THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY REVIEW
By Sathujan Manmatharajah
Netflix’s new original ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is a superhero TV series adapted from the comic book of the same name revolving around the life of the Hargreeves, a group of superpowered siblings, adopted and trained by the eccentric Reginald Hargreeves. Although this may seem somewhat similar to how the X-Men franchise has treated the genre, the show’s creators have injected it with enough style and freshness to never feel like a copy. It’s a roller coaster ride from (almost) the beginning to the end. Very minor spoilers ahead.
A large portion of the show’s appeal should be accredited to the way that the main characters are crafted. No two characters are the same and perhaps more importantly; they all feel human. They all have problems that their powers can’t solve, from Klaus’ addiction to drugs to Luther’s struggle to fit in to the guilt Allison feels for using her powers on her daughter. The fantastic work of all the actors only furthers this, with special credit for Robert Sheehan (Klaus), who not only radiates energy whenever he’s on screen but also gives us glimpses of the conflict inside Klaus’ head. Even their powers are diverse. The siblings are all nuanced, complex and expertly written, however it is hard to say the same for some of the supporting characters such as Pogo, who often feels as if he is there to blurt out some information just when it’s necessary to advance the plot. On the bright side, the interactions between the characters are all well layered. Family is a key theme on the show, and the family drama is one of the main things that sets itself apart from the rest of the crowded genre. Even though the characters would each work well with individual stories, their ‘it’s complicated’ relationships once again ground them as real people and give a certain sense of relatability and demand intrigue, further enveloping the audience into their world.
Generally, the plot is jam-packed with twists and turns that are unexpected. There are some clichés, and it does take a while for everything to get going in the first episode, but the show often leads us in one direction only to subvert expectations at the last minute. The end isn’t as satisfying as it was built up to be, aiming for more of a tease for the next season rather than tying things up nicely, which does feel slightly frustrating, but the lead up until then is still exhilarating. Stylistically, there’s a lot to take in. The soundtrack is phenomenal, accompanying the tender moments perfectly whilst mixing in with the heart-pumping action effortlessly. The camerawork itself when filming is also very stylish and unique, especially again during the action sequences. The colour pallet used encapsulates both the energy and darkness of the world that they live in, with costumes that embody each of the characters’ personalities.
When considering ‘The Umbrella Academy’ alongside other successes for Netflix, such as ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘The Crown’, it’s clear to see that streaming is gaining an influence over the entertainment industry, and the line between streaming and live network TV shows is beginning to fade. As of January 1st, 2019, Netflix had 139 million subscribers in 190 countries, which is not considering the fact that multiple people can access Netflix through one subscription, so the reach of the streaming service is inevitably much higher. The increasing ease of access to the internet along with the reduced amount of free-time at home has meant that streaming has become more practical than going to the cinema or watching network TV, because we can do it anywhere at any time. You don’t even need an internet connection anymore, given that all of Netflix’s content is downloadable. In fact, 37% of American Netflix subscribers have claimed to binge-watch a series at work. Netflix themselves also seem intent on producing more original content for users, thus solidifying the platform as a competitor in the industry. This can be seen through the release of ‘The Umbrella Academy’, which comes only months after they cancelled the fan-favourite series ‘Daredevil’ ‘Jessica Jones’ and all of the other Marvel-owned shows. By shifting towards originality, they aim to provide their own high-quality exclusives, attracting more subscribers and gaining a larger influence over the media than before when they were a simple movie rental store. With critically acclaimed movies such as ‘Roma’ (3 Oscars won in 2019 including Best Director) only available on Netflix too, it is clear to see that streaming has implemented itself into our society and way of living, and how the future of entertainment is very much revolved around the advancement of the internet.
Thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end, ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is a stylistic look at the family relationships in a complex bunch of superpowered siblings. Furthermore, its success adds to the argument that practicality of the internet has facilitated the transition of entertainment to streaming sites.