Whereas a perhaps-once-intriguing war of comic-book superhero franchises has consumed the cinematic universe for over a decade now and has since seemed increasingly one-sided with the dominance of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as similar endeavors have tended to flounder (e.g. the Dark Universe), begun to largely imitate the MCU formula (see the last three DCEU pictures as of this writing), or simply been swallowed whole into the MCU body (i.e. Spiderman and, presumably and inevitably, the properties of 20th Century Fox acquired by Disney), the caped crusaders' battle is only beginning amidst the streaming wars. Netflix has abandoned the Marvel properties for "The Umbrella Academy," HBO is soon to be continuing the "Watchmen" series, and Disney, of course, plans to stream much of the same that they've released in theatres. And that's not even to mention all of the stuff that is already on traditional television channels and one assumes may continue on streaming services. Then, there's this, Amazon Prime's "The Boys." Thus far, I think it's easily the most interesting of the bunch.
For me, that's because it's a satire on real-world politics more so than most superhero movies. The closest antecedent may be "Watchmen," the 2009 movie, based on the same universe for which the HBO show will be expanding from. That picture featured a dystopian 1985 where geopolitics is seemingly arrested by the existence of superheroes in the Cold War tensions of the late 1960s and early 1970s--complete with Richard Nixon running for a fourth term as President. "The Boys" does something similar with the War on Terror of George W. Bush's administration entering the age of MeToo.
Additionally, "The Boys" is a parody of the DC comics. Therefore, there's a twisted version of the Justice League called "The Seven": an Aquaman who's a sexual harrasser; a Flash who abuses performance-enhancing drugs; a rancorous, closet-lesbian Wonder Woman; a perverted invisible Martian Manhunter; a Batman who merely silently broods in his Darth Vader outfit and looks so dark that his name is redundantly "Black Noir;" and, most horrifically, a sociopathic Superman, named "Homelander," of all things, who has a mommy fetish and who drapes himself in the flag enough to make Captain America blush. The Seven's Green Lantern type, however, has retired--one may guess because the movie with Ryan Reynolds was just that bad, and so if even the DCEU has yet to embrace the character, why would this show--and been replaced by a blonde ingénue whose powers revolve around sparkling... seriously.
Appropriately enough, the Seven are managed by a corporation (Vought) that's looking to convince Congress to allow the supes to be a private-military force, as opposed to the domestic policing (which is largely staged) they're restricted to currently, in addition to their movies and merchandising that faithfully mirrors our real world. This is reminiscent of the reliance upon private military contractors during the Iraq War, and further developments in the series allude not only to the War on Terror, but more pointedly to the geopolitical order as it originated during the Bush presidency after 9/11. Indeed, there's a passenger plane hijacked by Eastern terrorists. Despite forewarning intelligence, Homelander, like President Bush afore, fails to prevent disaster. Not allowing it to go to waste in his eyes, though, Homelander cribs Bush's bullhorn address at Ground Zero--promising to take the fight to Terror and, presumably, overseas. This includes the development of the Department of Homeland Security, of which Homelander seems to be an entity upon himself here. Moreover, recalling America's past of arming Afghanistan and others during the Cold War, the terrorists in "The Boys" are in part a product of the past actions of Vought, intentional or not--perpetuating an escalating cycle of war.
If the connection between Homelander and Vought to the Bush administration, as well as to Superman, weren't clear enough, there's also the Jesus nexus. Scenes of the Christian concert largely focus on the homophobia and suspected Crusade-echoing efforts to proselytize for which Bush's faith-based agenda was criticized. After all, this was a president who talked of a "crusade" against Islamists and ran for re-election on a platform of banning gay marriage by constitutional amendment. For the show's event, the headliner is Homelander, who while preaching to his base floats over the audience with arms outstretched in a crucifixion pose. The same figure, mind you, that we've seen Superman adopt repeatedly in film, from the 1978 iteration, to definitely "Superman Returns" (2006), to, as obviously, the DCEU. This Jesus appeal, coupled with his patriotic bromides, is what makes Homelander, like Superman, Captain America and Bush before him, such an effective spokesman and, in this case at least, since he's amoral with god-like powers, also such a frightening figure. Laser eyes instead of cruise missiles.
Not surprisingly, the original comics for which this series is based were written during the Bush administration, and the series began under the DC banner before being dropped by them. I haven't read them, but I would guess that the part of the storyline where Starlight gives a public account of her abuse by the fish man was added for the Amazon Prime series, which of course exists during today's MeToo movement.
This political commentary and comic-book parody is enough to recommend "The Boys," but much of its eight episodes are also spent on the normal human characters, including the gang of heroes out to uncover the supes' conspiracy. As imperfect as these humans are, they remain exceedingly dull. There's even a boilerplate on-again-off-again relationship between a supe and a normie at the center of the show. As these streaming web shows are essentially an extension of TV programs, there's also a lot of repetitive talking and not much action--despite the superhero premise. I suppose not enough money is spent and talent bought still to replicate the visual virtuosity seen in theatrically-released superhero fare. There's nothing even as ambitious here as the adoption of long-take fight sequences in Netflix's "Daredevil."
Those qualms aside, "The Boys" contains enough to mostly hold interest for at least one season. The MCU-type foreshadowing stuff, what with the fly business (presumably, the ugly buddy of Ant-Man and the Wasp) or the mystery of whom to Darth Batman is secretly related, neither of which are answered in the inaugural eight-or-so hours, doesn't intrigue me. But, with a world occupied by many more superheroes than just the Seven, I suppose there could be plenty of comic-book fodder left to mock, and there's surely plenty of politics left to reflect. Among the minor supporting characters here, there's already a female Wolverine who also gets jacked on drugs, too, and a stretchy guy who hypocritically preaches to "pray the gay away" while secretly indulging in fantastic four-ways, so watch out Disney and Marvel; they're after you.
6 out of 15 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.