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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

‘Peacemaker’: Another one from James Gunn

Image sources: IMDb, FilmBook
Image sources: IMDb, FilmBook

With DC’s “Extended Universe” (DCEU) dueling against Zach Snyder fans and comic-book accuracy, director James Gunn seems to be a lucrative gift that keeps on giving. His retcon-reboot/sequel of “Suicide Squad” — titled as “The Suicide Squad” to really highlight it as a replacement rather than a follow-up — was a huge success on HBO Max, but he didn’t stop there. Immediately after wrapping production, he filmed a TV series with one of the film’s characters, Peacemaker. Making the first DCEU show not focus on any of the Justice League members is a bold move, but if they follow through and do it right, it could be a contender to the over-hyped MCU shows on Disney+.

Turning away from apocalyptic threats or international goose chases, “Peacemaker” enjoys a small-scale, black ops mission with the absolute worst team for the job. From escaped convicts and disgraced government agents to a psychopath choosing to be a vigilante over a serial killer, the crew of characters shines in their quirks. When the script develops them outside of a joke, this show becomes a fun watch, but these scenes are unfortunately rare.

If crass jokes about farts and other low-hanging fruit are your thing, this is the show for you. Multiple scenes are perfect for social media clips, especially the ones of Peacemaker trashing Batman for not killing his enemies and him wanting to frame Bill Cosby for murder. The jokes follow James Gunn’s typical flare with awkward losers shouting at each other over minuscule disagreements. It may not be as emotional as “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but both share similar energies with visual gags and lovable, third-tier characters.

I, personally, am not a fan of James Gunn’s craft. His focus on improv comedy trips the pacing and destroys most emotional moments. I cannot fall in love with a character when their lowest moment is a set up for another character’s punchline. The power behind the camera feels too loose to bring the story to a neat close as more of the runtime is bogged down by jokes that get weaker by the episode. Only half the jokes land, and the ones that do are not enough to make the humor entertaining.

John Cena is the lifeblood of this show. With the sincerest approach to the most pointless character, his commitment convinces the toughest crowd. If you think his muscles do all of the talking, his range will be a glorious surprise. The only emotions I bought came from his performance. He utilizes his WWE background brilliantly, spitting speeches out of thin air with full dedication. Even though many scenes stall with characters watching him perform a singular joke over and over again, it’s his energy that saves the script every time.

There isn’t much to talk about when it comes to the story. The characters may be wacky as they soak up the mature-rated humor and gore, but the story beats feel one note. There is so much potential with these nobody superheroes in the middle of a conflict way out of their control, but instead we get the standard espionage and the now-cliché, disjointed team bickering every second. With a collection of neo-Nazis and alien invaders, you’d think the episodes would be packed with fun antics on the run, not running gags about hair dye and butts.

HBO has already announced a season two, which I will be ignoring. John Cena really grew on me as an actor, and I hope he uses this project to catapult into a celebrity status alike Dwayne Johnson. The rest of the cast is great with their own little moments, even if their few subplots never amounted to climactic resolutions.  Besides them, everything else can go. The conflict is generic and its twists are expected two episodes earlier. James Gunn, please do something other than superhero flicks — they all look the same.

Title: “Peacemaker”

Starring: John Cena, Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma

Director: James Gunn

If you like: “The Suicide Squad,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Shamrocks: 2 out of 5