James Gunn’s Superman Movie is Already Retconning A Divisive DC Supervillain
Maxwell Lord is coming back to wreak havoc... and he’s already bringing controversy to the new DCU.
As James Gunn and Peter Safran reboot the DC Universe, Gunn hasn’t been shy about his intentions. For every genuinely clever answer to DC’s ongoing issues, however, there’s an eyebrow-raising choice that leaves more questions in its wake.
Currently, the issue of casting may be the most divisive for the new DCU. Gunn is phasing out a majority of the actors that featured in DC’s previous saga: Henry Cavill’s Superman, Ben Affleck’s Batman, and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman are but a handful of players soon to be replaced. With Superman: Legacy set to kick-start Gunn’s cinematic universe in 2025, we’ll see new versions of these heroes soon, and their most recognizable villains won’t be far behind.
Deadline reports that Gunn has drafted another frequent collaborator, his brother Sean Gunn, into the new DCU. While Sean Gunn was already set to voice Weasel in the animated Creature Commandos, he will now appear in live-action as Maxwell Lord, a megalomanic businessman and telepath. He takes over for Pedro Pascal, who played a smarmy, blond version of Lord in Wonder Woman 1984.
Whether Gunn is set to cameo in Superman: Legacy or a future DCU project remains to be seen; per Deadline, he could be name-dropped in Legacy and appear down the line. Either way, his casting has inadvertently opened the fledgling franchise up to some interesting scrutiny for recycling a villain — and raising questions about James Gunn’s nebulous DC plans.
Maxwell Lord posed a threat to a DC hero in 2020, so it’s curious James Gunn is keen to bring him back so soon. His interest in the character could reveal something about his plans for the DCU; in the comics, Lord starts out as the founder of Justice League International, an off-shoot of the super society. He later goes bad and becomes one of Wonder Woman’s greatest adversaries, but as Gunn has no plans to reintroduce the Princess of Themyscira just yet, it’ll be interesting to see how Lord fits into the DCU without her around.
That Gunn has cast his brother doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but the decision has attracted some controversy. James Gunn’s rules for continuity in this new age of gods and monsters already feel unclear: only a chosen few are continuing their roles from the now-defunct DCEU, and Gunn has expressed interest in a seamless continuity across film, television, and video games.
But Sean Gunn is already reprising his role from The Suicide Squad in Creature Commandos, so his casting as Max Lord gives him a dual role. This isn’t really a big deal — Weasel is pretty much a non-verbal character — but it’s incensed a small splinter of the DC fandom all the same, forcing James Gunn to defend his choices on social media, and exacerbating an issue that’s been quietly plaguing the DCU reboot from the beginning. Is this a true reboot, or an extensive yet inconsistent retooling?
Much of the backlash against the Gunn brothers is rather silly, but the criticism does speak to the confusion that fans are already experiencing with the new DC Universe. It would be one thing if Gunn’s new plans involved a cut-and-dry reboot. But with a select few roles carrying over from the old regime, DC is rebuilding on a messy foundation. Hopefully, it all feels seamless once the dust settles — but scrutiny will only get stronger as production ramps up. Gunn can obviously weather the storm, but can he hold a captive audience before the new DCU debuts in 2025?