“Batman v Superman” Storyboard Artist Explains the “Martha” Scene

Speaking on the ComicBookDebate podcast, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” storyboard artist Jay Oliva reveals that, as he understood it, Batman has PTSD and the name “Martha” triggers memory flashbacks that break him out of his bloodlust… something Superman was well aware of.

“I mean, the whole reason why the movie starts with the death of Bruce’s parents is to set up the fact that that traumatic effect has bascially given little Bruce, and now adult Bruce, PTSD. He’s had it all his life. I mean, it’s something that I even did in Dark Knight Returns – Part 1. I played up the fact that he has PTSD. If you notice I do flashes… when the train goes by overhead it’s flashing on the ground and that gives him those flashes of when his mom gets killed. So, at that early stage I was already playing the fact that you had a Batman who had PTSD, you know? So, Zack was just setting that up and if you watch that film, really, without having any kind of preconceived notions or whatnot or just waiting for the ‘Martha scene’… he sets it up. So, that way at the end when Batman’s gonna kill Superman, the ‘Martha’ is a trigger to get Batman out of this kind of bloodlust vengeance.”

Oliva believes that, as an investigative reporter, Clark Kent had figured out that Bruce Wayne was Batman, and used this knowledge at the last moment…

“In my head, I put together the fact that the reason why he didn’t say ‘save my mom’ was that Clark already knew who Batman was, because remember Clark’s an investigative reporter. He already figured out who Bruce Wayne was and I think he knew Bruce Wayne’s past because everybody knows about the Wayne’s being murdered. Of course, he may not know but I think he put two and two together and knew that in order to get through to Bruce, would be to have to, you know, appeal to, you know, the word Martha, about the name of his mom who also happens to be the name his mom. But he’s trying to get through to this guy who, again, has this bloodlust.”

As for the criticism the film received for the whole “Martha” moment, Oliva retorts…

“Yeah, people say, like, ‘oh, both of their moms are named Martha,’ and I was like, ‘yeah, it’s been that way for the last 75-80 years, you just never noticed that? Did you want us to change it to something else?’ For me, I enjoyed it for what it was and I was proud to have worked on it and collaborated with Zack and everything. For me, it was kind of undeserved, the kind of critical response to it. Like I said, they fixated on things that they just read in a review and somebody who was watching it wasn’t paying attention or wasn’t critical… ’cause the thing is that there are journalists who do their homework and they know how to critique a movie and review it, and then there are people who are bloggers who just watch a movie and give you their opinion. Like, ‘oh, I hate it because Superman didn’t smile enough.’ Like, really? So, that’s your whole point? You want him to smile a lot?”

You can listen to the complete podcast at ComicBookDebate.com.

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October 1, 2018 9:03 pm

Problem is as presented in the film it doesn’t really feel earned. The Martha moment just comes off random. I could see how you could do it in a way that once that moment hit, Superman just uttering the name Martha would have been very powerful. But I just don’t think the movie did that. ..and everybody knows what is really meant when people talk about Superman smiling. It’s not just about facial expression but it is effectively an overall metaphor for expressing the fact that there is not a big appetite for a brooding desaturated Superman smothered in Snyder’s… Read more »

October 1, 2018 9:24 pm
Reply to  MattComics

For its purposes and good intentions it is what it is. Though I understand the impact and the meaning behind the Martha scene, it has sadly become another Internet meme and a joke to many.
Truth to tell I can’t see Superman smile at the face of impending danger when lives are at stake. Sure is one thing though, as a beacon of Hope and an inspiration to many, he does make us smile. He smiles when the world is alright after a hard day of work and super heroics.

October 2, 2018 4:14 am
Reply to  MattComics

MattComics, you really think Snyderverse Superman’s more serious demeanour reflects a ‘Randian woldview’??? That’s never even occurred to me – I can’t stand Ayn Rand and I never would have liked Cavill’s Superman as much as I do if I felt that was what he represented. To me, Henry’s Superman had a manner that suited the story and the situations it placed him in. This is a Superman who was taught most of his life that he should hide what he is, because humanity was likely to react with suspicion, fear and violence to his very existence. To me, that’s… Read more »

October 2, 2018 10:18 am
Reply to  LarGand

I was thinking more about Snyder’s approach and how that affects the way the characters received as opposed to the actual internal outlook of the character himself.

October 2, 2018 12:45 am

I wish this guy would stop talking about this, snyder cuts and 5- movie arcs. Time to move on and focus on not messing up future projects. I’m tired of the mental gymnastics defending this scene. It was poorly executed. End of story. And the smiling Superman thing is really blowing off legitimate criticism for a Superman presented that barely speaks, has no memorable lines and is dumbed down to justify an illogical fight. But what do I know I’ve just been a Superman fan for 32 years. The Martha line should have been played for laughs or just kind… Read more »

October 2, 2018 3:48 am

This explanation just doesn’t cut it. If Snyder had meant to show that Clark had figured out Batman was Bruce Wayne and knew his mother’s name was a PTSD trigger, it would have been a simple matter to include at least one brief scene, lasting not more than a few seconds, showing Clark doing the research and figuring it out. It would’ve been cheap to film, not requiring any special effects, would have shown that Clark is a smart, diligent investigative reporter, and would have made that critical scene where Batman is shocked out of murdering Superman far more credible.… Read more »

October 2, 2018 4:33 am
Reply to  LarGand

They made this film way more complicated than it had to be and through in a lot of half baked philosophical nonsense on top of it. Is it really that hard to make a compelling movie with these characters? Why didnt anybody proofread the script? I can Rewrite this one in 10 minutes… Batman (who is only shown in bits and pieces in the first act) has become more brutal after the death of Robin. He is becoming increasingly more and more violent. Superman, after the battle of metropolis is forced to defend himself via senate hearings and public acts,… Read more »

October 2, 2018 6:06 am

The biggest telling point in this article is when the storyboard artist starts an explanation with the words “In my head,…”. THAT is one of the biggest issues with this film. Man Of Steel is also burdened with this problem. Why are we, the audience, forced into the task of creating the rest of the story and plot in our head and do the storyteller’s job for them? This storyboard artist is going on about how he concocted the idea in his head that Clark discovered Bruce was Batman, done his research and then used his mother’s name against him… Read more »

October 2, 2018 9:25 am

The main problem with the scene is that the dialogue doesn’t flow naturally. Minor changes to the dialogue and some direction to the actors would’ve easily fixed this. The other problem is that the movie was butchered in the theatrical cut and I think many people were overwhelmed by the convoluted plot trying to piece everything together, that they missed (or ignored) the point of the scene. It is indeed set up, several times, that it’s his mother’s death in particular that haunts Bruce. Also, I haven’t seen BvS in a while, but I’m pretty sure the movie establishes that… Read more »

October 2, 2018 1:37 pm

First off I for one am not a BvS hater. This last weekend I watched MoS. I hadn’t seen it for about a year. Now MoS has been out for what, 5 years? And side from about 3 key scenes that I would have liked altered, I still conclude that MoS to this day is the best over all superhero movie that’s been made relevant to our time. The failure here is not BvS. (and “failure” may be to strong a description), so I will say after watching MoS that the problem as far as I’m concerned, was that they… Read more »

October 3, 2018 4:19 am

If you’re still trying to justify and rationalize a scene to people 2 years after the fact, I think it’s time to acknowledge it just didn’t work, it wasn’t a good idea and it’s not a concept the audience grasps. I’m a vet, PTSD isn’t a lost concept or a foreign idea for me, yet I still think that scene was horribly done. It was just a poor way to try and justify the fight ending to make them allies. Going into a fit or rage and stabbing Superman widely as he saw red would make more sense given his… Read more »

October 3, 2018 12:28 pm
Reply to  Clark_Jo

To be fair one can cherry pick one’s way through just about any movie and conclude(by one’s opinion), that there are scenes that do and don’t work. But I didn’t think that one in particular was a “make it or break it” scene that dictated the entire outcome of the movie.

October 4, 2018 1:33 pm
Reply to  redcape

Well one isn’t “cherry picking.” This article is about that scene, this discussion is about that scene, people have debated and trying to justify that scene. Well the “entire outcome of the movie” was dictated by that scene. Batman wouldn’t have saved Martha, Superman wouldn’t have confronted Lex, Superman wouldn’t have fought Doomsday taking out of the city, the Trinity wouldn’t have formed, they wouldn’t have fought Doomsday united, Superman wouldn’t have died, Batman wouldn’t be inspired to from the JL. It also dictated JL, because the Knighmare scene is what would have happened if Batman didn’t assemble the JL… Read more »