The Umbrella Academy – Netflix’s New Superhero Family Is Truly Dysfunctional


There are many superhero comic book stories in our times, both on the big and small screen, as Netflix is likely feeling a little light on that front these days after abandon most of its Marvel Series in the past few months, thanks to the difficulties that come with using a property that's basically owned by someone else. In this case, Disney will soon be a competitor on the list. Thankfully there is no shortage of potential adaptations, although not as recognisable as the likes of Daredevil, which is good news for streaming outfits always on the slink for more content.

In 2007, Gerard Way as a Creator, the frontman of the now-disbanded My Chemical Romance, and Brazilian illustrator Gabriel Bá. The award-winning comic book series "The Umbrella Academy" is surely a promising candidate. It has half a dozen superheroes with a variety of powers that make up the formal group, which makes for a ripe family drama, it has a weird premise & strange, unexplainable events- In the opening pages, the Eiffel Tower is revealed to be a Spaceship, for instance- and it has a talking Chimpanzee. The Umbrella Academy got a series order in late 2017 by Netflix, after it spent years in development hell being worked on as a film and tapped Ellen Page to lead the cast.

The finished product- the first season 10 episodes of The Umbrella Academy arrives on 15 February 2019 on Netflix- unfortunately does not have much going for it. The central plot point of having to thwart an imminent global apocalypse is such a super-cliché for the superhero category that Page herself has been here before, being a part of the star-studded and critically-acclaimed X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014. And for reasons not absolutely clear, the show which is created by Steve Blackman, an Emmy-nominated producer on Noah Hawley's Fargo series- sheds the dynamic colours and some of the incredible elements that gave the comics crazy feel, leaving behind a production with a dour, gloomy aesthetic that makes it feel as generic as many others.



No time is waste for Umbrella Academy in setting up its premise as we open: 43 women randomly give birth on the same day in late 1989 around the world. When the day began zero signs shown of being pregnant. An eccentric and reclusive billionaire named Sir Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children. He brought them together to fight evil and save the world- under the maker of the "Umbrella Academy"- while he kept himself emotionally distanced to the fullest. He numbered them in the order of their usefulness instead of naming them. The family was fractured during their teenage years and they chose to go their separate ways, but they reunite after their father dies in the present day.

No time is waste for Umbrella Academy in setting up its premise as we open: 43 women randomly give birth on the same day in late 1989 around the world. When the day began zero signs shown of being pregnant. An eccentric and reclusive billionaire named Sir Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children. He brought them together to fight evil and save the world- under the maker of the "Umbrella Academy"- while he kept himself emotionally distanced to the fullest. He numbered them in the order of their usefulness instead of naming them. The family was fractured during their teenage years and they chose to go their separate ways, but they reunite after their father dies in the present day.



Pogo is known as the Hargreaves household which consists of the talking chimpanzee, assistant to and caretaker of their father and their android mother Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins). For most of the first season — critics, including us, had access to seven episodes — the opponent of The Umbrella Academy are a pair of time-travelling butcher known as Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige, the singer-songwriter who was in Oscar-nominated Mudbound) and Hazel (Cameron Britton, from Mindhunter). In the comics, Cha-Cha is male. They are after Number Five, who had been missing for almost two decades before their father's death, but miraculously shows up out of the blue, claiming he's seen the end of the world which is due in eight days time.

An imminent apocalypse — one due in just over a week — ought to give any show a sense of hurry, which should work wonders for pacing and narrative. But surprisingly, to the events unfolding on screen, it adds zero urgencies. Many of the Hargreaves want nothing to do with the apocalypse- for some, it fits in their personality- and that renders them passive for too long on The Umbrella Academy. If they had better storylines crafted for them which would be worked, but that's not the case. For the most, Luther just broods around the house. Diego's subplot suffers from the ‘fridging' trope, Klaus is mostly forced into another story, and Allison's only job seems to be to dig dirt on Vanya's new love interest, Leonard (John Magaro, from Overlord).

Five is the only one who is trying to figure out how to prevent the impending catastrophe. That's also partly because Five thinks that he can do everything himself, having lived much longer than his siblings due to the nature of time travel and seen them fail once in the future. When Five is returning to his present day he stuck again in his teenage body then he handles the screen time when he is fairly well, given he has to play with someone who is mentally a lot further than his years. Moreover, Britton and Blige get to do more on The Umbrella Academy, than the rest of the lot.



Few good moments of the shows's comes early in the first episode, when the Hargreeves family randomly starts dancing to a song from their childhood- “I Think We're Alone Now” is Tiffany's 1987 pop hit- each alone in their own quarters. Its composition, like a giant dollhouse cut open, is reminiscent of a Wes Anderson flick (think a more emo, gothic Royal Tenenbaums), but there's little of that offbeat charm elsewhere.

From Vanya's desperation for being loved, there's plenty of good material to mine here, Luther's want for approval, Klaus shielding himself from feeling, Diego thinking he has a point to prove, Allison's insecurity. To realise the inherent emptiness, The Umbrella Academy is too pompous for its own good. Set aside the fate of the world, this bunch of superheroes should try saving their show first.