In a world with ever-changing Batman leads and the ruling empire that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is difficult not to be weighed down with the constant focus on superheroes. And, don’t get me wrong; I’m fangirling over Captain Marvel and Avengers: End Game just as bad as you are, but it is hard to make new superheroes stick out these days. That is, until Netflix released The Umbrella Academy.
I was uncertain when it first popped up in my Netflix queue, but my younger, emo self couldn’t resist after hearing that My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way wrote the graphic novel that inspired the show. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. There is so much to love about The Umbrella Academy, from its characters to the way it’s shot to the vulnerability and relatability that has been missing from some of the bigger superhero experiences. Don’t consider this a review, but consider it a celebration of the strangeness that is this superhero misfit.
Get Ready To Jam
If Guardians of the Galaxy has taught us anything, it is that a fantastic soundtrack can blow an already amazing piece of work out of the water. I would argue that The Umbrella Academy took a page from the Guardians book, only they multiplied it by, like, ten. Jeff Russo (and I’m sure Gerard Way) uses music throughout the entirety of the show to really affect the audience’s experience greatly. Fire fights set to “Istanbul” by They Might Be Giants, “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen, and “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows” by Lesley Gore are insanely fun. Like, I dare you to watch them without smiling. “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany shows the connection between our superhero family as they simultaneously dance in different rooms of the house soon after their father’s death, and an adorable dance scene between two distant lovers set to “Dancing in the Moonlight” by Toploader sets the mood magically.
I mean, I could go on and on, describing the way music is used throughout the series to pull at your heartstrings or to highlight how fun the show can be. If you don’t believe me, the music is so good that there are even Spotify (assembled by Netflix) and Apple Music playlists for your listening pleasure. (You can thank me later! I’m listening to it while writing this actually…)
Where’s All The Action?
Obviously, as you read above, there is plenty of action and incredibly choreographed fight sequences, but it doesn’t seem to be the focus. These are some messed up superheroes, and this is one of my favorite things about the show. Klaus is a drug addict; Diego struggles with his anger and a stutter; Luther wants to find his place while keeping his family safe; Number Five wrestles with his past and how to deal with his present. And that isn’t even all of the members of this super family. Throughout the show, we see them struggle with their demons, we see them act selfishly and stupidly, and the overall effect makes them very, very human. Most importantly, we seem them fail. More than once, but that makes it so much sweeter when they actually win. Even then, their eventual victory is still kind of an “oops” moment.
It makes them vulnerable and relatable in a way that other heroes don’t tend to have. The black sheep, those recovering from their past, those struggling with what to do next…there’s a spot for everyone in The Umbrella Academy in one way or another. And in seeing more of their struggles versus a series of inspiring heroics, it is a refreshing take on the superhero genre.
All in all, I could go on and on about this show. The acting is phenomenal; Robert Sheehan (Klaus) and Aiden Gallagher (Number Five) really steal the show, but Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, and a handful of others are all tremendous in their own rights. The show, overall, is shot beautifully, and there are some really fun and interesting visuals throughout. It’s not perfect, but that’s exactly what makes The Umbrella Academy so darkly charming and relatable.