TV REVIEW: PEACEMAKER (2022)—WITH SPOILERS

This week Steve examines the new TV series Peacemaker, based not on the comic, but on the DC movie character. He finds it strangely attractive.

Figure 1 – John Cena as Peacemaker

There was a superhero in Charlton Comics (1966), created by Joe Gill (writer) and Pat Boyette (artist), called Peacemaker. According to Wikipedia, he was a diplomat so committed to peace that he was willing to use violence to achieve it, and had an arsenal of non-lethal weaponry to use in his cause. I don’t believe I ever saw that character then, or in the version created when DC took the character over. My first view of him, then, was in the 2021 DC movie The Suicide Squad, where he was portrayed by wrestling champion (about 12 championships) John Cena, whom I’d first noticed in, I think, a movie called The Marine. I thought to myself, “Hey, this guy’s not a bad actor, given the movie.” (I like action movies. A lot.)

**SUICIDE SQUAD MOVIE SMALL SPOILER IN THIS PARAGRAPH**Though the character didn’t appear in the first Suicide Squad movie, there are several returning characters (some of whom become casualties), Peacemaker appears here as a guy (superpowers unspecified, really) who carries a big gun and who vows to have peace “If I have to kill every man, woman and child to get it!” So there’s a bit of a disconnect from the Charlton character, who carried nonlethal weapons. Not that I knew that at the time. I was mainly watching for the appearance of Margot Robbie who, besides being really easy on the eyes (nothing gets past me), has created a really appealing “bad guy” character in Harley Quinn. Peacemaker became noticeable when he killed Rick Flag, the leader, under Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), of the Suicide Squad and appeared to die in that movie.

I won’t say anything more about Suicide Squad, except that Peacemaker’s actions have an effect on his character in his eponymous TV series (one season so far—8 episodes, but it’s well received, so may actually have more than one season. (I haven’t at this point seen the last two episodes of season one, so who knows? My opinion could be modified by what’s coming. I doubt it, however. And from this point, there will be spoilers, so be warned.

Okay, each episode starts with a very odd dance by John Cena (as Peacemaker, in full costume and helmet), accompanied by all the other major cast members: Danielle Brooks (Leota Adebayo); Freddie Stroma (Adrian Chase/Vigilante); Chukwudi Iwuji (Clemson Murn); Jennifer Holland (Emilia Harcourt); Steve Agee (John Economos); Robert Patrick (August “Augie” Smith/White Dragon); Rizwan Manji (Jamil the janitor); Nhut Le (Judomaster); and last but not least, Eagly the bald eagle (CGI character). An interesting start to an oddly interesting series.

Peacemaker, whose real name is Chris Smith, didn’t die in Corto Maltese (Suicide Squad). When he gets back from the hospital he meets a group of agents from A.R.G.U.S.*, the outfit Waller heads, and told he has to either join Project Butterfly, or get sent back to prison (Belle Reve—ironically named; in French it means “good dream”—the same prison from which all the Suicide Squaddies have been recruited). The group consists of Murn, the boss; Adebayo, Waller’s daughter (secretly) and mole; Harcourt, a tough-as-nails take-no-prisoners blonde; and Economos, computer expert. *It’s some stupid acronym which I can’t remember and makes no difference.

Chris joins up, of course. At some point he goes to his father Augie’s house (Robert Patrick) to retrieve his sidekick, Eagly, and get a new helmet, as he traded the old one for a ride. His father, besides being an electronic whiz who’s got a secret “folded space” in his house as a workspace (it’s bigger inside than outside), also makes all his helmets. The new helmet has a sonic weapon of some sort called a “sonic boom.” After joining the group, Chris is given a dossier of the person he’s supposed to assassinate. He propositions Harcourt at a bar, but gets turned down; he goes home with a woman (Annie Sturphausen) he picks up at the bar. After sex, she attacks him, and he finds out she’s got super-strength. He blows her up with his helmet’s sonic boom.

I won’t go into giant detail of each episode, as I don’t want to write a ten-thousand word column. But I’ll give some high points.

When Chris was escaping from Sturphausen’s trashed apartment, he briefly took hostage a couple from the apartment above, and as he collected his clothes from Annie’s apartment, he also took some vinyl records and an interesting device he found there, which later he finds is a small spaceship. After he escaped, the police investigating Annie Sturphausen’s death found fingerprints and the couple who’d been tied up; Economos switched Chris’s fingerprints and his father’s in the system (and the owner of the license plate in the apartment complex’s camera system to also be Augie); Adebayo bribed the couple to say it was Augie who kidnapped them. Chris meets his friend Vigilante at Chris’s apartment.

In prison, Augie is greeted by his white supremacist friends, and we find out that he’s the White Dragon, a supervillain (at some point when Chris sees the White Dragon outfit in his dad’s “folded space”).

Chris is given a new target: a United States Senator named Goff, whose family is also on the hitlist, as they’re all suspected of being butterflies. Chris, despite his oath to “kill all men, women, and children,” refuses to kill the Goff children because they haven’t done anything and he won’t kill kids without a reason. Harcourt ends up killing the family, and Chris and Vigilante are taken prisoner by Judomaster (Nhut Le). Goff tries to get information out of Chris by torturing Vigilante, but Chris holds firm. He and Vigilante are rescued by Economos, who knocks out Judomaster. Chris shoots Goff in the face, and we see a decidedly unbutterfly-like winged insect climb out of the ruined face.

Back at the group’s headquarters (a defunct video store), Chris is asked about the butterfly, and claims he shot it. Vigilante takes Chris back to his father’s house to get a new helmet (this one has X-ray vision), and finds out that his father has been framed for his crimes. He visits his dad, and his dad threatens to rat on him and his group. When Adebayo finds this out, she subtly encourages Vigilante to take him out; Vigilante gets himself arrested so he can kill Augie. He is stopped before he can do it. Meanwhile, Adebayo shoots Judomaster, who was escaping. Vigilante is released from jail thanks to Economos’s computer skills. We find out that Murn himself is a butterfly (because when he’s alone he unrolls a long, tubular tongue to drink some of the orange butterfly food).

Augie gets the cops to double-check his fingerprints, and the team is told about the butterflies’ food; they go to a bottling plant to find out more. The factory is full of butterflies and a gorilla, who’s also controlled by one.Economos manages to kill the gorilla with Vigilante’s chainsaw (“Aww, I never get to kill anyone with a chainsaw,” Vigilante moans.) and we find out that Chris is keeping Goff’s butterfly in a jar. He leaves his X-ray helmet behind at the headquarters, and Adebayo puts it on, accidentally finding out that there’s a butterfly in Murn’s head. And that’s as far as we’ve gotten as of Wednesday. (At some point, we also find out that Chris Smith was forced, as a child, to kill his brother by his father. And that he deeply regrets killing Rick Flag in Corto Maltese. These are new insights into Peacemaker’s character and character development.) Another funny thing we find out about Peacemaker/Chris is that he really thinks he can’t shoot straight unless his guns have a “dove of peace” emblem (like the one on his chest) on them.

A number of people are put off by the fact that this program uses a lot of explicitly foul language. There’s some explicit violence, and a couple of somewhat explicit sexual situations. To put it bluntly, it’s loud, rude, and crude. But this is all on purpose—it’s a giant parody of superhero/alien/secret government agency/etc. movies and series. I, myself, am enjoying it so far. I have to give props to Cena, who has displayed a heck of a lot more range than I actually thought he had as an actor. Heck, I now think that—despite his being only 6’1” instead of 6’4”—he could probably play Jack Reacher in the movies. Stroma is also doing a fine job as the ultra-stupid Vigilante, and Brooks and Holland are great female character actors. But for me, the real standout is Robert Patrick.

I first saw him, as did most people, in Terminator 2 as the T1000 terminator android; his portrayal of an inhuman killing machine was outstanding. Last thing I noticed him playing was FBI agent Cabe Gallo in Scorpion (TV series), where he was sometimes befuddled by the group of geniuses he was supposed to be herding. But Augie Smith is possibly his best character to date: a sexist, racist, extremely dissipated right-winger, Patrick is totally believable.
(Hey, does anyone beside me remember that Corto Maltese is where Kim Basinger’s character in the original Michael Keaton Batman movie got her Pulitzer prize?)

OFF ON A TANGENT

Figure 2 – Xanadu 1980

I’ve long been a fan of Jeff Lynne’s ELO (Electric Light Orchestra), whose tight musical songs and arrangements featured layering, good vocals, and some nice lyrics. One of my favourite ELO appearances is on the soundtrack album of 1980’s Xanadu, featuring Olivia Newton-John, the Aussie songbird. While not a very strong singer, in the sense that I don’t think she can really project—at least, I haven’t heard that on any of the records that have made it to the top ten or hundred or whatever—she has a good range, and has been a pleasant face to attach to her music. She’s also not a great actor; again, not in the two movies (Grease and Xanadu) I’ve seen her in. Which means that she doesn’t dominate any of the songs, let alone the title song, for Xanadu. That’s okay; the music is pleasant, listenable, and mostly singable or whistleable, or whatever. So occasionally (like yesterday) I put on the soundtrack while I’m doing my computing.

This morning I thought to myself, “Hey, I must be doing this movie a disservice; it can’t possibly be as bad as I remember. After all, it’s been many years since I last saw it—on TV, as I recall. So why not give it a watch?”

O.M.G.!
This movie is worse than I remember. It’s bad—to semiquote Douglas Adams, it’s mind-bogglingly bad. Despite the presence of 68-year-old Gene Kelly (I think it was his last movie), I didn’t make it past about ten minutes. Because it’s fantasy, it sort of fits into the genre and is, therefore, reviewable, I defy anyone of modern sensibilities to watch the whole thing. One of my Facebook friends, Cus Custer, sent me a quote (no idea where he found it, but I think Wikipedia) but it says that Xanadu was one of the two movies that prompted the creation of the Razzies—the Golden Raspberry Awards—for really bad films. I think the movie won six of the initial batch. Okay, from now on, I’ll stick to the soundtrack.

I just found out, courtesy of Julie Zetterberg Sardo, that there was a Broadway musical spoof (2007), based on the movie. I’ve not heard of it before. But after listening to a few clips and watching the Emmy Awards performance, I’ve got good/bad feelings about it. First the good: Kerry Butler, who plays Clio/Kira (ON-J’s original role), can really project. That’s one of my complaints about Olivia’s singing. (So can all the cast, I hear, from sampling the soundtrack.) The bad: she (Kerry) and her male opposite, Cheyenne Jackson, have a somewhat nasal sound to their voices. The B’way play is a spoof on the movie with an added subplot and touches from Clash of the Titans, apparently. Lily Tomlin, in introducing the performance at the Tonys, said “L-M-A-O.” So I guess it was funny—it ran for 500 performances. (I still prefer the original soundtrack.)

Comments? Anyone? Bueller? You can comment here or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

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