The reviews for Peacemaker have rolled in, and it’s time to see how the first DC film spinoff is going to fare. Lets take a look and see.
For all the show’s feints toward edginess, it colors well within the lines laid out by its predecessors. That’s not entirely to its detriment — it makes Peacemaker a comfort rather than a challenge. Too much familiarity over the course of a season, however, leads to a series that’s easy not to mind watching instead of one that’s hard to quit watching. In its quest to shed new light on a character who came out of his last movie looking dangerously close to outright villainy, Peacemaker loses too much of the darkness that made him compelling in the first place.
As a part of whatever DC is calling its extended movie and TV universe these days, Peacemaker also isn’t shy about directing some of its barbs at its world’s top-shelf heroes, as Chris regularly dishes embarrassing dirt on the likes of Aquaman, Superman and Batman (at least based on what Google has told him). Those wink-winks, though, don’t compare to the genuine comedy generated by larger team debates about, say, why the Riverdale kids can’t be pinned for an Episode 1 murder, and which enjoy extended cuts in end credits excerpts.
Between the blood and guts, the slapstick, the political satire (Peacemaker’s two favorite words often seem to be “deep state”), and the musical digressions (including a married couple debating the merits of Cinderella versus Foster the People during a hostage situation), there is a lot going on here. Yet the series functions as a sincere character study of its flawed hero — and the unfortunate souls who have to work alongside him — just enough for the joke to never quite wear thin. Even in a wildly oversaturated market for tales of hypermuscular men and women punching their way to justice, Peacemaker stands out. You’ll wanna taste it, even the parts that are in incredibly bad taste.
James Gunn is a brilliant madman. Even before Guardians of the Galaxy, his work on Slither and Super showcased his genre sensibilities and made him the ideal person to direct comic book tales of misfits and off-kilter characters just outside of the mainstream. With 2021’s The Suicide Squad, Gunn delivered a mature, bloody and profane epic that introduced many new characters to the DCEU. While I wasn’t completely in love with The Suicide Squad, I was instantly a fan of John Cena as Peacemaker and have been looking forward to his HBO Max solo series since it was announced. I am very happy to say that not only is Peacemaker a hilariously brilliant and subversive superhero story but potentially the best work of James Gunn’s career.
Even if Peacemaker the series was irredeemable crap, it would still be worth tuning in for its opening credits. A fresh take on the art form, it’s hard to encapsulate all the factors that make this 80-second burst of joy at the top of every episode (following the cold open) such a joy to watch, except to say that get ready for Wig Wam’s “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” to get permanently stuck in your head for days.
(There’s a whole special category for opening credits sequences at the Emmys — fingers crossed the Television Academy is paying attention to this one.)
To be clear, Peacemaker is not irredeemable crap, though its biggest hurdle is how it feels a bit like an afterthought, the spinoff no one asked for rather than a bold new story. However, thanks to the strength of the ensemble, along with some of the wildest action sequences seen in recent memory, the series does deliver a lot of joy, along with the continued reminder that as Gunn’s work as a storyteller continues to mature, it gets better and better. It’s not just that this is a great ensemble of actors — it’s that Gunn knows how to let them shine.
The first three episodes of Peacemaker premiere Jan. 13 on HBO Max, with the remaining five episodes releasing weekly.