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The Umbrella Academy (TV)

Totenkindly

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This show based on a comic book series dumped on Netflix on Friday. I watched the first five episodes today, there's five more to go. It's essentially about an incident where 43 women conceived mysteriously and gave birth in the space of a day (the same day), and an eccentric billionaire managed to adopt (aka "buy") seven of them and train them to be superheroes so to speak because most of them seem to have some kind of special ability. There's a bit of flashback but it mostly deals with them as adults, when they're all forced to reunite after abandoning their dad in adulthood. Each of them has a great deal of baggage from their childhood mainly because of how their father raised them (feeling more like test subjects than beloved children), so the series tries to address that to some degree.

My feelings so far are that it's a 7/10 series. Thematically (from the relational end) there's a similarity to "Haunting of Hill Place" -- that was also a show about kids with baggage from bad parenting, trying to heal -- but I feel like that show really dug a lot deeper and was far more nuanced. UA is definitely better than the final season of Heroes (for comparison) but just doesn't really know how to deal with the emotional elements in a really adult fashion -- it kind of dabbles around the edges, although there's some occasional good moments/lines (which I assume are lifted out of the comic).

It also has some style to it, which is cool... except it doesn't necessarily feel original, it feels derivative to some degree. Kind of like a show that wants to portray itself as original and ground-breaking but is kind of just playing off things other creative shows have done. (For example, the extensive use of music, some of which has appeared more notably in prior films or that sometimes "over-cheeses" the sequence, it's a bit too quirky.) This goes beyond style to also some of the plot points as well. There are a few "mysteries" (such as what's the deal with Vanya) that aren't really that mysterious because they seem to be playing out along the lines of what I was anticipating early on. There's been at least one character death that I saw coming from a mile away. I can discuss some of the specifics later in spoilers, to not ruin it for folks. But basically... it's fun but not quite as creative as it wants to be.

I don't want to complain TOO much because obviously I'm enjoying it enough to blitz five episodes or more in one day.... but it's not something I would probably rewatch. I think the Hazel and Cha-Cha characters have been really amusing; when I heard someone refer to them (as yet another knockoff) as Tarantino Lite, I immediately knew why they said that, but at the same time I still enjoy them in the series. The guy who plays Hazel is the same actor who plays Ed Kemper over on "Mindhunters" and I've enjoyed him on both shows now.

The actor doing the voice for Pogo (the humanized chimp) is the same guy who played Elliot on "Breaking Bad" and I've seen him in some other things. Meanwhile, the guy playing the eccentric billionaire (under the makeup) is a character actor I've seen in scores of movies -- the one I remember most is the head of the research lab from Face/Off.

The biggest name stars in the series I'm gonna guess would be Ellen Page (as Vanya) and Mary J. Blige (as Cha-Cha). The other actors are solid in their roles, and if they have trouble at times, it's the scripting and not them.
 

Totenkindly

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I asked the mods to move posts 3-7 to its own thread on "cross-casting in film and TV" since this topic can cover quite a range of demographics. So I will wait to respond in the new thread about that topic.


----

I have finished episode 8 now. I'm gonna put stuff in spoilers that is a plot killer. But essentially the season does try to be about kids screwed up by being raised by a domineering father with a particular goal in mind, to the exclusion of other things. I just wish it had gone deeper. There are seeds of something good here but the writing doesn't really know how to dig into it deeply. So I'm enjoying the series on a more-surface level but constantly feel kind of bummed it doesn't really dive in like it should.

One stellar example is episode 7, which should have a lot cathartic moments but just really fails to evoke much emotion -- it's interesting but not something that should be wrenching one's gut. Or one of the characters that Klaus is in regular contact with -- the idea was great, the execution just is kind of meaningless. And so on. Essentially the series has a bunch of plot points it wants to hit, and it wants to be stylish, but it also has a notion to be dramatic -- but the drama gets lost in the first two things, so it's hard to feel emotionally engaged.

Another thing is that the season is about two episodes too long, if you cut out a bunch of dross.

This has major spoilers, so please don't read unless you have seen up to episode 8 or don't care to watch the series:
 

rav3n

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Loved the pilot! Quit partway through episode 2 since it became predictable. Klaus made me laugh since he's so tweaked out and unapologetically so.
 

Totenkindly

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Loved the pilot! Quit partway through episode 2 since it became predictable. Klaus made me laugh since he's so tweaked out and unapologetically so.

Yeah, Klaus is a particular "character type" (the wacko, so to speak)... but I can't fault the actor, he's damn good at the role and he's amusing to watch. He gets a bit more range later in the season.

I really like the kid playing Five (who basically is in his late 50's, as a character, but when he traveled back to the present gets stuck in his 12 year old body or so). Aidan Gallagher has the right amount of confidence and chutzpah to act toe-to-toe with people 15 years older than him and he SCANS as a 60 year old guy in a kid's body. He's really great, and he's not a minor character -- he's carrying a few plot lines and is central to the main storyline.


Episode 9


Episode 10:
 

rav3n

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Yeah, Klaus is a particular "character type" (the wacko, so to speak)... but I can't fault the actor, he's damn good at the role and he's amusing to watch. He gets a bit more range later in the season.

I really like the kid playing Five (who basically is in his late 50's, as a character, but when he traveled back to the present gets stuck in his 12 year old body or so). Aidan Gallagher has the right amount of confidence and chutzpah to act toe-to-toe with people 15 years older than him and he SCANS as a 60 year old guy in a kid's body. He's really great, and he's not a minor character -- he's carrying a few plot lines and is central to the main storyline.


Episode 9


Episode 10:
Yeah, he's very believable in that role. So far that I've watched, they're way under-utilized Ellen Page. She's got acting chops when provided with a meaty role.
 

Totenkindly

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Yeah, he's very believable in that role. So far that I've watched, they're way under-utilized Ellen Page. She's got acting chops when provided with a meaty role.

Yeah, her character doesn't do much at first, then slowly picks up throughout the season. She's pretty involved in the last few episodes and Page gets her opportunities to shine.
 

Hellena Handbasket

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I watched the first episode. It looks interesting and they managed to use two of my favorite songs with I Think We're Alone Now and Instanbul, so points for that.
I really like both the characters of 5 and Klaus.
I'll probably finish watching it as I get time.
I'm glad to hear they give Ellen Page more to work with later in the season.
 

Z Buck McFate

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I like Ellen Page in characters that benefit from her quirky flat affect, but I didn't think this was one of them. (I've not seen Juno, and I can't remember where else I've seen her - but I do remember seeing her in roles that used her apathetic brand of quirkiness well). I liked the series - especially Klaus - but I kinda felt like there could have been so much more to Vanya.
 

Z Buck McFate

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Aidan Gallagher has the right amount of confidence and chutzpah to act toe-to-toe with people 15 years older than him and he SCANS as a 60 year old guy in a kid's body. He's really great, and he's not a minor character -- he's carrying a few plot lines and is central to the main storyline.

Yeah, for me, this kid^ and Klaus made it worth watching. Hazel and Cha Cha were pretty good icing on the Five and Klaus cake.
 

Totenkindly

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Yeah, for me, this kid^ and Klaus made it worth watching. Hazel and Cha Cha were pretty good icing on the Five and Klaus cake.

I think they were pulled in from the second comic arc. (There were two arcs completed and I think a third is being worked on?) I have only seen a few panels, but I read a bit about it. I'm wondering if this is one of those situations where the show seems more polished than the comics, I think season one seems to humanize the first arc of the comic far more. (Kind of how I felt about Kick-Ass -- I have read the first arc and I didn't like it much, but I really like the movie; I cared a lot more about the characters in the film version.)

All being said, this will probably mean a second season of Umbrella Academy will be a lot more off-book.

I like Ellen Page in characters that benefit from her quirky flat affect, but I didn't think this was one of them. (I've not seen Juno, and I can't remember where else I've seen her - but I do remember seeing her in roles that used her apathetic brand of quirkiness well). I liked the series - especially Klaus - but I kinda felt like there could have been so much more to Vanya.

She was written pretty straight here -- not a lot of quirk, really.

She was in Hard Candy, which I haven't seen. I did see her in Inception, but I don't think she played a quirky character there -- she was pretty much "the voice of reason" in the film, as far as Ariadne's role, guiding Cobb to make healthy decisions in a therapeutic sense.
 

Julius_Van_Der_Beak

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Watched the first episode. I really liked it. It was as though a deconstruction of X-Men was directed by someone who really likes Wes Anderson.

I like the fact that people's powers seem to influence their personalities. Like, Three's ability to talk to the dead made him kind of a goth. Seven's lack of powers made her an overachiever, I sense. Not really sure what 1 or 2's powers really are besides one being big and good at fighting, and the other one being normal-sized and good at fighting.

By the way, I don't agree with people who said Ellen Page really didn't have anything to do at first. I mean, she definitely wasn't the main character, but I'm not really sure there is one. I think that's an interesting kind of character to have in that setting. I kind of hope she doesn't eventually discover she has special abilities after all. I think that would make her less interesting, although perhaps there's some way that could still work that I haven't thought of.

Also, I got the impression this show wasn't about a bunch of kids, but it's actually about what happened when they grew up. I think I was misled because the trailer seemed to place a lot of emphasis on Five, who only looks like a kid.
 

badatlife

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I binged this in 2 days I loved it. I don't usually like these kinds of shows (marvel/super hero) so this was a first for me. So entertaining... I think #7 is my favorite. I also loved the scenes where hazel and cha cha dressed up in the animal costumes, haha. Hilarious. I HATED #1 towards the end-he's the dumb/hard-headed character who ultimately caused all this. It was his fault when he charged at the director at the end of the performance which triggered #7. I hope in the time travel arc she keeps her super powers. It was bad ass!
 

Totenkindly

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Hell's bells.

The guy playing grown-up Luther played Dickon Tarly on GoT Season 7.
 

Julius_Van_Der_Beak

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Hell's bells.

The guy playing grown-up Luther played Dickon Tarly on GoT Season 7.

I noticed that, too. The actor kind of looks like a little like a taller, more muscular version of me or my cousin, actually, IMO, at least in this (it doesn't really strike me when I google the actor, but it does when I watch the show). It's a little weird.

Oh, and I'm actually ok with the way things are turning out with Vanya, because of what they're doing with it. I find myself able to predict a lot of the twists so far, but I'm enjoying it nevertheless. There was a bit at the beginning of the last episode I watched where they spent too long on a reveal after anyone watching would have already figured it out. Although I actually speculated about something like that before I even saw it.
 
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