After Zack Snyder took a break from filmmaking, leaving the reshoots for his version of Justice League for another to deal with, the worst decision Warner Bros. made was to hire Joss Whedon for the job. It was an attempt to — dare I say — Marvelize the DC cinematic universe, and it resulted in one of the strangest shifts in tone of an established universe anyone has seen since Joel Schumacher replaced Tim Burton for the original Batman franchise. Did Warner Bros. learn nothing from Batman & Robin (1997)? Apparently not. But Zack Snyder’s vision finally came to fruition on HBOMAX to critical acclaim, along with an immense fanfare unmatched by anything that has occurred in 21st-century filmmaking.
The best decision Warner Bros. made after the Whedon debacle was to hire James Gunn — literally, a day after he was laid off by Disney/Marvel — and Tweet controversy be damned, they offered him the big job first, to helm Man of Steel 2 right away. James Gunn must’ve been like this: “Whoa, that’s cool, Bugs Bunny, but I don’t think that’s for me. What else can you consider me for, Doc?” Warner Bros. of course offered, “You want the sequel to Suicide Squad?” Gunn: “Can I have full creative control, and an R-rating?” Warner Bros.: “Done! Sign here! And when Mickey Mouse calls you back, tell him your busy with the Bunny. He’s got the money to wait four years for Guardians Three. We’re running out of the Joker profit.”
The deal resulted in The Suicide Squad, released on August 5th, 2021 in theaters, and streamed on HBOMAX. Though it was better received by both critics and audiences, I found it was a 6/10 like the first film, but with a better script, and seemingly untampered by studio intervention like David Ayer’s Suicide Squad (2016). (By the way, #ReleaseTheAyerCut.)
While filming, James Gunn saw some potential for John Cena’s character Peacemaker, especially in the scene where the character is trying to kill Ratcatcher. Gunn saw a dramatic side in Cena’s performance that he felt needed to be explored. So, while he was in post-production of The Suicide Squad, he began writing all 8 episodes for the Peacemaker television spin-off.
The show begins five months after the events of The Suicide Squad when Christopher Smith, A.K.A: Peacemaker is discharged from the hospital, only having his left clavicle replaced. To his surprise, the authorities are nowhere to be seen. The thing is, he only served four years of a thirty-year sentence, and there are no cops to bring him back to prison. He leaves the hospital with no incident, and we’re introduced to the coolest opening credit sequence I’ve ever seen:
He arrives home at a trailer park in Evergreen and is frustrated that his father did not cancel his cell phone service during the four years he was gone. The character Vigilante (played by Freddie Stroma) is introduced to us via voice messages to Peacemaker while he was in prison regarding upcoming crimes about to be committed. It’s a moment where I found myself highly anticipating Vigilante’s physical introduction into the show. That’s one thing I really love about this spin-off series: James Gunn’s writing; and the way he gets all the actors to perform their characters. It convinces someone like me, who prefers a serious, darker tone, to enjoy the flamboyant, cartoonish, and colorful exposition of Peacemaker’s story. This is the exact reason Joss Whedon failed; he could not successfully transition Zack Snyder’s serious tone to his humorous storytelling style.
We are then introduced to members of A.R.G.U.S., who are assigned by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis reprises her role in an uncredited cameo via Skype call) as handlers of Peacemaker for something coined: “Project Butterfly.” Two members of the group were already introduced in The Suicide Squad: Emilia Harcourt (played by Jennifer Holland), who Peacemaker eventually has a crush on, and John Economos (Steve Agee). Along with these familiar faces, there are two new additions to the DC cinematic universe: Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji), a mercenary, and leader of “Project Butterfly” who reports directly to Amanda Waller. Chukwudi Iwuji portrays the character as reserved, but honest with everything line he delivers. The second newcomer — a character newly-created by James Gunn — is Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks).
One of the most unique qualities of the show is the chemistry between Peacemaker and the members of A.R.G.U.S. is played out brilliantly. Every scene involving all of them in the same room — with great dialogue, and improvisation going on — is just so darn funny that I look forward to it, and makes me more attentive to what’s going on in the plot.
My favorite character is Leota Adebayo. Her relationship with Peacemaker seems to be the heart of the show because even if they have opposite ideologies, they develop a trust people should aspire to achieve. But Adebayo has a secret, her mother is Amanda Waller, and unbeknownst to Clemson Murn, she’s in charge, even if she does make some mistakes. Unlike her mother, Adebayo is unwilling to kill anyone.
Peacemaker’s first three episodes premiered on January 13th as an HBOMAX original. I highly recommend it to any fan of the comic book genre who can put up with mature content. It’s James Gunn at his finest. His PG-13 scripts for the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise are great and all, but the writer seems to have more fun writing for a mature audience.