Michael Shannon is an Oscar-nominated actor who is best known for his critically acclaimed roles in “Take Shelter” and on the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.” He has been cast in the role of General Zod in “Man of Steel,” a reboot of the Superman series under the guidance of Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan. Due for release in the summer of 2013, the film will bring a new perspective on the origin of Superman to modern audiences.
Before he became a critical favorite, Shannon found acting work through small roles in “Groundhog Day,” “Pearl Harbor,” and “8 Mile.” At the same time, he acted onstage with Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company, shaping his craft by working with William Friedkin on the stage version of “Bug” and “Killer Joe.” Eventually, Shannon moved to London’s West End where he continued to work onstage to rising critical and audience support.
Shannon soon began to take on roles with more acclaimed directors, such as Sidney Lumet with “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” in 2006. His turn as John Givings in “Revolutionary Road” made him an actor to watch. Co-starring with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, Shannon more than held his own, making him one of the highlights in the Sam Mendes-directed film. He received an Academy Award nomination for his part as Givings. In 2010, Shannon joined the cast of the HBO show “Boardwalk Empire” as Nelson Van Alden. More critical accolades came his way when he took on the role of Curtis LaForce in “Take Shelter.” Soon after the release of “Take Shelter,” it was announced that director Zach Snyder had chosen Shannon to play General Zod.
The role of Zod is very different from any part Shannon has played before. While he’s occasionally played a villain, he’s never taken on a part with so much history. Introduced in “Adventure Comics” in 1963, Zod was a Kryptonian general who had been banished to the Phantom Zone by Superman’s father, Jor-El. The villain has been portrayed by numerous writers and artists as brash, arrogant, violent, and dangerous. Zod has made a resurgence in recent years as a major player in the comics, making him one of Superman’s biggest villains along with Lex Luthor and Brainiac.
This isn’t the first time Zod has appeared on the big screen. Terence Stamp played the megalomaniacal general in the first two “Superman” films. Onscreen with Marlon Brando and Christopher Reeve, Stamp played the part well, giving Zod a pompous personality that veered dangerously close to camp. Still, his Zod is a menacing creature, taking Superman to the brink of disaster while causing real damage to the city of Metropolis. Of all the villains to face Superman in the films, only Zod gave him a battle worthy of his Kryptonian strength.
Very little is known about Zod’s portrayal in “Man of Steel.” The second trailer for the film seems to follow the blueprint of “Batman Begins,” providing viewers a look into how Clark Kent became the iconic Superman. Michael Shannon’s Zod is only glimpsed briefly, in the midst of what looks to be a Kryptonian invasion of Metropolis. With Christopher Nolan producing, the film is sure to keep some of the real-world themes that made his “Dark Knight” trilogy so successful. It’s fair to assume that Shannon’s portrayal of Zod will be different from Stamp’s. An emphasis seems to be placed on giving Superman a physical match that has been unseen on the big screen. There’s even a brief glimpse of Superman on the ground, possibly kneeling before Zod, in a nod towards “Superman II.”
With a cast featuring such heavy hitters as Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, and Laurence Fishburne, “Man of Steel” will have plenty of acting firepower. Following his stark portrayal of mental illness in “Take Shelter,” it’ll be interesting to see which direction Shannon chooses to take Zod. Since the film’s preview focuses on making audiences know that this is a serious take on Superman, it makes sense to see Shannon at his most brutal.
Although “Man of Steel” a little more than half a year away from its premiere, the film is already one of 2013’s most anticipated releases. Its new take on the character of Superman promises captivating special effects and a story that is rumored to be the start of Warner Bros.’ run towards a “Justice League” film. As with most superhero films, the success will depend on the villain. Having an actor as accomplished as Michael Shannon playing one of the iconic evildoers of the Superman mythology was a great move; promising acting that will be on par with the special effects wizardry onscreen.