In recent times, superheroes have evolved into the most lucrative film industry in the world. With Avengers: Endgame surpassing Avatar as the highest grossing film of all time, there is no doubt that studios will continue to churn out stories of epic confrontations between good and evil. People loving watching superheroes because they remind us that there is always a way to save the day.
But what if the heroes we looked up to weren’t so benevolent? What if they cared more about their status as celebrities? What If they were as fucked up and flawed as the rest of us? Those are the kind of questions that Amazon Prime’s The Boys looks to address. And the answers are fucking diabolical.
The celebrity culture of being a superhero
Adapted from Garth Ennis’ and Darick Robertson’s comic series of the same name, The Boys is set in a world where superheroes are everyday celebrities. They make movies, they gross billions each year and look great doing it. There’s even an equivalent of the Justice League and The Avengers called The Seven. The group is made up of powerful characters like The Homelander, A-Train, Queen Maeve and Translucent.
But behind closed doors the capes and cowls take on a much more sinister meaning. Many superheroes live hedonistic lifestyles and have become corrupted by the power they wield. The Seven are the worst of all, with each hiding flaws that are covered up by Vought International, the company that controls the hero industrial complex.
Sick of the corruption and holding a grudge, former CIA agent Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) puts together a team of ‘supe’ hunting oddballs called The Boys. The most normal member of the team is Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) a guy that gets dragged into the fight after his girlfriend is accidently killed by A-Train.
A star-studded cast
Butcher and Hughie make a hell of a pairing as they set out on a bloody path to dismantle the superhero machine. Urban is compelling as the hilariously erratic Butcher who is willing to take down the supes at all costs, while Quaid brings an endearing energy to his role.
Along the way, Butcher and Hughie are joined by Frenchie (Tomer Kapon), Marvin ‘Mother’s Milk’ (Laz Alonso) and The Female (Karen Fukuhara). Fukuhara does a great job of making her character enigmatic, scary and vulnerable all at once.
Erin Moriarty also deserves praise in her role as Starlight, a new member of The Seven who is determined to make a genuine difference in the world. Starlight’s mixture of stubborn hope and self-awareness makes her the only real superhero on a team of degenerates and drug addicts.
Anthony Starr makes for a brilliant antagonist as The Homelander, a character that exists as a dark inversion of classic heroes like Superman and Captain America. Megalomaniacal and vain, Homelander’s arrogance is surpassed only by his Oedipus complex.
The Boys forces us to confront our love affair with superheroes and think about the kind of damage that could be done if we put our lives in the hands of superpowered beings. The Seven seem to cause more problems than they solve, while even acts as simple as sex lead to innocent people ending up as bloody smears on the floor.
The Boys is a delightfully cynical show that challenges traditional comic book tropes and will leave you rooting for a new team of anti-heroes.
The Boys is available to stream on Amazon Prime.