Rating 2.75/5: Netflix The Umbrella Academy was just a little better than I thought it would be, to tell the truth. Unlike most comic based movies I never read The Umbrella Academy. I was aware of it but the art and the marketing never inspired me to read it. At the time the concept felt a little overdone, like the amount of “child with special powers goes to special powers school” stories that keep popping up after Harry Potter. The plot synopsis felt a little X-Men by Gaslight, or something similar. These stories popped up a lot throughout comics. Not to mention Gabriel Bah’s art wasn’t my cup of tea. For me, it looked a little like gothic garbage pale kids.
So I went into Netflix Umbrella Academy with knowledge the series exists, but no real notions of what the story was. Not to mention a quick Wikipedia search pretty much brought me up to speed. Ellen Page was in it, which is a selling point for me because she’s one of my favorites. So I gave it a shot.
Initial Thoughts on Umbrella Academy
In 2005 Touchstone Pictures release Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I was very excited about the movie because I am a huge Guide fan and while there have been other versions (radio play, books, TV show) seeing a big budget version felt right. The movie never made a favorite list. I felt that Mos Def and Zooey Deschanel were horribly miss-cast. The creators added a romance to the story that didn’t work. And the ending even had me scratching my head even though the books entire story is weird as hell. None of these things is what put me off from the movie. My problem with the movie was it felt too inside. What I mean is if felt like it was made specifically for Hitchhiker fans and not a general audience.
I’m aware that this is not how movies work but that aforementioned feeling is just something the movie gave me. Umbrella Academy felt kind of the same way. I got a feeling for who all the characters were, their motivations were very clear, and I have a sense of what happened in the climax. The character turns were not unexpected or anything and the series wasn’t badly paced. However, like Hitchhiker’s Guide the movie, this series left me feeling like it was more “inside baseball” then for a general audience.
Umbrella Academy’s Voice
Don’t get me wrong, Umbrella Academy did tell a straight forward story, and had some good character moments. At the same time, a few of the character interactions left me scratching my head. I wasn’t exactly sure of the villain motivations, or if who seemed to be the villain was actually the villain. On the one hand, I thought it was going to be a murder mystery then things changed and it became the story of Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While going Carrie was an understandable turn, it just seemed so unexpected.
There is build-up but when you come to the pay-off while it makes sense in a way it still felt a little “where did that come from?” Let me stress they did make the pay-off very plain because if you use the measurement of character you can see this was a logical turn. I just feel there should have been more hints. . .somewhere. Then again when you have a character who can change reality with a word. . .
Mind or Reality
Hold on. That was another weird problem. The character spoke as if her power allowed her to grant wishes or something when all it came down to was a version of mind control. As I think about a few of the character bore this contradiction in powers. For instance, the strong guy just didn’t feel strong, and another character has that Wanted bullet bending power, but with knives, except they also gave him Daredevil like powers without the cool of the Netflix series.
One Wikipedia search told me about the initial comic series so I got a sense of who the character was and why things happened. In order to maintain conhesion one has to make scene and sequal make some kind of sense. The explanation for what happen is not in the script or the acting but in the story itself. This show did have a “Dark Phoenix” ending but for me it was X3 Dark Pheonix. For instance, near the end a betrayal is revealed, but I’m not sure how exactly it was a betrayal. There are two characters who keep talking about treating each other better for nine episodes but never do for. . .reasons.
None of this is to say Umbrella Academy was bad, but for me it could have used some real improveents.