December 8, 2021

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[So we watch?] Does Umbrella Academy transform the essay?

The Umbrella Academy, available since February 15 on Netflix, has, on paper, everything of a great series. Adapted from a successful comic book created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bà, it is brought to the screen by Steve Blackman, screenwriter of the third season of Fargo. What is she really worth?

October 1986, 43 children were born of an immaculate conception. Endowed with strange powers, seven of them are going to be adopted by Sir Reginald Hargreeves. Together, they form the Umbrella Academy. When their father dies, with the academy disbanded, they find themselves facing a daunting threat. In 8 days, the planet will be destroyed.

Family at the heart of the plot
Far from a classic “origin story”, The Umbrella Academy opens long after the debut of its superheroes. We must admit that this brings a breath of fresh air in this period of strong new series of superheroes. The Umbrella Academy, more than a modern-day Xavier Institute, is above all a dysfunctional family. We follow the characters stuck in a pattern that repeats itself over and over again. An absent father and a robot as a mother figure of reference, you are immersed in the heart of the Hargreeves family. But is it enough to convince? Well not quite… In truth about the 7 prodigies, only 3 manage to stand out.

Ellen Page and Robert Sheehan take the boat
Among the 3 characters that are worth seeing, we find, unsurprisingly, that of Ellen Page. With a constant accuracy, the Canadian actress perfectly embodies the ugly duckling of the band. The only character without powers, Number 7, or Vanya, is arguably the most interesting protagonist of the clique. With her, the series questions the notion of belonging, of normality. How to find your place when you are normal in an abnormal world? By taking the opposite view, the series brilliantly succeeds in making the character endearing. But fortunately, Ellen Page is not the only one to burst the screen since we find Robert Sheehan who plays Number 4. Close to his character in Misfits, Sheehan plays a junkie plagued by death visions. While at the beginning of the series, the character seems to be a pale copy of Nathan, his character in the English series, Klaus reveals himself as the episodes go by and is touched by his sincerity. Finally, Aidan Gallagher, who plays a sixty-year-old trapped in a teenage body, delivers a fascinating performance. Often squeaky, sometimes touching, Number 5 is the most controversial character. Hated or adored, “the slap in the face” leaves no ice.

“Rythm of the Night”
From the introductory scene, the tone is set. The series plays with the rhythm and oscillates between action scenes and slowness. But now, certain lengths are right of the interest which one carries to the intrigue and the beginnings are somewhat laborious. The series, at times, offers beautiful suspended moments, mostly thanks to Ellen Page and her violin. Not enough, however, to keep the viewer’s interest long enough. From the start, you get lost in the wealth of information. Like a puzzle with a missing piece, the series is confusing and sometimes too obscure for the uninitiated.

An achievement not assumed
There is nothing transcendent in photography and sometimes leaves unmoved. While one might expect a very contrasting and colorful image, it is not. Other than a few memorable shots, the realization is pretty wise. The showrunner, who says he was inspired by Wes Anderson, remains too restrained: he sometimes dares to offer psychedelic scenes without fully assuming them. In fact, The Umbrella Academy doesn’t choose the absurd or the whimsical, and that’s a shame. Even in its special effects, the series is uneven. We find ourselves facing a very realistic monkey while the costume of Number 1 tends towards the ridiculous.

“Dancing in the Moonlight”
Music is everywhere. From its creation on paper to its adaptation on the small screen, it has a capital importance in the work and you can feel it. The singer of My Chemical Romance and author of the comic book transmits his love of music in The Umbrella Academy as it accompanies the story at every moment. Decked out with an exquisite soundtrack, the ten-part series plays the role of a Proust madeleine. We will take the example of this fight scene against a Queen background, exhilarating even if not really subtle. In the end, one comes to wonder if the music is not there to fill the voids.

Side original music, we find Jeff Russo, not at the top of his art, who delivers a rather nice and far from memorable whole. Where in Fargo, he succeeds in making an impression in The Umbrella Academy, he goes unnoticed. The introductory music saves the furniture, sometimes looking in classical sounds with the violin and sometimes in more rock accents.

“Don’t stop me now”
The end of the series suggests a second season that we hope is more assumed. It is time for the Umbrella Academy to embrace its image of “weirdo” and to stand out from the multitudes of series of the genre. She has the qualities necessary to meet the challenge of originality.