James Gunn explained the dressing-down of superheroes he brought to Peacemaker.
In an interview with Vulture, the writer/director was asked about how he balances mocking comic book silliness with his genuine appreciation for the genre. “I love superheroes. I also think they’re the dumbest things that have ever existed,” Gunn said. “The idea that superheroes are maniacs is something I like very much. [Guardians of the Galaxy] is much different because it’s really a science fiction story, a science fantasy story. They’re not superheroes, they’re not wearing masks, which is one of the reasons I think I had an easier time working my way into it.”
“But in The Suicide Squad, you got guys wearing yellow costumes and all this stuff,” he continued. “I decided to go for what it would really be like. Treating these people like gods is like, ‘Whaat?’ I have a hard time imagining a guy who’s really serious and wants revenge making a costume for himself and putting black around his eyes so his skin doesn’t show when you look him in the face. He’s got the mask on, and also the eye makeup under it! There’s a silliness to it that I can’t deny. Not because it’s making fun but because it seems to me that the silliness is what is real.”
While the first season of Peacemaker boasted spectacular, blood-drenched action, Gunn has said his primary motivation for making the show was exploring John Cena’s ideologically-confused, quasi-fascist elite soldier and uncovering what makes him tick. In the same interview, Gunn also pinpointed the moment in The Suicide Squad that first inspired him to dig into Peacemaker’s character: when Christopher Smith is about to kill Ratcatcher 2 to cover up America’s involvement in Project: Starfish. “I went into this tight closeup of his eyes… and I see his eyes switch,” Gunn explained. “I see him go to this incredibly sad, vulnerable place. We realize this character is a guy who’s doing something he doesn’t want to do at all, but that he’s going to do anyway, which is shoot a young girl.”
Gunn’s unique take on superheroes has been a fixture of his work for years. In 2000, he wrote and co-starred in The Specials, focusing on a group of unappreciated crimefighters and the interpersonal problems that arise when they’re not battling the forces of evil. Gunn’s second feature as both writer and director, 2010’s Super, starred Rainn Wilson as a short-order cook who becomes a wrench-wielding vigilante to save his wife from her ex-boyfriend. Gunn was also a producer on 2019’s Brightburn, written by his cousin Mark and brother Brian, which gave a horror-movie makeover to the story of a young Superman.
The first season of Peacemaker is available to stream on HBO Max.
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