General Zod is back, in action figure form! At least, that’s what it felt like to Michael Shannon, who plays Zod in the DCEU. Shannon’s Zod faced off with Henry Cavill’s Superman in Man of Steel, which ended badly for the Kryptonian General. But thanks to Barry Allen’s time travel shenanigans in The Flash, Shannon gets to reprise his role as Zod. And the famously plain-speaking actor isn’t terribly excited about it.
When asked by Collider how he felt returning to play the baddie, Shannon did not hold back. “Yeah. I’m not gonna lie, it wasn’t quite satisfying for me, as an actor,” he admitted. “These multiverse movies are like somebody playing with action figures. It’s like, “Here’s this person. Here’s that person. And they’re fighting!” It’s not quite the in-depth character study situation that I honestly felt Man of Steel was.”
To be sure, the action figure quality is part of the fun of multiverse movies, which have come to be common in genre movies and television over the past few years. The Arrowverse shows on the CW featured several alternate realities, especially The Flash, and the MCU has put the concept on the forefront for its current set of phases, as seen in Spider-Man: No Way Home, Loki, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Multiverse has gone from a weird sci-fi idea to the mainstream, thanks to the Academy Award success of Everything Everywhere All at Once.
But Shannon’s comments are well taken. Most of these movies give returning characters only surface-level character arcs, like when Dr. Strange’s heart skips a beat when he meets a different version of Christine Palmer in Multiverse of Madness or when Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man catches a falling MJ in No Way Home, getting some closure for his failure to save Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
However, Shannon’s complaint comes in the shadow of one of the best marriages of multiverse storytelling and character study, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. That movie had its “smashing together action figure” moments with the requisite cameos, but it also further developed the characters of Gwen Stacy and Miles Morales, as they struggled to find a community and their place amidst the heavy expectations put upon them. The movie has been received with almost uniform praise from critics (including Den of Geek!), something that can’t be said of other multiverse movies.
And to be fair, Michael Shannon does praise his multiverse movie, The Flash. Not only does he heap compliments upon his co-star Ezra Miller, calling the troubled star “a fascinating performer and actor,” but he also is impressed with the complexity of the story. “I really felt like Man of Steel was actually a pretty sophisticated story,” he said of his first go-around as Zod, before turning to his latest film. “I feel like The Flash is too, but it’s not Zod’s story. I’m basically there to present a challenge.”
So, yes, it’s an action figure role. But what a cool action figure Michael Shannon makes.