Streaming Review: You Want to Hang With ‘The Boys’
If you want to watch a television show or movie about a superhero these days, you can easily find a glut of content that wasn’t even feasible to have existed ten or fifteen years ago. Sure, superhero films and television shows have existed for quite some time, but the amount and quality of content available has gone through the proverbial roof since the turn of the millenium. The Marvel Cinematic Universe and the billions of dollars it rakes in annually has caused almost any and every comic book and property to be considered for potentially being turned into another film or series. While some of them are home runs from a critical and financial perspective, others are might be critical bombs but commercial successes like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Others still are a failure on every level like Warner Brothers’ Jonah Hex film or 20th Century Fox’s most recent attempt at a Fantastic Four film.
Amazon Prime’s The Boys is one of the rare instances of a comic-book property outside of the Marvel Comics or DC Universe that, in my opinion, is a total and complete home run. The series was executive produced and developed for ‘television’ (or your phone, tablet or wherever you decide to steam this series) by the unlikely pair of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Rogen and Goldberg are also the team that developed the DC/Vertigo Comics’ Preacher to AMC as well as writing, directing and/or starring in films like Superbad, Pineapple Express, The Interview and This Is The End. This is not a coincidence, since both Preacher and The Boys comics are written by Garth Ennis. Given that, be prepared for intense graphic violence and sexual themes.
The Boys centers around a world where superheroes exist mainly in the United States and most of them are employed, marketed, and controlled by the corporate entity Vought International. Vought trades or swaps heroes to different cities like they are professional athletes and other ‘supes’ live everyday lives just trying to make ends meet. But the pinnacle of being a superhero in this universe is to be part of ‘The Seven’ which is The Boys’ version of The Avengers or Justice League.
Jack Qaid, son of Dennis Quaid, plays one of the show’s central protagonists, Hughie Campbell. After Hughie’s life is irreparably changed by one of The Seven, Vought International offers Hughie money in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement so that the public never knows the truth about what happened. At this point, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) convinces Hughie to use his meeting with Vought representatives to infiltrate and eventually take down Vought and The Seven, who he believes are corrupt and evil. Hughie reluctantly agrees due to his past but ends up unexpectedly connecting with The Seven’s newest hero, Annie January aka Starlight (Erin Moriarty).
Urban, like he is in almost all of his other film and television roles, is amazing here. He believes that Homelander (Anthony Star), The Seven’s version of Superman, is responsible for his own life-altering event. Star as Homelander is the perfect yang to Urban’s yin. While the show is more of an ensemble piece, Butcher and Homelander are the two most memorable characters in the entire series. Both frequently go from being likable to revolting at the drop of a hat and you never really know for sure who the good guys are or who the bad guys are. It doesn’t help that Urban calls everyone he has disdain for, specifically Homelander, the C-word (Rhymes with HUNT) on a regular basis.
Quaid and Moriarty are also very good as Hughie and Starlight, respectively. Both of them seem fairly naïve and are thrust into a world neither of them seems comfortable with. While Hughie is again reluctantly helping Butcher try to take down Vought and The Seven by using his relationship with Starlight, Starlight is dealing with some harsh realities of her own. She also has to come to terms with the knowledge that everything she envisioned about becoming a superhero is not only a lie, but has been twisted to control public perception.
My biggest complaint about The Boys is its use of Simon Pegg who plays Hughie’s father, Hugh. I’m not sure if Pegg wasn’t available for a larger role due to scheduling, but he’s almost completely wasted here. Maybe Urban called in a favor from his Star Trek costar to inject more star power into the series but I would have liked to have seen Pegg in a larger, more substantial role. The show doesn’t necessarily need more star power as the series boasts the likes of Elizabeth Shue (watching the show in 4K UHD doesn’t really do her any favors), Jennifer Espisito, Ann Cusack, Gancarlo Esposito, and Haley Joel Osment in supporting roles. Jimmy Fallon, Rogen, Billy Zane and Tara Reid appear as themselves as well.
I’m also happy to say that The Boys isn’t terribly predictable. I thought by the second episode that I could have predicted how the season would end and I am happy to say that it went in a completely different direction than I anticipated. The season finale set up what is poised to be a VERY different and interesting second season. Granted, I haven’t read the source material and even after watching this season and reading about the original Wildstorm / Dynamite Entertainment comics, it seems they’ve taken some liberties with the translation to our screens.
If you like shows or movies about superheroes (and let’s be honest, if you’re on this website … you probably do) definitely make time to binge The Boys. I watched all eight episodes in less than 24-hours because honestly, they’re like opening a can of Pringles. Once you pop … you can’t stop.