Peacemaker is quite possibly the most unlikely comic character who deserves an eight-episode series. John Cena plays the titular character and his alter ego, Christopher Smith, a macho man who thinks his lack of intelligence and common sense is a virtue. This spinoff of The Suicide Squad was created James Gunn, who also wrote and directed that movie. He said when he was tapped to do a sequel to the failed 2016 movie, Gunn picked the bottom of the barrel of the lesser-known characters.
Peacemaker started out as an anti-hero for Charlton Comics before it was acquired by DC Comics. In many ways, I think Gunn was sticking to Marvel and Disney by making the incredible mess that is The Suicide Squad during that time when they were debating on having him return for a third GotG and how they basically have a throw-whoever-was-in-a-comic-into-a-movie-or-series attitude. With four series in 2021 and four movies, Marvel and Disney are just going for broke. I’m sure we’ll eventually have a series on the life of Craig who was in a Fantastic Four for five panels back in 1987. (I don’t know if there was a FF with a Craig at all but that’s where they’re heading.)
In The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, I think everyone felt just what “Bucky” Barnes was thinking when he heard that Lemar Hoskins was calling himself “Battlestar” as he was working with the new Captain America. They must have a legion of comic book fans rummaging through every comic book on file Marvel printed since day one trying to find a bunch of characters they adapt next to keep the franchise going.
Peacemaker begins about five months after the end of The Suicide Squad as Christopher is getting out of the hospital to resume his life. Thinking he’s set free, he returns to his trailer only to be confronted by agents of A.R.G.U.S. who remind him of the blasting chip in his skull. Two of them are carry-overs from the movie, Emilia Harcourt and John Economos (Jennifer Holland and Steve Agee. They are joined by Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks), the daughter of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) but no one knows that.
Leading them is Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji), a mercenary with a secret that I won’t reveal but it will be obvious. The team is arranged to work on Project Butterfly which is to track down and eliminate parasitic butterfly-like creatures in human form. It seems crazy. But in the hands of Gunn, who cut his teeth as a young writer, doing movies for Troma Entertainment, it seems at home as westerns and war movies were for John Ford.
Christopher is also having to deal with his father, August “Auggie” Smith (Robert Patrick) who is a white supremacist and killer and has the appropriate character as “White Dragon.” Luckily, Christopher has his pet bald eagle, named Eagly. And he also has help even though he’s reluctant of it at first from Adrian Chase (Freddie Stroma) who wears a costume and calls himself Vigilante. Like Christopher and Auggie, Adrian is well-skilled in killing and has good strength and fighting abilities despite its average man size.
The look and feel of the series is a reminder of the movie Kick-Ass and Gunn’s own Super, in which Rainn Wilson and Elliott Smith (listed under Ellen) dressed up as superheroes but mostly resorting to extreme violence to get back at people for cutting in line or vandalizing a car. Both movies weren’t the best in my opinion but they were both honest in how they portrayed real-life people who were costumes as violent vigilantes instead of superheroes. And both movies had a look to them that can only be described as porn parody without the porn but violence and gore.
Gunn carries that same look and tone here. Vigilante’s costume and most notably a villain called Judomaster (Nhut Le) wear costumes that look cheap. And that’s what Gunn is going for. On paper, it might look awesome. In real-life, it looks silly. Peacemaker’s own costume isn’t too impressive as he wears white pants, a red shirt that looks two sizes too small with some blue and a mirrorball helmet. He looks like someone who couldn’t afford to buy a costume for Halloween but just grabbed things to make from around the house.
Four episodes have already aired as of this posting. They’re full of violence and a lot of profanity and a sex scene that looks more comical than the ones Cena did in Trainwreck. Gunn has admitted he wrote the series during Covid lockdown and was surprised that Warner Brothers and HBO picked it up. And that might be what makes it so great to watch. It doesn’t take itself too serious. When Gunn did GotG for the MCU, he brought his own tone with him. Ever since then, it seems every MCU movie has tried to copy it. I don’t know if the DCEU will follow suit but some of its best work is when they don’t take themselves series. Birds of Prey was a nice surprise.
Who knows how the series will go but I’m interested in seeing what happens next.
What do you think? Please comment.