MAN OF STEEL Storyboard Artist Jay Oliva Talks Action - Part 1

The action in Man of Steel is pretty much unprecedented, and one of the people responsible is storyboard artist Jay Oliva, who discusses those sequences as well as the controversial ending in this excerpt from an exclusive Q&A session.

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By EdGross - 7/9/2013
Interview conducted by and copyright Edward Gross


Man of Steel storyboard artist Jay Oliva has had a long career in animation, where has has brought his storyboarding skills to such TV shows as Extreme Ghostbusters, RoboCop: Alpha Commando, Godzilla: The Series, The Batman, Justice League and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, as well as the animated films Superman: Dooomsday, All-Star Superman, and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. Additionally, he's directed Young Justice, Batman: The Dark Night Returns and the soon to be released Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, among others.

In the first part of VFK's interview with Oliva, we look at the action of Man of Steel, particularly the last twenty minutes or so, exploring the thought process that went into those sequences and, of course, the controversy that has surrounded it.

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VOICES FROM KRYPTON: I liked Man of Steel the first time, and I liked it even more the second time.

JAY OLIVA: I’ve heard that from a lot of people, because I think with the initial watching of it, when a lot of people left the theater there was something that bugged them. I think it was from the initial shock of how different it was from what they’re used to. And then when they watched it the second time, because they knew what to expect, they just wanted to watch it because there was so much there. I know when you watch it, something will happen, and then you’re thinking “Why did they do that? I don’t know why they did that,” and because of that you’ll miss 30 seconds that follow. Then it starts compounding as the movie goes along. I’ve noticed that for a lot of people. At the same time, some people just love it, and some people just loathe it.

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: The splitting of people on this thing is amazing. And I do have to say the one thing that stops it from being a great Superman movie in my mind, and it is one of the things people are criticizing I think, is just that when he and Zod are fighting, we should have seen more of a reaction from him about concern for people – they’re knocking down these buildings left and right, and you know there are thousands of people in these buildings that are all dying. But there’s not an instance of him saying, “Hang on a second…”

JAY OLIVA: One of the things that I’d mentioned to Zack is that I didn’t want to do what happens in Dark Knight Rises, where Gotham is empty. It’s supposed to have a two million population, but there are, like, 100 guys who are able to patrol the whole thing and the public is saying, “Oh, there’s a bomb on the island. I’m not going to leave.” Are you kidding? If that happened here in L.A., everyone would be fleeing! And so that was one of the things we discussed – I remember I was asking Zach, maybe we should try doing that — to show people fleeing — and I remember we tried doing that, but there was no time in terms of the relentless attack that was being planned for Zod and Superman. It was just constant. It’s almost like, if you were fighting a lion, you wouldn’t have time to look around to make sure your surroundings were okay, because at any point there could be an attack. People are saying, “How many times can you slam a guy into a building?”, but, really, it’s because they’re trying to position themselves because at any moment Zod could snap Superman’s neck or vice versa, if you think of it that way. Now there was, of course, a lot of destruction, but a lot of it had happened from the initial attack by the Black Zero in Metropolis. So I figured a lot of people had already evacuated the buildings, and in fact The Daily Planet is one of the closer buildings to the epicenter, so a lot of people there had already started fleeing the city. We did have a few shots of people fleeing across a bridge, but that was cut in the end. Obviously I didn’t write the script, but when I was storyboarding it, I tried to make sure that it was as relentless as possible.

I do think that a lot of the things that people didn’t like could also lead to what Superman will eventually be in Man of Steel 2. I have no idea what they’re going to do with it, but that could be an arc. I do remember that there was a discussion after I read the script and talked to Zack where I said, “Really? Superman is going to kill?” He said yes, and then I thought about it. We discussed it a little bit more and I thought, “OK, I can get behind this, because you have to give a reason why he has this no killing code,” if you know what I mean. Also, it’s “Superman Year One”; he’s fallible. One of the things that people who were never fans had a problem with was that previously Superman was too “goody-goody” or he was too perfect. As soon as he finished in Smallville, he was, like, “Ah, ha: Truth, justice and the American way!” I think this different take actually gives you a reason for why he feels that way. Like I said, maybe the aftermath or backlash in 2 might be a good way to bring in Lex Luthor to rally the country against Superman. Everyone assumes that just because Superman is here, everyone is going to be, “Yeah!” Like in Superman Returns where everyone expects Superman to save them. I think this is a little bit more of a realistic take in the sense of what would happen to the general public? If this was comic books back in the ‘70s or ‘80s, people might have just accepted him with, “Oh, yeah, it’s Superman. He’s a good guy.” But today people want a lot more realism in their superhero movies and comics and it also leaves a nice little arc for Superman. Who knows, you might get this backlash in number two where he isn’t what everyone wants him to be and he’s struggling to help everyone, but at the same time people are against him. Even if we do carry over that Christ theme through there, it would actually work. If you think about it, everyone turns on Jesus in The Bible and I think that would be an exciting arc.

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When it’s all said and done — whether through a Justice League movie or sequels to this one — you’re going to see a nice arc. If you look at the Donner film and the three sequels, the third and fourth started to fail because they didn’t know what to do with Superman. They didn’t continue the love story with Lois; they just lost it. It was almost like we saw his arc in Superman: The Movie, then in part two we saw a little bit more in the sense that he wanted to help people and he had to fight against the super beings and that was it. And at the end of the movie there’s that kiss of forgetfulness and his relationship with Lois goes back to normal. I think that’s why the franchis ended up suffering. I mean, I watched it as a kid and I still love those films, but looking at them today from a filmmaker’s standpoint, or even from a writer’s standpoint, where would you go? At least with this reboot I see a lot of possibilities, and I like the fact that the audience is polarized. I’d rather have them polarized where they love it or they hate it than be either right in the middle or they all hate it. I think this is kind of cool, because the people who hated it, when number two comes up, hopefully the trailers will touch upon the things people have problems with. It will be one of those things where after watching 2 or 3 or however many we do, when you go back and look at the first one you’ll be, like, “Oh, I can see where it was going. I can see it more episodically.” I remember when The Empire Strikes Back came out and everybody panned it. Everyone was, like, “How could they not end the movie?” I look back at it now and that’s my favorite one. I can watch that over and over again and it’s genius. But back then it was so shocking to end that movie with, “I am your father,” and have the Empire win! There was no Deathstar sequence at the end or big explosion. It was a very small, personal story where it was a big revelation. I think as time goes on — and, again, I’m not involved in the wirting process, I only come in after the fact — that’s my hope of what we’ll eventually see with the sequel or sequels, or Justice League. How exciting is that? Now that we’re sort of rebooting the DC Universe, it’s kind of how it was in the comics where Superman was the very first superhero, and then after that you start to see Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest. But a lot of people are, like, “I want my Christopher Reeve version of Superman, or this other version of Superman.”

To read the rest of part one of this interview with Jay Oliva, please click HERE.
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