UPDATE: Jay Oliva has confirmed Man of Steel was meant to start a 5-film arc.
Was Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice always planned as the sequel to Man of Steel? According to storyboard artist Jay Oliva, who worked on both films, that was most certainly the case. He's decided the time is right to speak out about the behind-the-scenes process.
It's generally believed that Warner Bros. changed direction on the DCEU, keen to create a cinematic universe that rivaled Marvel's. As such, so the common theory goes, they asked director Zack Snyder to change his planned Man of Steel 2 into a film that could lay the foundations for a shared universe. That swiftly became Batman V Superman, a film that brought the Last Son of Krypton and the Dark Knight into a head-on collision.
Jay Oliva, however, has decided now is the right time to challenge this view. He's taken to Twitter to set the record straight, insisting that Snyder always planned it this way.
Okay school is in session... Back in April 2013 (before MoS released in June) I was tasked with doing the Superman 75 short. I met with Zack who was the exec producer on it and he showed me storyboards of BvS with Batman already in it. AND it was a Batman from DKR.— Jay Oliva (@jayoliva1) April 22, 2018
According to Oliva, then, Snyder had always planned to introduce Batman in the movie. As early as April 2013, Oliva insists that Snyder had drawn up storyboards with a Batman inspired by Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. This was three months before the theatrical release of Man of Steel, three months before Warner Bros. confirmed there would even be a sequel. It was also four months before Snyder publicly told audiences at SDCC that the film would feature Batman, and would be loosely inspired by The Dark Knight Returns.
This is a very specific claim, and Oliva is most definitely someone who should know. Oliva notes that he remembers this because, at the time, he was otherwise engaged. He was disappointed not to have a chance to work with the iconic imagery of The Dark Knight Returns. It's worth noting, too, that Oliva suggests Snyder had already created storyboards for the film. Oliva's statements fits perfectly with comments from producer Charles Roven. "When we started with Man of Steel, we knew that we were going to expand the universe," Roven insisted.
But all this sits uncomfortably with other accounts. In an interview in May 2016, for example, Russell Crowe told Digital Spy that at least one Man of Steel sequel had originally been in the works. He was booked to reprise the role of Jor-El in the sequels, but was dropped when Warner Bros. pivoted towards Batman V Superman instead. Given these contradictory remarks, it's clear that something changed, the only real question is when.
Crowe was first linked to the role of Jor-El back in June 2011. It's important to remember that, back in June 2011, Warner Bros. were actually hoping Green Lantern would be the first step in building their shared cinematic universe. At that point, then, Crowe's comments suggest he was signed up for a number of Man of Steel sequels. In the wake of Green Lantern's financial and critical failure, Warner Bros. then changed direction. They realized that Man of Steel had the potential to do the job instead, and began preparing the rest of their slate. If Oliva is right, then the general direction of Batman V Superman had been set as early as April 2013. That's well before Chris Terrio was brought on board to rewrite the script, which had previously been thought to be the turning point for the film's plot.
Oliva's quote doesn't actually disprove what he refers to as the "revisionist" theory, that Warner Bros. changed direction. Rather, it simply suggests the studio had pivoted a lot earlier than had been previously believed.
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