. Showrunners Steve Blackman and Jeremy Slater do a fantastic job getting the idea of a comic to the TV screen. The big thing that relays the feeling and attitude of the show as comic adaptation is the music. Several episodes have actual dance numbers. It’s certainly not a High School Musical with superpowers but the music creates a zany attitude that works fantastically. Other episodes pick perfect songs to play over their fight scenes.
All said and done, The Umbrella Academy is greater than the sum of its parts and is a must watch. Netflix, again, has a found a show that perfectly achieves what it is trying to do. Warner Brothers and DC could take some notes on how to tell a story centered on the end of the world and still have it be fun. That’s really what The Umbrella Academy does perfectly, it’s FUN. I can’t say that enough. Every day at work I find myself humming songs from the show and grinning at the craziness of the scene that went with it. I get home and start thinking of what to put on while I cook and eat dinner and, even though I just finished it, every day I nearly start The Umbrella Academy all over again.
The Umbrella Academy is a fantastic example of how to keep the feel and idea of a comic even while making small changes to the overall story. Fun and quirky, The Umbrella Academy is a treat that you will want to revisit again and again.