Netflix's 'The Umbrella Academy' gives new spin on superhero genre
Based on the graphic novel by Gerard Way, The Umbrella Academy takes the superhero genre and turns it on its head.
In October 1989, 43 infants are born on the same day from women who weren’t pregnant the day before. Billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) adopts seven of these children and establishes The Umbrella Academy after it is revealed that the kids possess superpowers.
However, the team starts to disband over the years following the death of one of their siblings and only reunite in 2019 after Hargreeves dies.
Superhero properties are a hot commodity in the film, TV and streaming industry. The two big comic book studios, Marvel and DC, all have various shows and movies that are successful and profitable. And as the market becomes more and more saturated, it becomes harder to stand out from the crowd.
What separates The Umbrella Academy from DC and Marvel characters is the approach towards the superhero genre. The seven kids adopted by Hargreeves are people first and superheroes second.
And Hargreeves’s abusive and distant nature of parenting not only leaves all the kids damaged, it gives them all a range of mental and social issues later in life. Seeing the kids of The Umbrella Academy deal with their issues as adults is refreshing.
Number Two/Deigo (David Castañeda) is a lone wolf and wants nothing to do with his family. Number Four/Klaus (Robert Sheehan) is a drug addict.
Number Three/Allision (Emmy Raver-Lampman) is divorced and has lost custody of her daughter. Number Seven/Vanya (Ellen Page) suffers from social anxiety and constantly feeling inadequate. Number 5 (Aidan Gallagher) is a narcissist and has a superiority complex. Number One/Luther (Tom Hopper) was the only one left and paid a big price for his allegiance. And Number Six/Ben (Ethan Hwang) is dead.
Pace-wise, The Umbrella Academy is very much a low-burn type of series with most of the first-half dedicated to providing insight into the Hargreeves' kids and the world they inhabit. The slow pace sets all the building blocks in place after the pace picks up in the second half.
The acting is really amazing too. The standouts being Pogo (Adam Godley) - a motion capture chimpanzee who is highly intelligent and acts as Hargreeves’ assistant - Klaus and Number 5. Klaus, in particular, has a wonderful character arc throughout the first season going from basically being comic relief to someone who finds love and starts working through his issues.
Gallagher also shows off his acting chops since as Number 5, he is an old man trapped in a teenage boy’s body. As a viewer, you really get the sense that Number 5 is an old soul.
The Umbrella Acadamy takes the superhero genre and gives a refreshing take on it. And it’s great to see superheroes have real issues to deal with as real people.
The Umbrella Academy premieres on Netflix, February 15.