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To quote Dr. Manhattan, "Nothing ever ends" — and now we're paraphrasing here — "not even the eternal fight for peace, no matter the cost." With Peacemaker less than a month away from its wide streaming premiere on HBO Max, James Gunn sat down with Empire Magazine to discuss his off-the-wall spinoff of this past summer's The Suicide Squad.
Upon pitching the project to HBO, the acclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker described it as a cross between the Danny McBride-led HBO comedy, Eastbound & Down, and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' seminal graphical novel, Watchmen. Gunn previously likened John Cena's titular antihero as a douchier version of Captain America, but thanks to the Empire interview, Peacemaker can now be characterized as a "glorious a**hole" (in reference to McBride's character, Kenny Powers).
"You know, I write the character, so I really love him," remarked the writer-director during an interview for Empire's February 2022 issue (now on sale). "I do think that he has a lot good attributes, and he's trying to do the right thing, but he's kind of been brought up in really f***ed way. And his father's [played by Robert Patrick] just about the worst father I've ever written. And I wrote Ego, who killed Peter Quill's mother with cancer."
As for the Watchmen parallel, Gunn was less interested in deconstructing the genre and more preoccupied with the question of: "If superheroes really existed, what would they be?" He continued: "You kind of have to be f***ing insane to be putting on a costume and going around beating the sh** out of people because you think they're doing the wrong thing."
Set in the immediate aftermath of The Suicide Squad (now available to stream on HBO Max), the show presents the eponymous character with a serious existential crisis. Despite his macho protestations that he's willing to kill anyone — men, women, or children — in order to achieve peace for his country, the most recent trailer makes it seem like he can't actually go through with slaughtering the innocent. At the same time, he's recruited for a new mission to take down a new threat known as the "Butterflies." Throw in a pet Bald Eagle named "Eagly" and a shot of Peacemaker jumping out of a window in nothing but tighty whites — and you've got yourself a recipe for one of the most absurd comic book adaptations in recent memory.
"It gets more dramatic as the show goes on," Gunn promised. "It's definitely a dramedy, with enormous action elements. Really intense, high-velocity action, much more so than your usual TV show. It's its own thing. There's a lot of outrageous elements. I found working with TV, I was able to push everything further. Generally, the movies I make are slaves to the plot to some degree. This TV show is a slave to character. That made it a fun experience for me."
Peacemaker is comprised of eight episodes, all of which were written by Gunn, who directed five of them. Jody Hill, Rosemary Rodriguez, and Brad Anderson handled the other three. While HBO Max has yet to renew the series, Gunn is ready to take on a bigger workload next time around, should the opportunity arise.
"If we do a second season, I will direct all eight episodes," he pledged.
Peacemaker heads for HBO Max on Jan. 14, 2022.