Concise Show Critique - The Umbrella Academy Season 1

Concise Film Critique - The Umbrella Academy Season 1

Developed by: Steve Blackman, Jeremy Slater
Original comic book series by: Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá
Number of episodes: 10
Released: February 15, 2019 (Netflix)

In the world of The Umbrella Academy, on October 1, 1989, 43 women around the world gave birth simultaneously, only none of them were pregnant when the day first began. Seven of these children were adopted by Sir Reginald Hargreeves, eccentric billionare and adventurer, to be trained to become a superhero team, in his "Umbrella Academy". Hargreeves doesn't give the children names, just numbers. He is not much of a father, and his motivations remain somewhat unclear throughout the series. But The Umbrella Academy isn't about him, not really
— it's about the children.

The opening sequence of the first episode is simply stunning. There are very few openings I go back to and watch multiple times, but this one is now on that short list. The opening introduces us to some of the main characters and really sets the tone for the rest of the show. The scenes are super stylish, with great music that goes up and down in intensity depending on the character we're looking at. This opening alone got me invested in the show, but all of the episodes are full of amazing cinematography, lighting, production design, music, and of course, writing.

The Umbrella Academy is based on a comic book series written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá. To me, the show might be one of the few live-action adaptations where the age-old "the book is better" doesn't apply. Comic fans might disagree, but I think the show nailed it, even though it's very different from its source material. Or probably because of it. I really liked how the show was able to take the time to develop all of the main characters, and give them more than a short scene or two worth of backstory, which was something I didn't particularly like about the comic. The character changes, as far as personalities and motivations are concerned, are all for the better, too, but considering its superhero comic roots, the absence or simplifying of things that would require a lot of special effects is noticeable. It looks to me like most of the special effects budget was spent on the last episode, which does look incredible and ends in quite spectacular a fashion. I just hope the show gets to stretch its legs a little more on that front in its upcoming second season.

Concise Film Critique - The Umbrella Academy Season 1 Concise Film Critique - The Umbrella Academy Season 1 Concise Film Critique - The Umbrella Academy Season 1 Concise Film Critique - The Umbrella Academy Season 1

I also enjoyed the more down-to-earth tone, even if certain (probably too expensive), imagery from the comic book would have been nice to see. Don't get me wrong, the show gets into some crazy stuff (like time traveling assassins, talking chimpanzees and, well, the apocalypse), but it's nowhere near as "comic-booky" as the... you know, comic book. I usually disagree with most big changes in adaptations, but I have to admit that most of the choices made here really work in the show's favor.

With a story like this, giving each protagonist their time to shine is important. Fortunately, The Umbrella Academy does that very well, and even minor players have a lot of personality. There were a couple of characters I didn't like in the beginning, but the show had a way of making me love them by the end. With some characters it did the opposite, but in a good way. The acting is also great across the board, with special mentions having to go to Robert Sheehan as Klaus, Aidan Gallagher as Number Five, and especially Cameron Britton as Hazel. Hazel was basically just a psychopathic killer in the comic, but the show really makes you care about him (even like him, possibly a lot), and much of it is thanks to Britton's performance. The way he plays this assassin is both hilarious and heartfelt, and I really hope we get to see more of him in the future.

To me, The Umbrella Academy was a really pleasant surprise. I wasn't a huge fan of the comic, and I didn't expect much of its live action adaptation, but it turned out to be one of my favorite seasons of TV
in a long time. The writing is great with some excellent (and excellently funny) dialogue, the characters are very flawed but very likeable, the use of music is fantastic, and the whole show just oozes with style. I have no clue what's next for the show, but whatever it is, I'll be there to watch it.

5/5 We only see each other at weddings and funerals.

Jay Marksman, March 18, 2019

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