I’ve recently watched The Umbrella Academy. It’s finally given me hope for superhero stories on the big and small screen. (Spoiler free!)
I have to admit, I am a nerd and a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I also think that Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is some of the best cinema ever made. However, thanks to the Marvel TV shows, the DCEU and the whole new slew of recently announced superhero-ness, I think you’ll agree that it’s starting to get boring.
Just when I thought there was no originality left in superhero stories for the big and small screen, writer Jeremy Slater and producer Steve Blackman made Gerard Way’s (yes the one from M.C.R.) comic book series into a Netflix original series.
Initially, I was very impressed. The show is, for the most part, very well written and perfectly paced. You learn a lot in each episode, but without any heavy exposition; it’s just quality writing. Personally, I’ve never watched a show with better character insight than The Umbrella Academy. I absolutely adore how each character is introduced and slowly learnt about. The execution of character development is perfect. All screenwriters for TV should aspire to do this just as well.
Of course, The Umbrella Academy has been in development for quite some time and also had a considerably large budget. While time and budget don’t always make better TV, they do give the creators the ability to do so. That is probably why I was so blown away by the visuals. I know, I love to talk about visuals and how things look, but this is TV… it’s important. I love the creativity of the camera work and the lighting. These are two things which I’m seeing explored more and more in modern cinematography and I am absolutely loving it. You can be so artistically creative with lighting and camera setups, whilst also denoting specific, meaningful themes. This show executes this excellently.
Also, look at the CGI chimpanzee! It is absolutely stunning! I love how good CGI is getting these days and I cannot wait to see what they do with season 2!
Clear time, thought and planning has been put into crafting each episode. The amazing visuals, complimented by a great soundtrack and an engaging, well-written script, made me fall in love with this show. They also made me wonder why, in the build-up to the finale, it seemed to lose its grasp on me.
In contrast to the fantastic character writing, The Umbrella Academy has a very convoluted plot. Whenever you involve time-travel, you’re opening yourself up to a whole world of plot holes and inconsequential storylines. This show is no exception and it falls into a lot of traps that many other time-travel stories do. The plot becomes increasingly complicated with every change in the timeline, meaningful clues turn into red herrings and, by the end, you are so confused that you just have to accept that the characters understand whatever is happening.
But it’s not all bad. The writers use this to their advantage in one particular episode. They exploit the risks of time travel to create a frustrating turn of events. I’ve never seen this done so well before and I still haven’t forgiven this show for putting me through emotional torture equivalent to a Pixar film.
Let’s not get bogged down in the delicate world of time-travel plots. I need to mention the cast. Every single person in this show was perfectly cast. All the performances were amazing and I’m looking forward to seeing more of what the cast has to offer in the second season!
I also want to point out that The Umbrella Academy has broken through so many on-screen normalities. The most developed love story in the show is between a larger, middle-aged man who works for a big, shady organisation and a sweet, older lady who works in a doughnut shop. I bloody love it.
Additionally, the world of TV and film has seen a disgusting wave of white-washing over the past few decades. Recently, it has been more prominent because there have been fantastic films and TV shows with non-white casts… and yet we STILL Scarlett Johansson playing JAPANESE CYBORG, Motoko Kusanagi, in Ghost in the Shell. The Umbrella Academy has diverged from its original material in this sense. In the original comics, all the members of The Academy are white. We are blessed with a more diverse cast in the Netflix series.
I will definitely be watching the second season, when it is released. I’ll certainly say more about the show when I’ve seen it. For now, I recommend that you watch it, but don’t worry if you’re not following the logic by the end – I wasn’t either.
Featured image copyright Netflix.