I recently saw Midnight Special, and though overall it left me somewhat cold, I did come out of the theater confident in one assertion: Michael Shannon should be the next actor to play Batman. I say this because more than any other actor who’s played this iconic role, I believe Shannon has the perfect combination of an intimidating aspect, all-consuming passion, and absolute insanity that I’ve come to believe the role requires. Because of this I believe that Shannon is by far the best choice to take the role of Batman, and that he could find new dimensions of character in Gotham City’s vigilant guardian.
For the straight-faced intimidating stare Batman uses when he shakes down criminals, look to Nelson Van Alden, Shannon’s character on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. As Van Alden, Shannon brings an impenetrable gloominess and a clear-eyed certainty, both of which I think would be perfect for the caped crusader. I envision Shannon in the cape and the mask beating a few street toughs silently, wordlessly and mercilessly, giving them all nightmares with his permanently stone faced glower. He also would not need to modulate his voice (like Bale’s annoying rasp), as his bass mumble evokes the ultimate humorless authority figure.
I feel that Shannon would animate the untrusting, secretive and obsessive nature of Bruce Wayne. Given Shannon’s wonderful performance in Jeff Nichols Take Shelter, wherein he plays a man consumed by terrifying nightmares and apocalyptic hallucinations. As the film goes on, it is plainly evident in Shannon’s face that his character has an increasingly tenuous grasp on reality, and as this grasp evaporates he becomes more wide-eyed and desperate with each scene. I believe Shannon would do well to bring these elements of inner torment and social disconnection to Bruce Wayne, perhaps ruling over board meetings by pounding on surfaces with unnerving intensity.
Bruce Wayne is not a well man, and Michael Shannon could portray this with effortless ease. William Friedkin’s stellar nightmare Bug is a prime example of Shannon’s ability to play unhinged. The physicality Shannon portrays in Bug is dangerous and manic, such as I believe has been lacking in previous portrayals of Gotham’s most eccentric citizen.