Last week ‘Avengers: Endgame’ surpassed ‘Avatar’ as the highest-grossing film of all time. A few days later, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ hit $1 billion at the box office.
During Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con appearance, they announced their massive slate of movies, which was met with both massive amounts of praise — as well as a healthy feeling of exhaustion.
Across their cinema slate, Disney also made sure to announce what would be coming to their imminent streaming service, Disney+. Stars were brought onstage.
Three-time Oscar winner Natalie Portman held Thor’s hammer with the enthusiasm of a child holding a stalk of broccoli. Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali came onstage to announce he’d be starring as ‘Blade’.
It’s clear the momentum of the superhero genre isn’t stopping any time soon. Enter: Amazon Prime Video’s latest series: ‘The Boys’.
Based on Garth Ennis’ comic book series of the same name, ‘The Boys’ takes some very familiar superhero identities and asks: what if they weren’t so super behind closed doors.
In the world of ‘The Boys’, there’s a group of heroes, similar to the Justice League or Avengers, known as The Seven. They’re America’s favourite heroes, at least that’s what the marketing team behind them would like you to think.
The Seven are a by-product of Vought, an organisation that recruits, markets and manages supes. Vought is a massive corporation raking in dollars thanks to the gifts bestowed on these chosen few who not only save the world but are also enormously powerful — and abuse those gifts to their own entertainment.
Our introduction to The Seven is via Starlight, their newest member who believes in the good in the world, something that is quickly put to the test as she realises her new co-workers are each more deranged and disillusioned than the next.
The leader of The Seven, Homelander is a blend of Superman’s powers and clean-cut aesthetic, Captain America’s pandering nationalism and a healthy dose of psychopathy.
And with great power comes great brutality.
The series is dark, violent and contains several confronting storylines, but it’s also the perfect antidote for anyone who has superhero exhaustion. Similar to ‘Watchmen’ or ‘Deadpool’, dismantling the superhero genre is best done by looking at the gory consequences of their actions.
The series introduces Hughie Campbell, a man who joins a group of vigilante superhero fighters after speedster A-Train accidentally runs through his girlfriend. No one ever wonders how many times The Flash or Quicksilver might accidentally trip, or not see a jay-walker, ripping through them like a bullet.
Hughie joins Billy Butcher, the leader of The Boys, a rag-tag group of civilians who hope to fight back against the superheroes who abuse their powers, and who can use Vought’s massive influence to get out of sticky situations — like being covered in the internal organs of a pedestrian.
‘The Boys’ isn’t just a cynical take on supes gone bad, while there is a hearty dose of that, but also a critique on corporate America. After all, the world’s strongest hero still has to fall in line with his public appearance schedule.
Disney is basically unstoppable after acquiring Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and — most recently — 21th Century Fox. Cinema slates are being cleared to make room for the years of Disney-owned films, and now they’re looking to take over streaming in the coming months. While the content they’re pushing out is appeasing audiences at record-breaking numbers, it’s also flattening the landscape of film and television, making sure it’s being filtered through the lens of what fits in the house of mouse.
Rather than just dismantling the Marvel and DC universes, and the current cult of superheroes we’re living through, ‘The Boys’ also introduces us to that familiar, all too real supervillain of corporate machinery.
The series is far from perfect — Karl Urban’s British (???) accent is often as brutal as the violence depicted, and the handful of female characters given the spotlight don’t get a huge amount of room to shine. Yep, the series really does focus a lot on the boys (hopefully something that will be overhauled in the show’s second season which was confirmed before the first even landed).
Still, it arrives at the perfect time — and if you’re a fan of the superhero genre you’ll probably love the overt, twisted references to your favourite characters. If you’re exhausted by it all, maybe watching an Aquaman-type bungle the rescue of a grocery store lobster is exactly what you need.
Season 1 of ‘The Boys’ is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Featured image: Prime Video.
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