Review: The Boys, Amazon Prime: “Sublime satire that flips the superhero genre on its head”
- Credit: (C) Amazon Prime
The Boys, Amazon Prime: 'SOme of the most entertaining TV of 2019'. Why the hotly-anticipated superhero series The Boys flips the genre on its head and takes a departure from Marvel's goodie-two shoes image.
While enjoying a perfectly innocent conversation with your significant other, what would do if the so-called fastest man alive ran into - and subsequently, ran through - them, exploding them into a mess of blood, guts and bones on impact?
No, this is not the beginnings of an exclusive Usain Bolt scandal, nor a question you will ever likely have to seriously consider - hopefully not, anyway - but instead, a dilemma that mild-mannered A/V store employee, Hughie Campbell is left facing in the opening minutes of the new Amazon Prime Video series, The Boys, based on the comic book of the same name by Garth Dennis and Darick Robertson.
Developed for the small screen by Supernatural creator, Eric Kripke, with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg executive producing, The Boys unfolds in a world where superheroes - or "supes" - are commonplace. Hughie - played by an excellent Jack Quaid, once of the Hunger Games - is left devastated after one such hero, A-Train, straight up decimates his girlfriend, Robin, after that aforementioned high-velocity impact, setting him on a collision course with the superhero group, The Seven, a bunch of super beings who, thanks to a slick marketing campaign courtesy of Vought International, are now extremely profitable celebrities.
For some, this is OK. For the supes themselves, now rich, famous, beloved and borderline untouchable, it means morals can take refuge in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and leave the coast clear for questionable, corrupt and sometimes downright degenerate actions.
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And wouldn't you know, it makes for some of the most entertaining TV of 2019.
While Avengers: Endgame becoming the biggest grossing film of all time - finally ending Avatar's reign - suggests that superhero fatigue may not be as widespread as some have you believe, The Boys is the gritty, violent, surprisingly funny, gleefully profane, sublime satire that flips the genre on your head that proves to be the perfect tonic if the idea of yet another Spider-Man movie makes you sleepy.
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Who knew that superheroes routinely breaking bad could be this much fun? Not to mention, who knew that superheroes routinely breaking bad could be this effectively executed? It is safe to say that you have not seen anything quite like this before - unless, obviously, you have already read the comic book.
But for those that haven't, after is girlfriend's uncomfortably messy death, Vought International move to hush things up with a settlement and ensure the perfect image they have manufactured of their supes is maintained. Enter Karl Urban's gruff Billy Butcher, a man with an axe of his own to grind with the superheroes, along with Frenchie (Tomer Kapon of Hostages and Fauda) and Marvin, or Mother's Milk (Avatar's Laz Alonso) as the titular "Boys".
As something loosely resembling a civilian vigilante group - albeit with enough skills to ensure they are not vaporised by laser eyes or tossed into the stratosphere by super strength half an hour in - Hughie, Billy, Frenchie and Mother's Milk set out to make The Seven pay for their years of collateral damage and criminal activities over the course of eight highly engaging episodes.
But while the Boys' shenanigans make for good watching, it is when that R-rated Justice League/Avengers hybrid, The Seven, are on screen that the show is at its best.
Banshee's Antony Starr heads things up as all-American hero, Homelander - think Superman with a superiority complex - while the previously mentioned A-Train, budget Aquaman, The Deep, the burnt out but brilliant, Queen Maeve, silent but scene stealing, Black Noir and the often invisible, Translucent - that's his power, not an inditement on the writing - make up the rest of his team.
But with the seventh member, known as The Lamplighter retiring, there is a vacancy to be filled. While Hughie discovers a new world with The Boys, Annie January/Starlight - quite possibly the best character on the show - becomes the newest recruit of The Seven, with both stories unfolding alongside one another.
Played by an excellent Erin Moriarty (Jessica Jones), Annie is full of all the optimism and hopefulness you would expect. After all, isn't it everybody's dream to be a superhero? I know that I'd still pack everything in to be able to go fly around the world, decked out in a cape and a flattering super suit. Obviously, though, it proves far from that simple and Annie's initial expectations are promptly crushed in pretty harrowing circumstances.
After that, Annie embarks on an arc which may very well be the most satisfying and engaging on the show. While a lot of the supes present are quite simply not the heroes that we need right now, Starlight - who actually emits actual bright light - most definitely is.
From botched dolphin rescues to a standout plane sequence, The Boys really feels at its most super when its depraved bunch of marvellously marketed heroes are on the screen. And it was already onto a very good thing before that, with its killer soundtrack and engagement in a myriad of different themes - notably something very effectively inspired by the "Me Too" movement - and stellar cast.
For those that have grown tired of superheroes, their morals and their saving of the world, The Boys is the ideal tonic. Bar a few missteps here and there, it has enormous fun exploring a very different superhero world to the ones we are used to and proves to be the breath of fresh, sweary, ultra-violent air the superhero genre didn't know that it was looking for.