PART 2: Interview with MAN OF STEEL Storyboard Artist Jay Oliva
For part one of this interview, please click HERE.
In this excerpt from an exclusive interview with Man of Steel storyboard artist Jay Oliva we gain greater insight into how the film's action set pieces were developed, collaborating with Zack Snyder and hopes for the future of the DC Movie Universe.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: We left the last part of the conversation talking about the relationship between Superman and Lex Luthor, and comparing it to Mozart and Salieri. Obviously picking up heat is the rumor that Luthor will be the villain of the second film, helped in no small way by the LexCorp logo appearing in Man of Steel.
JAY OLIVA: I put the LexCorp logo on the oil tankers, and on the satellite I had drawn LexCorp, but Zack was the one who decided that it should be Wayne Enterprises. When he did that, I thought it was so cool and a nice touch.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: People have been talking about the sequel online, some of them saying it would be ideal for Metallo to work with Luthor and serve as a great way to introduce Kryptonite.
JAY OLIVA: That would be great.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Earlier you mentioned one of the things you said to Zack was that you could do something in the movie that you would never do in animation. Like what?
JAY OLIVA: Just in term of a lot of the traveling shots, following with them and a lot of long continuous shots. In animation you can do practically anything you can do in live action, but you have to find ways to cheat it because you're dealing with flat objects. Now mind you if it's 3D animation, it's almost anything you can do with live action, but for 2D you have to find a way to combine elements. You go full frame and go away from camera - little tricks that you do that I learned just from watching a lot of Anime. American animation wouldn't even attempt it, but when I approach my movies, I try to find the little tricks that I've done to give it that live action feel, but still rely on things I've learned in Anime in terms of timing and how the camera moves. So with Man of Steel, it's exactly the same, but now it's the amount of detail I can get into it. There's actually a shot where Superman gets thrown through a building, a business building, and he crashes through a window and slides through all this office furniture. As cool as it would be to do in animation, it would be very difficult because I would have had to have animated the background and then done cheats just to emulate the live action. But in the film it worked out pretty well. Also, did you notice my homage to Star Wars in that sequence? When Superman flies through that hole that Zod had flown through to escape the collapsing building, he does this rotation; he's upside down and blasts through the hole. That's my little homage to Return of the Jedi when they get out of the Death Star and are rotating around. I thought that would be a cool moment.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: I didn't make the connection, but definitely thought it was a cool shot.
JAY OLIVA: Zack and I are huge Star Wars fans, and I'd never seen that in a Superman film live or animated. So this was a chance to try it out. It was like I was a kid in a sandbox saying, "What am I going to do today? What am I going to build?" It was just fun to be able to craft a sequence where there was a lot of different tricks. I've heard a lot of people refer to it as "fight porn," but they don't understand that fight choreography is very specific. You have to basically choreograph it like a song; there has to be highs and lows; moments where things slow down, but then you want to build up to a crescendo. There are definitely beats to it. I call it "Man Ballet." I mentioned that a lot, and that's how I choreographed the sequences. There are stunts, but each stunt has to be a little bit different. Yes, it looks like he's punching the guy, but then they're moving through the environment. There's the sequence where you have the cars falling down from the parking structure as they're punching each other. Superman punches, then a car comes in and stuns him, which Zod uses as an opening to upper-cut Superman. It's a lot of little things like that; it's all part of the song that we're trying to build with that choreography.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: On the original Rocky, I remember reading that director John Avildsen wasn't thrilled with the way the boxing match was looking, so he told Sylvester Stallone to go home and actually choreograph the fight like you would any other scene with movement.
JAY OLIVA: Because a real fight isn't much fun to watch. The best fight sequences are when you're watching them "dance," and that's what I was trying to do with the fights. I tried to choreograph them through the storyboards to make sure it looks like dancing, with the kind of rawness that an Anime fight would have. Where you don't know what they're going to do, and at any moment they would go for a submission hold or, in this case, they try to break the other guy's neck. That's one of the things I was trying to get across; that it's very raw and visceral and you don't know how the fight is going to go, because you have these two superpowered gods fighting within this gigantic environment of a city.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: With all of that in mind, how much of a collaboration is there with you on a scripting level? How much is being described to you, and how much is it you being given a launching off point and you have to craft the sequence?
JAY OLIVA: What's funny is that I was very skeptical when I heard, for instance, there would be a Spider-Man reboot. Then when it's another Superman reboot, the first thing that comes to your mind is, "Why are we rebooting? Why can't we just continue on the story from wherever? Why can't Spider-Man just be Spider-Man and tell another compelling story?" But then I read the Superman script and felt it was really good, because it starts with a Clark who is 33 years old - they don't even show the ship crashing, Ma and Pa Kent finding him, him going through the cornfield... I mean, there's a few flashbacks, but those flashbacks are very specific to what's happening in the story. It reminds him of something and that triggers the memory. It's something hopefully they carry into Man of Steel 2, because I love Kevin Costner and Diane Lane. They were great, and I kind of liked that Highlander approach to the flashbacks. I loved the original Highlander and the part of the storytelling in Man of Steel that a lot of people didn't dig.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: They thought it was too choppy and brought you out of the story.
JAY OLIVA: But I think it's because it's been a long time since films have really done that. I'm a huge fan of that type of Highlander storytelling where you're going back and forth at certain moments. While I don't think it's a device that I would use all the way through to Justice League and things like that, I think in Man of Steel 2 it would be a nice thing where you can bring back Kevin Costner to show different conversations he'd had with Clark; different moment in his life that will eventually mold him into the man he is. If you think about it, you don't really understand your parents until you get much older. When you're growing up, you just tend to react and not really take into account what's happening around your parents, around your family, because it's always about you. But you have a hero here - like Spider-Man and Batman - who has tragedy in his life, and is able to become the hero he wants to be despite of it. Also that this father had slowly taught him things he may not have understood at the time, but which he now gains understanding of. That was a lesson he learned later in life, and I think this leads to a lot of development which we will eventually see through the films. I think that's going to be fun.
For the rest of this interview, please click HERE.
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