'Batman v. Superman': What's Next for the Justice League? (Spoilers)

[Spoilers for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice follow.]

Screenwriter Chris Terrio talked about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice being a middle chapter of a trilogy ahead of the movie's release, but in reality Zack Snyder's second DC movie is something else; rarely has a movie so blatantly and boldly teased other projects, whether it's Easter egg references to Suicide Squad's Joker, a photograph showing the cast of next year's Wonder Woman or a folder filled with teases for both Justice League and solo movies featuring Cyborg, Aquaman and the Flash.

The boldest of the hints, of course, was the one hidden in plain sight: the so-called "Knightmare" dream that Bruce Wayne has midway through the movie, and the immediate aftermath, which could be explained away as a second dream, or something so much more.

The first part of that dream had been teased ahead of release in trailers and promotional clips (I wrote about them here and here), but are worth re-examining in light of other events elsewhere in the movie: Batman, searching for kryptonite, is overpowered by an army wearing Superman's insignia and a group of flying creatures, which we'll come to soon enough; after being captured, he is confronted by a silent Superman, who murders his fellow prisoners, and then unmasks Batman.

This is followed by a scene in which Ezra Miller's Flash appears out of nowhere to warn Batman that he was right not to trust "him," and that everything went wrong when something happened to Lois, before wondering that he'd arrived too early and disappearing, suggesting that time travel was afoot.

Taken in combination, there's a clear inference that the DC movieverse risks the possibility of following the mythology of the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game and comic book franchise, in which the death of Lois Lane leads to Superman becoming a more authoritarian figure who tries to inflict his will upon humanity in the name of increased security.

This isn't the only time Lois's death has been used as a major plot point in a speculative Superman story; in the 1996 comic book series Kingdom Come, her death sets in motion a chain of events that, first, to the Man of Steel retiring before returning to a civil war between groups of heroes.

However, there's likely more at play here than initially seems obvious. The first dream sequence features Batman standing, overlooking the omega symbol that traditionally implies the involvement of the villain Darkseid, a connection only strengthened by the appearance seconds later of Parademons, the winged creatures that serve Darkseid in his comic book incarnation, but this time serve Superman, for reasons as-yet-unknown.

Relatedly, the end of the movie features Lex Luthor promising that "he" is coming, from outside Earth. Who … ? Well, there are any number of intergalactic villains in the DC comic book mythology that could fit the bill, but the fervor of which Luthor is speaking is almost religious … and Darkseid is, after all, one of DC's New Gods.

An unexpected reference point that might help speculation is 2008's comic book series Final Crisis, in which Darkseid and his minions manage to not only invade Earth, but defeat the superheroes — temporarily, of course — by possessing the bodies of humans and superhumans alike.

The thought first occurred when watching Luthor act as an acolyte of whatever was coming to Earth (Could he not be Luthor, but instead something else speaking through Luthor?), but taken to its logical conclusion, it raises the question: What if Batman was somehow seeing the future instead of dreaming, thanks to the Flash's time traveling? And what if the Superman he saw there wasn't actually Superman, but someone possessing Superman? Someone, say, like Darkseid … ?

Answers are unlikely to arrive before 2017's Justice League, of course. But in the meantime, given the amount of references and Easter eggs contained in Batman v. Superman, expect to see clues appear in both Suicide Squad (out on Aug. 5) and Wonder Woman (June 23, 2017).

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