[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Zack Snyder’s Justice League.]
Zack Snyder has been telling us about his long-term plan for the DCEU ever since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. There are two key scenes in that movie that hint at what’s to come. The first is Batman’s “Knightmare” sequence where Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) dreams of an apocalyptic future filled with parademons and paramilitary in a world ruled by Darkseid (as seen by a glimpse of his “Omega” symbol on the Earth), and what’s worse, Superman (Henry Cavill) is now evil in this world. Bruce “awakens” only to get a second vision of Flash (Ezra Miller) saying that he’s arrived in the wrong time, but that Lois (Amy Adams) is the key.
All of this gets cleared up in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. While Steppenwolf’s plan to unite the motherboxes ultimately fails, he makes a far more important discovery: the anti-life equation sought by Darkseid is on Earth. That means that Darkseid is coming to Earth, and we get a glimpse of the terror he’ll wreak by killing both Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa). We also see Superman cradling a dead body rendered unrecognizable, but it’s strongly hinted that the corpse is Lois Lane.
This is all prelude to a scene in the epilogue where we get a new “Knightmare.” In this scene, we’re back in the post-apocalypse, but with a different “Justice League” that consists of Batman, Flash, and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) as well as Aquaman’s future wife Mera (Amber Heard), Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello), and, most surprising, The Joker (Jared Leto). The majority of the scene is devoted to Joker testing Batman’s patience and asking how many people he’s asked to die for him. The larger context is that this unlikely band of heroes and villains were forced together to take on a larger foe and that the mission involved getting Flash where he needs to be. And at the end of the Knightmare, a very angry Superman comes along ready to use his heat vision to obliterate everyone. Bruce awakens, meets Martian Manhunter (Harry Lennix), and thus the Justice League is already growing for the oncoming threat from Darkseid.
Snyder’s trilogy of Justice League movies likely would have closed out not unlike how Marvel did it with Avengers: Endgame—time travel. Both Batman v Superman and Zack Snyder’s Justice League show Flash time-traveling, and his mission (the one teased in the epilogue of Zack Snyder’s Justice League) would likely involve some kind of time travel that would allow him to undo the damage wrought by Lois Lane’s death.
Why so much damage from Lois? Essentially, Snyder’s DCEU is built on two complimentary premises: Superman is the protector of Earth and Lois Lane is his connection to humanity. The reason Steppenwolf doesn’t come to Earth earlier is that Superman was protecting the planet, and when he died at the end of Batman v Superman, it was enough to make Darkseid feel confident in sending his henchman. Since it would be redundant to kill Superman again, you need a reason that he would allow Darkseid to invade. Snyder’s solution was apparently to kill Lois Lane, drive Superman mad with grief, and make him a villain who then works with Darkseid.
While some viewers will likely get a kick out of seeing Ben Affleck’s Batman and Jared Leto’s Joker go head-to-head, I’m a bit bummed out by the larger implications of the scene and Snyder’s vision for the DCEU. Simply put, I don’t think Snyder ever really cared for Superman. I think he didn’t know how to craft the character around a moral center and became far too obsessed with his superpowers and what they meant to the world. Snyder’s approach to superheroes is that he’s incredibly big on “explaining” how they work so that they come off as “realistic”, which is how you get Flash’s odd costume that’s supposed to be designed so it doesn’t burn up. That’s why the climax of Man of Steel is about punching and devastation and world engines and the codex rather than any kind of moral reckoning.
Snyder never gave his Superman a moral compass. He typically gets that from his parents in earlier stories—that these salt-of-the-Earth Midwesterners brought up their adopted son Clark with good American values. But in Snyder’s rendering, they’re overprotective and don’t want Clark to risk making himself known to the world at the wrong time, which is why they impart lessons like “Sometimes it’s okay to let kids die in a schoolbus accident,” and “Sometimes it’s okay to let your dad get sucked into a tornado,” and “You don’t owe this world a thing.” That leaves his connection to humanity incredibly specified with his mom (Diane Lane) and Lois. If you sever those, then Superman now becomes bad.
On the one hand, I get that Superman is a tough character because he’s so powerful, but he’s also an inspirational, thoughtful, and complex figure that speaks to American values crossed with an immigrant/Moses story. I don’t think Snyder ever really saw past Superman’s powers, and so by building the DCEU around how you solve the problem of Superman rather than seeing him as an asset, you inevitably lead to stories where he either dies or goes evil, and as a fan of Superman, those aren’t particularly rewarding directions since they don’t embrace him as a character.
It’s also worth noting that the inclusion of this scene will inevitably lead to fans starting a new petition demanding that Warner Bros. back Snyder in his version and make this movie happen. The thing about bowing to fan pressure is that once you start doing it, there’s really no incentive to stop for those making the demands. The #ReleaseTheSnyderCut fans see the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League as a victory for them and their “movement.” It’s safe to assume that the next demand will be a sequel that follows through on the promise made by this new Knightmare.
KEEP READING: Zack Snyder Reveals His ‘Justice League’ Sequel Plans
Casual dress is also discouraged, which means there is a zero percent chance we’ll see Glenn Close in jeans.
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