No Supe for you.
Have you ever watched Captain America: Civil War and then said to yourself; “Hmm, that Iron Man sure is overreacting! Superheroes don’t need to be regulated, what kind of commie nonsense is that?” After watching Amazon Video’s The Boys, Iron Man’s commie nonsense makes a lot of sense.
Adapted from a 2006 comic of the same name, The Boys takes place in a world where superheroes are real. Real jerks, that is. Beneath the product placements, the selfies, and the corporate facade lies a network of
super-powered narcissists, drug addicts, and rapists with varying degrees of god complexes thrown in for good measure. That doesn’t sound like it would make for some very inspiring protagonists, does it? That’s why The Boys centers around…wait for it…The Boys, a motley crew of vigilantes each with their own personal vendettas against superhumanity. They’re led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), a gruff Brit who perpetually rocks a trenchcoat, a wicked beard, and an even more wicked sense of humour. When dorky A/V salesman Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) has his girlfriend killed by a superhero’s collateral damage, Butcher gives Hughie an opportunity for revenge on the corporate superhero empire. They meet up with Butcher’s old friends and thus, The Boys are born. Through a combination of detective work and beating the snot out of people, The Boys begin to unravel the dark truth of how the superheroes came to be, and get so embroiled in a gripping conspiracy that you’re going to end up binging this show all in one night.
Superhero shows are often criticized for their lower special effects budget and how that pulls the audience out of the experience. The Boys certainly doesn’t have Avengers: Endgame money, but the writing and acting are so top-notch that it genuinely doesn’t matter. The dialogue between the cast is snappy, well-paced, and full of character. Urban and Quaid are standouts, and the dialogue between them and the rest of the cast is shockingly funny and emotionally fulfilling. The highlight of the show is undoubtedly the villain, the superman knockoff Homelander (Antony Starr). Homelander presents himself as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, man of the people who wears an American flag as a cape and prays to God every night, but under the surface lies a ruthless sociopath with a crippling desire for attention. Starr straddles the line between a benevolent hero and a sociopathic villain so effortlessly while also giving the character much-needed depth to stick the landing. You don’t (or at least shouldn’t) sympathize with Homelander, but Starr gives enough credibility to understand how he became the monster he is.
Some criticize The Boys for lacking subtlety thematically. The show is very upfront in what it wants to say about the dangers of capitalism and the effects of mass media advertising, and I appreciate it’s forwardness on very relevant issues. The Boys is a tightly paced and well-acted thrill ride that can scratch that superhero itch that we’ve all been feeling without Marvel movies this year. The special effects might not be great, but it’s a fun takedown of capitalism, and that’s pretty heroic to me.