Monday, September 9, 2019

Super Stuff - Umbrella Academy

Feels like I should catch up on some things after so many gaps this year so I'll be doing that this month. One big thing - lots of super-activity this summer!

Several independent super-shows came along earlier this year and I feel very differently about each of them so let's start with Umbrella Academy. I have not read the comic books or any other version of the story so I was coming in cold. It seems like it was fairly popular on Netflix but I have to say I was ... underwhelmed.

What happens at a reunion years after a kid superhero team splits up? Well ... they all hate each other so they spend a lot of time bickering and not a lot of time doing super stuff. I mean, I get the "dark", the "modern take" - or is it "postmodern" now? I forget. I kept feeling like the stuff they were doing in the flashbacks would have been more interesting than what they were doing in the "now" of the show.

First up - the Attitude:
  • They mostly seem to hate each other
  • They all hate their father
  • They almost all hate that they used to be superheroes
  • There's a fair amount of self-hate on the team too
I don't mind having one or two "dark" characters on a team show but when the whole team is that way ... it's a lot. 

Second - the Bounty Hunters:

Was this originally a completely different story? Was it just grafted on to this one? Because there's nothing terribly original or interesting about it and it really doesn't add that much to the main plot. maybe it was supposed to be the lighter or funny element of the show but it's just not that much. 

Third - the Padding:

Even with only ten episodes it feels like there was not that much story here. Trim out the 90% of the Hunters story line that was unneeded and you could have cut this down to 8 episodes, maybe less. I mean you have a team of 7 super characters, a stern father figure running them, a chimpanzee major domo, a robot mother, and time-travelling assassins and yet it somehow feels like you didn't have enough to fill out ten hour-long episodes of a TV show.

I did stick with it through the end though I considered dropping it multiple times as I was watching. I was curious how they would resolve the big plot ... and even that was a disappointment! Get to the last episode, things are unfolding, and  - welp - see you next season??!! It's cheap and artificial. I'm still debating whether I will even watch the next season after that.

The thing I liked most:

 Mr. I-see-dead-people #4 triggers a device and finds himself in the Vietnam War. We don't see much of it in real-time, mostly it happens in flashbacks throughout the following episodes but he spends a year there, develops a significant relationship, and lives through some pretty rough stuff before he finds his way back. In one episode he goes into a VFW post and starts crying over some old pictures -which he is in- and then gets into a fight with the older members who are inside and think he's being disrespectful. It's funny, touching, and wrong on some level and to me it was by far the best scene in the whole show.


thekelvingreen said...

The comic is better. It's more colourful, and more weird than bleak, I think perhaps because comics aren't stuck with a Netflix budget.

(The original creators haven't been involved in the TV series either, and that may also have an effect on the feel of it.)

The pacing is also much better. The TV series has combined two books of content into one series so far, but has left a lot of interesting stuff out and has tried to replace it with family drama, but I think has over-egged it. On the whole I like the TV series but it floundered and dragged in terms of plotting and only started to feel like the comic in the last couple of episodes. They could have chopped a couple of episodes without losing anything, but I find that a lot with Netflix shows.

I hope some of the more interesting stuff from the comic will be seen in series two; without going into spoilers, there's a lot more Vietnam content in the comic and based on how series one ends, they could go into that in series two.

Adam Dickstein said...

I really enjoyed it, though as thekelvingreen states the comic book series was indeed better. It embraces the wide, wild world of the superhero more, with a greater emphasis on the past history as crimefighters battling code-named criminals and like.

I am a bit more forgiving of the TV series version of it though and really liked some of the changes and characterizations. I, like kelvingreen, hope some of the more weird and outlandish bits of the comic find their way into Season 2.

Umbrella Academy falls into that strange area of being 'not the kind of Superhero story I usually like' that I really like.