Let’s Hear It For The Boys

The Boys poster

As if anyone hasn’t seen the ubiquitous advertising, The Boys is a new superhero TV show streaming on Amazon Prime, and what makes it stand out from the standard superhero fest we’ve seen is that the superheroes are actually the villains and the main stars in the show are ordinary humans trying to undercut the superhumans.

In the world of The Boys, superhumans have been around for decades and are slickly marketed as celebrities to the public by the corporation Vought International. The company sells their superhumans as wholesome and patriotic heroes but the reality is that the superhumans are deeply flawed, amoral and let their power get to their heads. In other words, the superheroes feel they are above the law and act behind the cameras and campaigns without impunity.

The Seven

The main “superheroes” featured in the show belong to a superhero team called The Seven, and are basically knock-offs of the Justice League, with the Superman-type, Homelander (Anthony Starr) being the worst of the bunch. He knows he is basically a god and is treated as such by the adoring public. Literally draped with the American flag, Homelander is not above invading people’s privacy, rape, and needlessly killing people. Not all of The Seven are bad. Annie January (Erin Moriarity), is a new recruit called Starlight and she genuinely wants to do good and make a difference. The problem is the harsh reality of her co-workers disillusions her and causes her to question The Seven and how their heroic actions are solely carried out to please Vought’s marketing executives.

At the start of The Boys, one person’s life is changed forever by the superhumans. He is Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), an ordinary salesperson in New York City. His girlfriend is accidentally killed by a speedster called A-Train (Jesse T. Usher) who was speeding towards a crime scene. A-Train shows little remorse for smashing through Hughie’s girlfriend and is more concerned about not getting in trouble and not having his reputation ruined. Hughie, of course, is enraged by A-Train’s attitude and quickly becomes disillusioned by the Supes. He meets Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), a grizzled and salty freelance operative for the CIA who hates all the Supes. Billy recruits Hughie and old colleagues/mercernaries such as Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), and Frenchie (Tomer Kapon) in a clandestine mission to gather intel on the Supes and bring them down. It goes without saying that the inventive and creative ways Butcher’s bunch defeats their superpowered prey is often humorous and grossly effective.

meet the boys

Comic book readers know by now that The Boys is based on a comic book series published by Dynamite Entertainment and created by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Eric Kripke developed the show, which is executive produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Before the show came along, many doubted that the comic book could be adapted because of its graphic content. It was so severe that the original publishers of The Boys, Wildstorm Productions, cancelled the series early in its run because it was too anti-superhero.

Thankfully, the show has been able to capture the spiteful and dark humor nature of the comic book. It provides viewers with a wry look at how superheroes would be actually perceived by the normal public and examines the implications of superheroes in our world. It is a lot like Watchmen only with more humor and not as bleak.

Even though it only has eight episodes (Amazon Prime already renewed it), The Boys is already one of the best superhero TV shows ever shown. It out-gritted previous grounded superhero shows like Daredevil and successfully emulates that feeling of engagement that Daredevil and the first season of Heroes used to hook viewers. All the characters are well cast and intriguing, even though a lot of their actions are barbaric and will make you wince. Make no mistake, this is not a standard superhero show for kids. It is jammed with graphic violence and sex acts; much of it is strangely fascinating to watch in a morbid fashion, such as the scene where Hughie’s girlfriend is suddenly turned to pulp by A-Train. But the highlight of The Boys isn’t the over-the-top violence or uncomfortable scenes,, but the characters and their situation. We are instantly involved and drawn towards Hughie, who is the confused and angry soul of the show. He is a decent man who witnessed a terrible act and is driven to want to do something but is wracked by his conscience. Meanwhile, Billy Butcher comes off as a foul-mouthed and cynical thug who has seen it all. But deep down he is embroiled in sadness and rage over his past. Butcher channels these intense emotions towards his drive to bring down Supes, especially Homelander. While we quickly come to despise Homelander and other Supes like A-Train, other Supes like Starlight and Queen Maeve (Domminique McElligott) are much more sympathetic as they struggle with their public image and their personal feelings.

hughie and starlight

Aside from the intriguing characters, The Boys carefully unveils the evil nature of Vought International with enough grim nuggets per episode to keep you watching. The company’s actions are quite horrific given the sunny nature they project to the unassuming public about their brand superheroes. In many ways, it is a sly commentary about the media in our lives and how public perception is easily manipulated.

Along with the superhero shows on the DC Universe app, The Boys is heralding the next step in superhero TV shows. If upcoming shows like Watchmen and the offerings from Disney+ match the quality of The Boys then we are in for some must-see viewing.

Advertisements

Reasons Why The Marvel Superheroes Are Still Successful

marvel 75

The 20th century needed a new group of heroes that reflected then-modern sensibilities. During the Golden Age of comic books, superheroes belonging to DC Comics (then named National Periodical Publications) such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman fulfilled this need with their wild superhuman exploits that captured the imagination. By the post-war era in America, DC’s superheroes were pretty much the standard: the Establishment.

By attempting to have the most likeable characters, DC’s superheroes had no character or emotional flaws, and the stories gravitated towards plot-driven, farcical adventures rather than character-driven stories.

In the wake of DC’s success, other comic book companies were founded and tried to emulate DC. Out of the many companies, only Timely Comics had staying power and here we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of that company that will later become Marvel Comics.

The Flawed, Science Heroes: Comics changed forever with the start of the so-called Marvel Age. The birth of the Marvel Universe took place in the early 1960s. This was a period that people were in awe with all of the wonders of science and space exploration. The Space Race and the Cold War were on the minds of the people. The Zeitgeist was the fear of the imminent Red Invasion and the Promise of Science- where will it take us?

perez marvelThe core of the first generation of Marvel superheroes were essentially Science Heroes. With the exception of Dr. Strange, the rest of the Marvel Universe was largely a world of weird science and science fiction. Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Giant-Man, the Wasp and the Hulk were Radioactive Heroes. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider. The astronauts from Reed Richard’s group were exposed to cosmic rays during their maiden voyage into outer space. In an unfortunate accident, Dr. Bruce Banner was hit with the full blast of Gamma Rays. Tony Stark built an electronic-laden armor with tons gadgets and abilities. Captain America was a patriotic hero that survived World War II by being frozen due to his exposure of Vita-Rays; part of the catalyst that transformed Steve Rogers from a skinny kid to an athletically proportioned hero. Giant Man and the Wasp benefitted from Hank Pym’s size magnification and reduction experiments, along with side studies in insect communication and gene splicing.

Great concepts- ahead of its time- but what made the Marvel Universe different, however, was not only the science aspect, but rather the fact that these Marvel heroes were emotionally flawed, imperfect, and fallible. Tragedy strikes as often as victories. Moral dilemmas were as large as the threat.

Spider-Man wins the battle with the big bad villain, but he can’t get enough money for his rent and he blew a date with either Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Watson. Captain America is back in the modern world, but he feels lost like a fish out of water. marvel heroesThe X-Men have astounding abilities, but they are persecuted and feared by society, who view mutants as aberrations, and treat them as outcasts. The Fantastic Four’s Thing has great power, but he also has this great fear that his blind girlfriend Alicia won’t accept him if she ever regained her sight and found him ugly. But the Thing- AKA Ben Grimm, is very human despite his rough exterior, with a heart that endeared him to readers. Dr. Strange was a callous, money-loving jerk; a celebrity physician until a terrible traffic accident ended his career. This gave him pause to reflect and improve on his past behavior as he was now invested to learn the mystic arts to save the world from an ancient evil. And the list goes on and on with the great flaws that these characters have, but that is what made these characters appealing. That in particular was something that comic book readers became very attuned to, and why they identified with them. Continue reading

Ten Films To Look For In 2014

GotG

Even though next year promises to be a mega-tsunami in terms of mind-blowing cinematic genre releases, this year won’t be a slouch. Superheroes, sequels and some original productions all look promising. These are are some of the most anticipated releases for 2014. Of course, some of them may wind up being major disappointments, while other films that weren’t even listed may turn out to be some of this year’s best. We’ll see…

10. Robocop

robocop 2

Yes, many genre fans are ripping this remake of the 1987 classic a new one. They point out the production problems and hate the monochromatic look of the redesigned Robocop suit. But in the end, at least from the trailers, it looks pretty badass. A lot will depend on if director José Padilha can deliver the action and somehow repeat the dark humor from the original and maybe add some humanity. (Release Date: Feb. 12)

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Evans reprises his role as Marvel’s capamman out of time, Steve Rogers/Captain America. This sequel takes a decidedly different slant than its World War II-based predecessor. Now set in modern times, the film takes on more of a spy thriller vibe as Steve struggles to adjust to the new world and is embroiled in a plot that involves the spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. and his old partner, the deadly Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). (Release Date April 4)

8. The Hobbit: There And Back Again

Unless Peter Jackson plans on directing The Silmarillion, this is his final Middle Earth installment. Even for those that aren’t fans of Jackson’s interpretations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, this final film in The Hobbit trilogy is an event to celebrate. Now once and for all, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his dwarf comrades have their final confrontations with the evil orcs and the dragon Smaug. (Release Date: Dec. 17).

7. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

First of all, the trailer for the newest Spider-Man flick looks amazing (pardon the pun) with all the spectacular (ahem) action scenes involving our favorite Wall-Crawler (Andrew Garfield) fighting Electro (Jamie Foxx). However, can this movie avoid the curse of other superhero sequels that have too many supervillains? Along with Electro, there’s a mechanized version of the Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and the most intriguing villain of the bunch: a rebooted Green Goblin (either Chris Cooper or Dane DeHaan). (Release Date: May 2)

6. Interstellar

interSteven Spielberg was supposed to direct this movie about scientists and explorers sent on a mission to study a newly discovered wormhole. However, he let it slip through his hands and now acclaimed director Christopher Nolan has taken over. The teaser trailer released last month perfectly captured that feeling of humanity desiring a new challenge and to push past our limitations of space travel. Given Nolan’s track record for thought-provoking and titillating fare, Interstellar should be one of the year’s best films. (Release Date: Nov. 7)

5. Guardians Of The Galaxy  

This superhero/space opera mash up from Marvel Studios is one of the most anticipated upcoming releases. From the casting (Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord) to the fact that the studio and director James Gunn had the gumption to include Rocket Raccoon and Groot, a talking tree, in this film, Guardians Of The Galaxy has to be seen. It can be the next big sci-fi hit or the new Howard The Duck. Hopefully it won’t suffer the fate of other misunderstood films that failed recently in the box office like John Carter and Pacific Rim. (Release Date: Aug. 1)

4. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

The 2011 reboot/prequel Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was an unexpected surprise hit with audiences and critics. Prior to its release, few predicted that it would reinvigorate the Planet Of The Apes franchise. This sequel takes place eight years after the 2011 film after a plague has decimated humanity and given genetically enhanced apes a chance to take over the world. Humanity’s remnants led by Gary Oldman head into a fateful confrontation with their competitors, who are led by the now-embittered chimp leader Caesar (Andy Serkis). (Release Date: July 11)

3. Godzilla

Our favorite kaiju finally gets the top treatment godzillathat he deserves from Hollywood! Forget that bastardization that came out in ’98 with that wimpy reptile and that geeky Ferris Bueller dude! After all these years, director Gareth Edwards and the producers have promised this take will be the Godzilla film that we’ve been waiting for; where the behemoth is an indestructible force of nature and is treated as one. Toss in Bryan Cranston, one of the best actors around, scenes of chaos and destruction, and this has the potential to be a bonafide classic. (Release Date: May 16)

2.Transcendence

First-time director Wally Pfister, who worked as a cinematographer for Christopher Nolan’s films presents this cautionary film that capitalizes on our fears of A.I.s.  Johnny Depp stars as a scientist trying to create a true A.I. but is mortally wounded by an anti-tech group. Before dying, his consciousness is uploaded into a computer and the world’s first A.I. is born. There is a chilling aspect in the trailer released for Transcendence as the A.I. begins to take over the world. Think of it as an updated version of Colossus: The Forbin Project but with the A.I. being able to control matter itself. In a film calendar flooded with sequels and reboots this original work stands out. (Release Date: April 8)

1. X-Men: Days Of Future Past

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Finally, a big-screen adaptation of one of the greatest comic book stories ever done. In a post-apocalyptic future, mutants face extinction at the hands of out-of-control Sentinel robots. In desperation, one mutant time travels to the past to prevent the mutant holocaust. Director Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men film franchise in this followup to X-Men: First Class. The key cast members from that film (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence), plus those from Singer’s era of X-Men films (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman) return in an all-star lineup. Bryan Singer and company are promising a major epic, and from what has been seen, it looks like Singer will deliver a high-quality superhero film that could be one of the best ones yet. (Release Date: May 23)

Bear in mind that the release dates are subject to change, even to the point of a film or two being pushed back a year. Other highly anticipated films include Big Hero 6 (Disney Studios presents its first animated film based on Marvel Comics superheroes),  edgeEdge Of Tomorrow (Tom Cruise stars as an inexperienced soldier who repeatedly dies fighting aliens and is continuously resurrected into his past with more combat knowledge each time), The Giver (A teenager in a future perfect society finds out that to achieve perfection his world gave up on humanity), Home (Dreamworks Animation effort about a girl who befriends a misfit alien that is part of an Earth invasion force), How To Train Your Dragon 2 (One of Dreamworks Animation’s best films about a boy and his pet dragon gets the sequel treatment), The Hunger Games: Mockinjay, Part 1 (the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy is getting the Harry Potter and Twilight treatment and is being cut into two parts), I, Frankenstein (delayed from last year, it stars Aaron Eckhart as the title character in modern times fighting for humanity), Jupiter Ascending (The Wachowskis attempt another comeback with this sci-fi action piece starring Mila Kunis), and Welcome To Yesterday (a found-footage film about young adults discovering time travel and its disastrous consequences).

José Soto

Is The Bubble Expanding On Superhero Films?

Last year, there was a lot of speculation about the lasting power of superhero films. Many believed that they were on the way out due the way they underperformed in the box office in 2011.

There were three films in 2011 based on Marvel Comics characters (Thor, X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger) while DC Comics’ Green Lantern was also released as a film. While the Marvel films did respectably in the box office they weren’t supersized hits like The Dark Knight or the first Iron Man movie. Still they were well-received by fans and critics and did well enough to warrant sequels.

Green Lantern however, was a different story. As everyone knows, the film was a huge disappointment to many fans and didn’t make a lot of money. According to Box Office Mojo, the big-budgeted Green Lantern only earned $116 million with a worldwide total of $222 million domestically.

Many factors went into account for the disappointing box office sales in 2011. Some blamed the lack of popularity of some characters. The general public may know who Batman is, but brining up Green Lantern would raise eyebrows. With X-Men: First Class, many said that it may have made more money if it featured more well-known mutant characters and if the franchise didn’t have the stigma of recent inferior entries. Others pointed to a general burnout for such films and inferior 3D conversions (which thanks to bad word-of-mouth would dampen sales). Unless the film was phenomenal many would rather wait for DVD.

With that, while this year’s crop of films had fairly positive buzz late last year, there were concerns when 2012 began as to how good this year’s superhero films would turn out. Nerves weren’t helped by the failure of Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance but the superhero genre showed earlier this year that it had some life left with the success of Chronicle. There seemed to be cautious hope that The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises would do well. The heavy-hitting properties starring the companies’ flagship heroes were to affirm the popularity of superhero films.

Of course, the release of The Avengers changed everyone’s perceptions about superhero films. It featured characters that were seeded years earlier, so that lesser-known heroes like Hawkeye were paired up with superstars like Iron Man. But more importantly the film was well made and able to generate a super-frenzied buzz before its release. To date The Avengers has made $598 million domestically and nearly a staggering $1.5 billion worldwide according to Box Office Mojo.

Seemingly overnight, upcoming superhero films are now highly anticipated regardless of past hesitations. For example, while many fans decried Bane’s voice in early trailers for The Dark Knight Rises, adjustments were made to alleviate those concerns, even though the jury is still out on Catwoman. The final Christopher Nolan Batman film will undoubtedly do well. It may not perform as well as The Avengers but count on it being one of the year’s biggest hits.

The Amazing Spider-Man is also poised to do well. There are many detractors about the validity of a reboot so soon after Sam Raimi’s trilogy but many are impressed by what’s being shown on clips and trailers and it has a major marketing push behind it (plus this year being Spidey’s 50th anniversary can’t hurt). The film will probably finish behind The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises in terms of sales. Another factor that could help the new Spider-Man film is that it is coming in a bit of a lull between the other two superhero films. Currently, other films are topping the charts but don’t seem to have the staying power that The Avengers had and The Dark Knight Rises will probably dominate the box office for the remainder of the summer.

If one or both of the upcoming superhero films reaches blockbuster status expect the floodgates to open even further for future superhero films. Apparently stunned by the spectacular success of The Avengers, DC Entertainment announced that a Justice League film is in development. Anticipation seems to be growing over next year’s slate of superhero epics–Iron Man 3, The Man Of Steel, Thor 2 and The Wolverine. Furthermore, Marvel has announced that there will be follow ups to The Amazing Spider-Man and X-Men: First Class (with new stars like Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence reprising their roles) in 2014, as well as a new Captain America film, and another unannounced Marvel film. There are plans to bring back to the silver screen Daredevil and the Fantastic Four as well as big-screen debuts for Black Panther, Ant-Man, Wonder Woman, Lobo, and the Flash. Even Kick-Ass which only did respectably in theaters is getting a sequel.

At this point, it’s too early to say where all this will go, but two things are certain: 1) we’re in the Golden Age of Superhero Films and 2) despite some failures they are now a well-established movie genre that will stay for some time to come.

José Soto