“Peacemaker, what a joke” (what joke). The last words of poor Colonel Rick Flag, inaugurating the last act of The Suicide Squad and pronounced as a piece of tiling lodged in his right ventricle, were followed by an evocative reverse shot. They not only haunt these eight episodes, but also the eponymous character, a dimwitted reflection of Bloodshot and watchdog of the system exploited for his impressionable stupidity. Still shaken by his escapades within Task Force X and after four years in prison, Christopher Smith is enlisted by a new secret section under the authority of Amanda Waller. At the same time, he will have to deal with his own family problems.
This is the hobby of James Gunn, here creator, screenwriter, producer and director of 5 episodes: to concentrate on a protagonist as unlovable as unloved and stick in the pasta all a range of broken arms that will eventually grant him a place in their ranks and a chance for introspection. To this pseudo-patriotic ranger, by far the most detestable member of the famous Suicide Squad, the filmmaker adds an authentic psychopath (Vigilante), a struggling rookie (Leota), a complexed geek (Economos), a resigning agent ( Harcourt) and a stuck boss.
From the outset, spurred on by Gunn, our antihero reveals his true nature: the son of a neo-Nazi played by Robert Patrick (old veteran of series B and unforgettable T1000 of Terminator 2 here perfectly hateful), he is less fundamentally bad than very easily influenced and under the yoke of a toxicity of which he has become the herald in spite of himself. It is by gradually transferring his trust (and custody of his… domestic eagle) to his new companions that he gradually manages to emancipate himself and turn his crude stubbornness into a strength.
A simple and at times moving trajectory declined in all the work of the filmmaker. Here, it is exposed with all the more effectiveness as John Cena seems happy to parody himself. Perfect as a more idealistic teubé, very comfortable in the abstruse dialogue tunnels characteristic of his friend, and sometimes even rather touching when he takes the measure of Flag’s remark about turning his life upside down, he has fun like a little madman with infectious energy.
So of course, you have to hang on to the humor of the author, who, unconstrained by the specifications of a studio feature film, spreads each episode with regressive valves inherited from his time at Troma and rantings nonsense that intoxicates even the members of the ARGUS. It must also be accepted that he does his best to take absolutely nothing or anyone seriously, from the most rancid American politics to its most monolithic characters. The credits, already cult, sets the tone: from the outset, the cast laughs at each other with joy, good humor and the rhythm of well-yankee rock riffs. A delight for some, a childish boast for others.
Great with weights
But for who tastes the delusions of the director of horribilis, Peacemaker fits perfectly into his filmography and refers more to his first real superhero film, Great, where a pop culture-matrixed Rainn Wilson would beat up bad guys with a wrench. In addition to the staging, whose artisanal tremors (camera on the shoulder, hesitations) contrast with the millimeter paintings of The Suicide Squadthe heroes are not supernatural beings either, but crazy people who take advantage of the cultural climate to put on a lycra outfit and beat up their declared enemies.
One foot in the imagination of the comic-book, one foot in sordid reality, James Gunn finds this quirky in-between, on the edge of unease. Except that here, with an official anchorage in the DC universe, he can take the total opposite of the friquées adventures that make Warner’s accountants see all the colors. Relieved of the preposterous iconization of supermen in tights and the tics of achievement inherent in the genre, the DC universe becomes a kind of arena full to bursting at best with maniacs, at worst with rotten fascists, Mooresque heirs of the Ku Klux Klan in a horned costume.
In his element, on the wire which has also earned him some trouble, the screenwriter takes hold of a more committed part of DC mythology and makes fun of Qanon theories… since he admits in the course of a dialogue to stage a deep state of which the racist redneck drugged at Infowars does not worry much, obsessed by the humiliation of his son.
As Great, the series hybridizes approaches to the genre with skill and a touch of wickedness, even taking the risk of embracing the most dubious theories… before sweeping them away with a brief dialogue, which very simply sums up the passion of Gunn, namely the benevolence buried in the naive swellings, themselves stuck between pop culture and manipulative monstrosity, often in cahoots. And as usual, it is in the collective that antiheroes turn into heroes.
By taking advantage of this spin-off to return to his first love, to explore the off-screen of the DC universe and track down his less sexy rejects, the director, who is also the director of a few moments of bravery of which he has the secret, does what most extended universe television outgrowths refuse to do: seize the serial format in order to give the change of own blockbusters on them.
Even when he yields to the contractual final cameo, it is to better choose his own team: that of vigilantes cracked in every sense of the word, who, for lack of laser eyes and ancient lassos, have only them themselves. The fact that he was named head of the franchise in the process is all the more intriguing. Because without a doubt, James Gunn likes superheroes without fear and without reproach, but he prefers the B team, forced to fight, in addition to the traditional space colonists, the humans who would like to instrumentalize them, much more dangerous.
Season 1 of Peacemaker is available from December 30 on Amazon Prime Video