‘Peacemaker’ thrills with explosive visuals, raunchy comedy from James Gunn

Ryan Ranc, Life & Arts Reporter

This article contains spoilers for HBO Max’s Peacemaker.

“Peacemaker” vows to fight for peace, no matter how many people he must kill.

Wait a minute, that seems counterproductive. 

The excellent mind of James Gunn returns once again with a television show about a character in “The Suicide Squad” — “Peacemaker.” This eight episode HBO Max exclusive gained popularity quicker than expected. “Peacemaker” is a production of what happens when James Gunn has ultimate creative freedom and a budget to make whatever his heart desires.

The show follows the antihero, Peacemaker, after the events of James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad.” Tasked with the responsibility of taking on Project Butterfly, Peacemaker’s mission is to prevent the release of Butterflies — miniature alien creatures that crawl into unsuspecting humans to control them. The absurd concept makes a highly comical story that keeps audiences engaged and craving more out of the show’s story and characters.

The show’s TV-MA sense of humor doesn’t let up throughout the narrative. Every character cracks jokes, even in the most serious moments. Nevertheless, the comedy almost never feels overdone. Regardless of one or two stiffer sequences, the humor intertwines perfectly with every sentence and plot beat in the script. The raunchy humor may not be for everyone, but for those who love Gunn’s witty style, the humor is certainly a treat.

The titular role, played by WWE star and Internet icon John Cena, serves as a complex character the audience can both laugh at and sympathize with. At first, Peacemaker is rude and inconsiderate, but throughout the show, little pieces of his humanity begin to poke through his cold metal helmet. Cena walks the balance of being a charismatic reprobate who is also aware that he’s pushing everyone in his life away from him. He lets his unlikeable behavior permeate his mind, and it tears him to shreds more than any bad guy could. 

As a child, Peacemaker experienced incredible trauma, losing his brother at a young age and growing up with a manipulative, racist father who used to be a supervillain. Cena’s acting, with assistance from beautiful visual and audio design, helps to create an emotionally layered backstory all in the last few minutes of the episode. 

Music plays an essential role in “Peacemaker,” as it does in most of Gunn’s projects. The soundtrack utilizes a ton of 1980s hair metal, with an intro featuring every character dancing to Wig Wam’s “Do Ya Wanna Taste It.” It’s as magnificent as it sounds. Gunn makes it clear that the excellent soundtrack in “Guardians of the Galaxy” wasn’t a fluke.

While “Peacemaker” isn’t the traditional superhero story, it stands out as a fantastic, action-packed comedy show that succeeds in practically every way. James Gunn continues to prove that whether he’s with DC or Marvel, he always creates excellent narratives.

4.5 doves of peace out of 5