Peacemaker was one of the best parts of The Suicide Squad. So when it came time to think about spinoffs for individual characters, John Cena’s über-patriotic supervillain easily found himself at the top of that list. Next week, Peacemaker will air its first three episodes on HBO Max, and give fans new insight into what turned Christopher Smith into a blood-stained beacon of “freedom.” Unfortunately, the early Peacemaker reviews to be split right down the middle.
Critics recently had the opportunity to screen seven of Peacemaker’s eight episodes, and they have begun posting their reviews online. According to several first impressions, we definitely have a lot to look forward to. All the hallmarks of a James Gunn production are there, including the director’s flair for music. The series’ opening credits sequence has the characters dancing to Norwegian hair metal. But once the actual story gets underway, the results are…somewhat underwhelming As with most of Gunn’s work, the action is commendable and there’s plenty of levity to boot. However, it sounds like the writer/director may have indulged himself a little too much this time. Check out some highlights below.
In a four-star review for Rolling Stone, Alan Sepinwall called the series “an unapologetic parody of superhero shows that’s also a pretty good superhero show in its own right.” He also praised its “moments of reflection,” particularly those that dive into Peacemaker’s relationship with his abusive father, played by Robert Patrick. And in his opinion, this doesn’t have an adverse effect on the series’ humor. Sepinwall observed that the more serious scenes “wind up complementing the comedy rather than undercutting it.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Angie Han had more of a mixed response. In her review, Han claimed that “Peacemaker makes the character more likable, at the cost of making him less interesting.” And while Han appreciated the title character’s sympathetic arc, she also noted that “so much of the material surrounding his journey feels half-hearted.” In the end, the show “struggles to stand out in a sea of other superhero content doing much the same thing — often at the hands of Gunn himself.”
Consequence’s Liz Shannon Miller offered her own pros and cons. Overall, she found Peacemaker to be an “at times strange, at times pretty fun action-horror adventure.” She likewise enjoyed the supporting players and the action sequences, which are “some of the wildest […] in recent memory.” But she acknowledged that the show isn’t without its flaws. The structure, for one, feels “off-kilter” in a way that keeps viewers from understanding the stakes right off the bat. Plus, “there are moments where that craving for edginess, instead of pushing the show in daring directions, just feels edgy for the sake of cheap thrills.”
Writing for TVLine, Matt Webb Mitovich confirmed that Gunn’s penchant for boundary-pushing violence and language is on “full display” throughout Peacemaker’s first season. However, this energy “doesn’t (and probably simply can’t) hold up across multiple episodes.” In any case, Mitovich confessed that the storyline involving Patrick “finds a way to not only entangle the irascible, bigoted Chris, but potentially give him a lot more to do down the road.”
Collider’s Carly Lane had some similar gripes with Peacemaker’s first few episodes. Awarding the show a C+, she complained that it feels too much like “a complete 180-degree turn” from the character we met in The Suicide Squad just last year. Lane also laid out her biggest issue with the story, which is that it “stops just shy of going full-throttle in terms of its lead’s worst character traits, only to end up assigning them out to other, more despicable presences.” Still, she praised the supporting cast, including Danielle Brooks’ Leota Adebayo, whom Lane called the “most compelling” new addition to the fold.
Rodrigo Perez was blunt in his own review for The Playlist: “Peacemaker does not make a case for its main character’s existence beyond the big screen, let alone as the front and center lead.” Although Perez felt Cena’s character worked “perfectly” in The Suicide Squad because “he functions as a contrasting musical ingredient in a larger tune,” such is not the case on the small screen. On HBO Max, he’s “the entire song, and it’s a grating note that wears out its welcome incredibly fast.”
CNN’s Brian Lowry also had some lukewarm thoughts on Peacemaker’s general tone. In fact, he even suggested that Gunn “appears far more enamored with the overall atmosphere than in advancing the story, indulging in detours and musical flourishes along the way.” He added, “even for comic-book geeks, the crush of winking jokes and coy references to more respectable quadrants of the DC universe begin to feel overdone, narrowing the project’s appeal.”
Peacemaker hits HBO Max on January 13.
What do you think of these latest reviews for the series? Let us know in the comment section below!
Recommended Reading: Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Trial by Fire