The Umbrella Academy: Reflecting on superheroes
Over the last 10 years, the superhero genre has grown to become one of the most profitable segments of movies and television.
With its great action sequences and incredible visual effects, the superhero movies have established a pattern that is repeated in most proposals of the genre, with origin stories and crossovers as the most appealing topic, such as in Captain Marvel (2019) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
On the other hand, thanks to the fact that the structure of the genre has already been established, its limits have been expanding little by little and new types of stories are being told. Good examples are Deadpool (2016), whose satire on the genre depends on its successful development, or Logan (2017) and Joker (2019), which dive deeper into the psyche of the characters.
The Umbrella Academy is one of these stories where, without losing sight of the theme that defines the genre, the superheroes rest a bit from the blows to go into a more complex exploration, full of great characters, different timelines and an immersive story.
Let’s jump through time with The Umbrella Academy and explore more in My Family Cinema Editorial.
The Umbrella Academy is based on the comic book of the same name, written by Gerard Way, vocalist of the band My Chemical Romance, and art by Brazilian illustrator Gabriel Bá, first published in 2007 by Dark Horse Comics.
It tells the story of a group of superheroes who share the peculiarity of been born on the same day and at the same time, of women who were not pregnant. The seven characters are adopted by Sir Reginald Hargreeves, founder of the Umbrella Academy, an eccentric millionaire who will educate and care for them so that, in time, they can protect the planet from any threat.
The idea of a supergroup can be seen previously in the world of comics, such as X-Men or Doom Patrol, but The Umbrella Academy stands out for focusing on the personalities and family ties that unite and identify each character, rather than on its powers.
Although in 2011 a movie of The Umbrella Academy produced by Universal was rumored, in July of 2015 it was announced that the project would be developed as a TV series. In 2017 it was officially announced that Netflix had ordered a TV adaptation and finally, in February of 2019, the first season with 10 episodes were released.
The story of The Umbrella Academy starts when, after many years without seeing each other, the Hargreeves siblings meet up to bury their father, who has died in strange circumstances.
Among the main characters are Luther “Number One” Hargreeves, group leader and astronaut, played by Tom Hopper (Black Sails, 2014-2017); the rebel Diego “Number Two” Hargreeves, played by David Castañeda (Sicario: Day of the Soldier, 2018); Allison “Number Three” Hargreeves, who has quit on being a heroine to become a famous actress, played by Emmy Raver-Lampman (Hamilton: An American Musical, 2015); Klaus “Number Four” Hargreeves, a drug addict played by Robert Sheehan (Mortal Engines, 2018); Number Five, a time traveler played by Aidan Gallagher (Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn, 2014-2018); and Vanya “Number Seven” Hargreeves, the sister without powers, played by Ellen Page (X-Men: Days of Future Past, 2014).
The show’s production shines with highly successful performances, soundtrack and immersive cinematography, but it goes further with the portrayal of Pogo, the chimpanzee butler of the family, played by Adam Godley (The BFG, 2016), with special effects directly from War for the Planet of the Apes (2017).
Although is full of action, the show focuses on exploring relationships between the members of the Hargreeves family. The personalities, desires and motivations of each one of them are what makes The Umbrella Academy a series that captures its viewers from the first episode.
Concepts of leadership, fraternity and responsibility are treated in depth along with characters whose growth has been controlled since childhood. The parenting that the protagonists received have marked their individual development and their family relationship, where the damage of an emotionally absent father is one of the essences of the plot, pointing out the bitterness that isolation, abuse and loneliness can leave on people.
With more and more stories focusing on the deconstruction of the superhero and the exploration of characters, The Umbrella Academy and the genre of superheroes have a bright future. Netflix is betting on stories out of the ordinary, with daring narrative techniques and original themes, so we do not doubt their ideas. Luckily, it’s already official that the series has been renewed for a second season, and the production will begin in late 2019.
While The Umbrella Academy‘s comic book takes the story forward, the first season of the TV show was loosely based on the first two volumes, Apocalypse Suite and Dallas. With Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá still at the head of the original project, being Hotel Oblivion the most recent volume, The Umbrella Academy still has a lot of stories to tell.