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The White Violin – CLICK HERE FOR THE SPOILER-HEAVY FINALE REVIEW
Given the sheer number of superhero-related content out right now, it was always going to difficult for The Umbrella Academy to stand out, especially given the acclaim behind the comic it’s based on. What a surprise then that Netflix’s latest superhero flick is not just a fantastic, action-packed rollercoaster ride, it’s also one of the best superhero shows to be released in quite some time. Armed with a lovable group of characters all wrapped up in a mystery full of drama and thrills, Umbrella Academy rarely outstays its welcome, despite suffering the Netflix effect of dragging the content out a little.
After a brief prologue that sees a Russian girl inexplicably become pregnant, what follows is an introduction to this strange world. It turns out 42 other women suffered this same, strange phenomena as a number of children across the world are born under mysterious circumstances. Intent on adopting these children for purposes unknown, Sir Reginald Hargreeves travels tirelessly across the world to bring them into his care. Out of the 43, he manages to adopt 7. After a brief introduction to each child as an adult, the death of their adoptive father brings them back to the mansion they grew up. While all of them accept his death was as a result of natural causes, former leader of the group Luther is none too convinced and decides to investigate further.
The arrival of Number 5, one of the seven who can jump through time, brings with him a dire message from the future as the group look set to go their separate ways. The apocalypse is coming in 7 days and with it, the end of the world. From here, it’s up to the group to find out who or what is responsible for the end of the world and stop it from happening before it’s too late. Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple and as the group band together, 2 assassins from the future, Hazel and Cha-Cha, are tasked with finding and killing Number 5. The rest of the series weaves a cat-and-mouse game between the two sides with a time-bending storyline set across dual timelines, one from the past and one in the present before a climactic finale that leaves things wide open going forward.
Aesthetically, The Umbrella Academy looks great. Scenes regularly have a number of hedonistic colours filling the scene and there’s some really interesting, contrasting hues used here as well. Throughout the series it’s not uncommon to find some indoor scenes flooded with blues, yellows, greens and reds. The general cinematography is decent too and the special effects are perfectly executed, especially late on when CGI is used throughout the finale.
On the subject of the arts, there’s a great soundtrack used here too with an eclectic range of pop, rock and even violin-inspired orchestral chimes used to really help each scene stand out. While Shaun Of The Dead’s scene with Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now is a lot more memorable, these segments are far more frequently placed throughout the 10 episodes to give the show a playful feel, complementing the urgency of the story perfectly.
While the story itself weaves all the usual tropes you’d expect from a superhero story, including the coming apocalypse and some well-implemented time travelling elements, it’s really the characters that make this so enjoyable. Whether it be Klaus’ unpredictability, Diego’s fiery temper or even Pogo’s bites of wisdom, every character here has a compelling and well written arc. Vanya is a bit of a spare part for the first half of the season if I’m honest and her scenes do tend to drag a little, especially early on. Thankfully, this narrative becomes a whole lot more exciting and crucial to the overall plot late on so it’s easy to look past this.
The Umbrella Academy does feel a bit overlong at times and some of this is down to the way Netflix stretches its content out across more episodes than it should. Thankfully, the exciting, well written story is good enough to look past these flaws. The characters are really well written, have their own subplots and there’s some nice bouts of foreshadowing here too (which I do discuss in the finale review). Coupled with some gorgeous cinematography and an ending that leaves the door wide open for a second season, The Umbrella Academy is not just the best superhero show Netflix have produced, it’s also one of the best shows of 2019.