Could The New Superman Movie Actually Be Good?

I just became interested in the new Superman movie.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Michael Shannon has been cast to play General Zod.  I’m not a comic book guy at all, so I can’t tell you how the character fits into the world of Superman.  I have a vague memory of Terence Stamp playing the same character in the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films, but I haven’t seen either of those since I was in the second grade, so all I remember is that Zod was also from Krypton and was sort of the evil version of Superman, with the same powers.

But this casting thrills me.  Over the last few years, Shannon has emerged as one of my favorite working actors.  I suppose most people are familiar with him from Revolutionary Road or Boardwalk Empire.  I first noticed him in William Friedkin’s Bug.  Shannon was close to a perfect fit in his role of a man whose intense paranoia sends him off the deep end.  That same year, he nailed a great, two-scene role in Sidney Lumet’s final film, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.  What struck me about him in the that film was how I had the same feeling that he was perfectly cast, even though the smalltime thug he was playing was a completely different type of character than he played in Bug.

A couple of years ago, he snagged the lead role in a tiny-budgeted indie called Shotgun Stories.  A melodrama about a rural family feud, it was one of my top films of 2008.  If you haven’t seen it, drop what you’re doing and rent it because it’s an amazing piece of work.  And most of its success has to do with Shannon.  He’s a magnetic performer without going to great lengths to draw attention to himself.  He has a screen presence that all great movie stars possess.  This intangible quality is even more impressive when you consider the fact that he lacks movie star good looks.  He’s a great actor who commands attention because of his ability to display a truly conflicted soul in just about everything he takes on, lending menace to good guys and humanity to bad guys.

He’s not infallible.  He’s appeared in a lot of crap (Jonah Hex, Let’s Go to Prison), but so have a lot of talented actors.  But I never anticipated the new Superman film to be crap.  At best, I expected it to be a fun action flick.  At worst, I assumed it would be a bloated blockbuster with a ton of special effects and a barely there story that remained watchable.  But now I have expectations.  I am impressed with the supporting cast that Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan have put together (Kevin Costner, Amy Adams, Diane Lane) to this point.  And now that Shannon has joined the cast, I can’t help but feel there could be something more impressive brewing than I anticipated.

I have just set myself up for massive disappointment.

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