The Umbrella Academy: An Honest Review
Passable, very enjoyable at times, but still not my Academy.
So I start my morning at 5:35AM in the Dunkin Donuts drive through. I was up late plowing and decided I’d wake myself up with a coffee and Boston cream donut. Yet, to my displeasure, I live in modern America. An America were Dunkin Donuts doesn’t even make said donuts on site, they have them delivered. As you can guess, the delivery was yet to be delivered…and I drove on Boston cream-less.
For one reason or another it gave me the urge to write this review. A review that will surely draw criticism as well as people dubbing me an “Umbrella Academy snob”, and that’s just fine. I’ve put my time in since the first issue of Apocalypse Suite hit the racks in 2007. Ive earned this review.
Airing on Netflix this past Friday, I was able to finish the ten part series in four days. I’ve been waiting for this to be adapted on-screen since its inception and I wanted to thoroughly take it in and enjoy it as much as possible. To sum it up in a word; passable.
It was par for the course. Some scenes “wowed” me and others left me scratching my head. Some of the changes were necessary and some were far too safe. When the MCU can make a talking raccoon and talking tree, whom says three words successful, other comic book companies need to take more chances with their adaptations. That being said, I’m fairly certain that I am in the majority when I say that the soundtrack saved a lot of scenes.
We can start with the obvious; diversification. The social justice warriors won this one. This series caters to them. I’ll never be on board with the pressure that the media and Hollywood celebrities put on filmmakers and casting. Changing ethnicities, races, sexual orientation etc. solely to appease a specific agenda is simply something that I cannot support.
The lead actress is one of the main voices of liberal nation, and I can only speculate that she had quite a bit of say in this adaptation. During Chris Rocks opening monologue at the 2016 Academy Awards he made a ridiculous comment “Leo (DiCaprio) gets a great part every year…” Uhmm what? Jordan Belfort, Hugh Glass, and J. Edgar Hoover are all white people. Hence, why a white male played them.
Now if Leonardo DiCaprio was cast to play Martin Luther King Jr., then yes, there is absolutely a problem with Hollywood. But that isn’t the case. Let’s look at it from another perspective. Michael B. Jordan (fine actor I might add) is now in the mix for Batman/Superman. Imagine the uprising and noise if Black Panther 2 was starring the new Black Panther; Zac Efron. People would be in a frenzy.
If you want to make subtle changes to stories, that’s fine, but let’s stop advertising it as necessity to make only a portion of people happy. Stick to your guns and standards, it’s something most people no longer do today.
I’ll start with a character breakdown before I delved into final thoughts. Although I will say that I have no idea why they felt putting the Academy smack dab in the center of a city block made any sense. The comic was much more apropos, having it on the outskirts of the city, off in the distance.
Spaceboy/Luther- Aside from the absolutely asinine club scene, where Spaceboy is drunk and high, Tom Hopper did a fine job. Spaceboy has always been one of my favorite characters and I feel they did him justice. I would have liked to see his traditional look as far as the tubes and tank that he wears on his back, but they did a solid job. The dancing scene with The Rumor in the park was fantastic. A great song mixed with an elegant and fun dance routine. I also liked his big reveal when the chandelier falls on him, though I kind of got a Jekyll and Hyde feel as well.
Kraken/Diego- At first casting I wasn’t sold on David Castaneda. I didn’t think that his look fit nor did I like him for the role. To my delight he grew on me and held his own. His fight scenes were great, and the choreography was high quality. It would have been nice to see him with only one eye, and I would have loved to see his Vietnam sequence, but maybe they will focus more on Dallas in the second season. I also would have loved to hear him say “Then too bad Vayna isn’t here. She could play her Violin.” Something about the line at their father’s funeral just does it for me. I didn’t think the romance with Eudora Patch (a poor persons Inspector Lupo) worked, but I suppose they wanted to give him some depth. I don’t think he needed it.
The Rumor/Allison- Aside from the needless race change, she was great. Emmy Raver-Lampman is stunning and a good actress. I enjoyed that she used her power to her benefit in this, as most people with her power would. In the comic, she is just depressing, especially when she talks about her estranged home life. The scene where her throat is cut is pretty gruesome, but I give it a thumbs up. I look forward to her being utilized more in this series and other projects.
Séance/Klaus- What a pleasant surprise. Robert Sheehan was outstanding! They of course had to make him homosexual, but it works. Hell, in the comic book you pretty much have that thought all along had it not been for a few lines in the Dallas storyline. His performance was so refreshing. Two great scenes were the flashback with Sir Reginald Hargeeves and with God as depicted by a young lady on a bicycle. I did thoroughly enjoy the latter scene, but would have equally loved had they kept it true to the subject matter. God interpreted as a black and white, fairy hating cowboy was funny.
Number 5- Hmmm. I don’t quite know what to take from this role. Aidan Gallagher both annoyed and impressed me. I loved what they did with Doloris, but at times he just came off as a clown. I understand it is very hard to cast a young person to play an old person, and I applaud him for the effort, but he was inconsistent. His mannerisms and tone weren’t consistent throughout the series. He also wasn’t as maniacal as I’d hoped. The coffee scene is the best panel in the entire comic book and had it not been for the music playing in the background, I feel it was watered down. He didn’t even say “Thank you for the coffee.” *sigh*. He had redeeming moments, and maybe once I watch it a second time through, I will enjoy his character more.
The Horror/Ben- Awesome. Just awesome. One thing the show really got right. Séance can talk to the dead, so why wouldn’t he be talking to his fallen brother then entire time? Excellent. The scene at the bank when Ben is a kid was one of the show stoppers, as well as his finale when Klaus conjures his spirt. His character has such potential to be great.
The White Violin/Vayna- I’ll do my best at not expressing my distaste for Ellen Page. She was adequate. Like many of her roles, she doesn’t bring much to the table. Lucky enough for her, Vaynas character doesn’t have much charism or depth anyway. Perfect fit. I understand for the sake of the show, they couldn’t go all out and make her look exactly like the comic. With what they did do, I thought it was a pretty neat effect. She certainly did look creepy and menacing. Something that I wish we would have seen was The Orchestra Verdammten. The comic panels where she breaks a string on her violin and they all begin applauding is great. I just couldn’t roll with the silly love story with her and goofy Leonard. I’d much rather seen some mad scientists experiment on her, in turn giving her powers, but I also didn’t mind having her channel her power through her violin. I can only wish that The Rumor would have moved that gun a few inches to the left.
Hazel and Cha Cha- Bloody hell. Just awful. The worst part about the show. Hazel and Cha Cha are supposed to be these sugar addicted neo-assassins. They’re so bad, Number 5 is even terrified of them. Yet in this, everyone and their brother beats them up. These two could have been so zany and fun, and instead we got two of the three stooges and slapstick nonsense. In Dallas when Hazel and Cha Cha are mentioned, Number 5 utters in a terrified manner “We’re already dead”. Yet in this, they can’t kill anyone. Scratch that, Cha Cha does kill Patch, when her back is turned. Other than that, we have just complete rubbish. The Hazel and Agnes storyline was just ridiculous. Their only redeeming scene was where they tortured Klaus. Otherwise, they should have left their masks on like in the comic books. It would have saved budget cost on casting Mary J. Blige.
Now don’t get me wrong, this series was not bad. I admit that I am critical of it. As an avid reader of the story, I can appreciate the brief homage to the Eiffel Tower and Dr. Terminal. I just feel like so much was left on the table. There is so much color and fun in the pages of the two story arcs they used, and I just didn’t see as much of it as I would have liked.
But what do I know? IMDB users seem to love it, as well as most other critics. I enjoyed it for what it was worth, which is a streaming adaptation. I do in fact look forward to season 2 and if you haven’t read the stories yet, I suggest you do. Hotel Oblivion, the third part of the comic book is out now, and Way’s writing with Ba’s artwork is phenomenal.
Also if you didn’t heed my speculation alerts you should have. Umbrella books are going crazy on electronic bay. If you see cheap copies of the series, pick them up. With Marvel leaving the streaming service, Netflix is going to have to bank on some properties to keep up with Disney+, and this might be the one they believe in.
3 ½ out of 5 brewskis. Now I’ll drink to that.