Storyboard artist, Jay Oliva, with dozens of DC credits to his name and whose artistry was used for Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Justice League, recently revealed via Twitter, that director Zack Snyder’s original intent for the DC Cinematic Universe was for Man of Steel to serve as the first chapter of a 5 chapter story. Oliva tweeted: “Man of Steel was never meant to have a sequel because it was supposed to be chapter 1 of a 5 chapter story. Notice how BvS follows exactly after MoS? It’s like book two of Harry Potter.”
When asked by a Twitter user as to the films’ succession, Oliva confirmed the sequence with a simple “Yep” as being:
1. Man of Steel
2. Batman v Superman
3. Justice League Part 1
4. Justice League Part 2
The fifth film remains undisclosed. However, producer Daniel Alter bucked back at Oliva’s claims that the 5 chapter story idea was intended from the beginning. The exchange can be viewed below:
Effectively, Alter confronted Oliva alleging that Oliva’s tweet about a 5 chapter plan was ‘revisionist history’.
Here’s the thing: neither perspective is mutually exclusive. Yet, one is definitely more accurate than the other.
Much of what Alter is saying falls in line with what many an entertainment journalist wrote about years prior as to an alleged change of direction after executive shakeups and also the on-boarding of Kevin Tsujihara. Remember, Tsujihara was announced as Warner Bros. CEO in January of 2013. Oliva talks about meeting Zack Snyder about Batman v Superman in April, a few months after Tsujihara’s announcement. But let’s start at the beginning.
Man of Steel was pitched to Warner Bros by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer. So, do I believe that that was the plan that Christopher Nolan brought to Warner Bros. when pitching Man of Steel? Absolutely, definitely not. It’s been well documented that Christopher Nolan wasn’t even sure about returning for The Dark Knight sequel and the Joker card at the end of Batman Begins was not intended to be a set up for said sequel. Nolan is well known for doing films one at a time with the vision of it being as its own self-contained film. Moreover, the idea for Man of Steel itself came from David S. Goyer as seen in the Man of Steel Featurette.
After Goyer and Nolan developed and completed the script, they sought about selecting a director to helm the project. Their short list at one time included Matt Reeves, Duncan Jones, Jonathan Liebesman and Tony Scott. Thereafter, Nolan, Emma Thomas and Warner Bros. selected Zack Snyder to direct Man of Steel.
Another indication that the 5 chapter plan was not conceptualized at the start of Man of Steel, comes about from Jor-El actor, Russel Crowe. In an interview with Digital Spy, he was asked as to why he didn’t return for Batman v Superman. Crowe responded: “No, I think once they made the decision that … because originally, I could be completely wrong, I think there was a number of Superman movies. But I think they made the decision to go to jump past those and go to the idea of having Batman and Superman in the same film.” Presumably, while Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer were still hands on with the project, the idea for a Man of Steel 2 was still in play.
Now, did Batman v Superman come about as a direct result of Man of Steel’s “disappointment”? Probably not. In an interview with Forbes, Zack Snyder discussed how Superman came to face off against Batman after Man of Steel. Snyder said: “after Man of Steel finished and we started talking about what would be in the next movie, I started subtly mentioning that it would be cool if he faced Batman. In the first meeting, it was like, “Maybe Batman?” … But then, once you say it out loud, right? You’re in a story meeting talking about, like, who should [Superman] fight if he fought this giant alien threat Zod who was basically his equal physically, from his planet, fighting on our turf… You know, who to fight next? The problem is, once you say it out loud, then it’s kind of hard to go back, right? …But I’m not gonna say at all that when I took the job to do Man of Steel that I did it in a subversive way to get to Batman. I really believe that only after contemplating who could face [Superman] did Batman come into the picture…”. Obviously, this story meeting would have had to have taken place prior to the release of Man of Steel as Batman v Superman involved quite a bit of planning ahead of time. Plus, look to the above where Oliva states that Snyder was already conceptualizing BvS prior to the release of Man of Steel. That’s precisely what happened in terms of the gestation of Justice League too. Pre-production was already ongoing with filming set to begin on April 11th, only a few weeks after Batman v Superman’s March 25th opening.
So, do I believe Oliva when he says that Snyder intended for a 5 chapter plan? Yes, eventually … he probably started envisioning it at some point. Especially since, Oliva’s had a hand not just in the DC Animated Movies but in the live-action films as well. So Oliva’s knowledge of behind the scenes intentions – especially as it pertains to Zack Snyder – would presumably be greater than anyone hearing things third hand. Further, when Kevin Tsujihara announced the slate of DC films back in 2014, Snyder had to have already pitched his ideas for Justice League Part 1 and Justice League Part 2 for them to have been announced. Let alone the fact that Snyder would have needed to get the okay to introduce the League in Batman v Superman to begin with.
So although I do not believe Zack Snyder envisioned a five film plan when he was first hired for Man of Steel because it didn’t start out as his project, I’m confident that he eventually did begin to conceptualize it once story meetings for the next films began taking place.