Jay Olivia just revealed that Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel was always supposed to serve as the first part of a five-chapter saga which establishes Superman, Batman and DC Extended Universe (DCEU). It was previously believed that Man of Steel’s financial disappointment (as a Superman film grossing less than $1 billion) made DC reassess its strategy and shove Batman into the sequel to ramp up numbers. This popular theory, according to Olivia, however, is plain wrong.
As the storyboard artist for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman—and director of the narratively superior animated DC Comics movies The Dark Knight Returns and Flashpoint—Olivia has some insight into the specifics, regarding what really went on behind the scenes during pre-production of Batman v Superman.
According to Screenrant, the DCEU never changed course to compete with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU), or force Batman into a narrative previously intended to expand upon Superman’s history and character. They were always aimed to work in tandem, while continuously introducing further characters. Olivia shared some stories of his time working for DC before Man of Steel was released and Snyder was already hard at work on its sequel—with storyboards already featuring Batman before audiences even got to see the first film.
Man of Steel left many moviegoers confused as to how dour the protagonist was, and how his reckless his defense of the city presumably left thousands of casualties—a pretty steep departure for the classic American hero who’d previously prioritize human life over his own vengeance. Fans wanted a sequel to redeem this imperfect movie and its treatment of Supes but got a Batman mash-up instead. Olivia maintains that this was always part of the plan.
While Olivia’s claims regarding the timeline of these decisions fit perfectly with producer Charles Roven’s statement, “When we started with Man of Steel, we knew that we were going to expand the universe,” they don’t completely gel with previous claims by Man of Steel actor Russell Crowe. He told Digital Spy in 2016 that there was a sequel featuring his Jor-El character in the works which was dropped when Warner Bros. shifted gears to Batman V. Superman.
What all of this combined history means, essentially, is that the studio definitely changed narrative direction at some point—but that the specifics of when, exactly, are still unclear. Fortunately, we can all finally stop blaming Man of Steel’s comparatively poor box office results for the frustrating direction this franchise went in, and can firmly place blame at the studio, instead.