This article contains Zack Snyder’s Justice League spoilers.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a lot of movie. It’s four hours plus of superhero action with some heavy mythological overtones. And it’s ending isn’t even a single ending to this story…it’s multiple endings. And each of these multiple endings is meant to set up a host of spinoff movies and Justice League sequels that we will unfortunately never get to see!
We’ll consider the “main” ending of the film, the one that wraps up the initial story begun in 2013’s Man of Steel, to be the defeat of Steppenwolf. But from there, we get several epilogues, and that’s where things get even more complicated. There are no post-credits scenes in Zack Snyder’s Justice League because, well, it doesn’t need them, but the “additional endings” kind of serve the same purpose.
So let’s get started…
The Defeat of Steppenwolf
The key to defeating Steppenwolf actually comes much earlier in the movie when Barry is explaining to Bruce some of how his speed works, and his discovery of what he dubs the Speed Force.
“When I approach the speed of light, crazy things happen to time, but when I do it I create massive electrical power.”
It’s that “massive electrical power” that is ultimately used to help “wake” the Mother Box that’s used to resurrect Superman (who himself is, of course, a key to Steppenwolf’s defeat). Barry builds up enough of a head of steam to generate the necessary to spark the Mother Box and charge the chemical soup that brings Superman back to life.
But there’s another key here, and that’s the “crazy things that happen to time” which comes in later…
With Steppenwolf in possession of all three Mother Boxes, he’s in position to bring about “Unity,” which grants him impossible destructive power, and which would allow Darkseid to easily access Earth and begin his campaign to attain the Anti-Life Equation. Since the Mother Boxes have already been joined, and “Unity” appears to be underway, Cyborg needs to “hack” into them (since some of his power and technology was derived from a Mother Box).
The only problem? Not enough power!
And that’s where Flash comes in. As Barry begins building up the speed necessary to generate the kind of power required for this, he’s hit by a lucky shot from a Parademon, delaying Cyborg’s ability to prevent Unity from happening. In the process, the Mother Boxes unleash a torrent of energy powerful enough to vaporize everything and everyone in its path (and possibly the entire world), including Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Aquaman, and even Superman. Barry witnesses this from afar and with only nanoseconds to act, decides to break his own rule about not surpassing the speed of light, for fear of the “crazy things that happen to time” he mentioned earlier in the film.
Needless to say, Barry succeeds in his goal and seems to reverse time by the necessary few seconds as he approaches the Mother Boxes, reconstituting everyone, delaying the explosion long enough for him to give Cyborg the energy needed to hack the Mother Boxes, and stopping things in their tracks long enough for Aquaman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to send Steppenwolf back home… in pieces.
We’re going to come back to Barry in a minute, but let’s just take a moment here to talk about Steppenwolf’s boss.
Darkseid Will Return
Or… he would have returned if Zack Snyder’s original plan for multiple Justice League movies had come to pass. “When I made the film originally, it was part of a five-part trilogy,” the director recently told Vanity Fair. “There were two more episodes of the Justice League to be shot.”
Darkseid isn’t cowed witnessing Steppenwolf have the extraterrestrial crap beaten out of him by Superman, skewered by Aquaman, and decapitated by Wonder Woman. Instead he calmly tells DeSaad to “ready the armada, we’ll use the old ways,” indicating that he’s ready to just invade Earth the old-fashioned way again with a massive alien army and warships.
Why he feels confident in doing this considering how it ended for him the last time is anyone’s guess, but the fact that he knows for sure that Anti-Life is here probably has something to do with it, along with the fact that he can use the Anti-Life Equation to control Superman, who just proved himself to be the most powerful champion in the galaxy.
In other words, the Justice League 3 (yes, three…we’ll get to Justice League 2 in a minute…I told you this would be out of order) that we’ll probably never see would have dealt with Darkseid’s second invasion of Earth and his clash with our heroes. What this means now is that the Knightmare sequence from Batman v Superman (and which is revisited in this film) wasn’t just a nightmare after all, but a vision of a possible future in which Darkseid is successful, at least to some degree.
Which brings us to…
Joker, Batman, Knightmare, and more…
In the not-too-distant future we see Batman, once again wearing his desert togs that we saw in his Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice nightmare. He’s joined by Cyborg, Flash (wearing that weird armored get-up that we saw when he visited Bruce with his “too soon?” warning about Lois Lane in BvS), Deathstroke, and Mera. Why this team?
Well, it turns out the vision Cyborg had during the resurrection of Superman (see? I told you it would keep coming back to that moment!) was what would happen if Darkseid was not only successful in his invasion, but in acquiring the Anti-Life Equation. We know from that vision that Wonder Woman is dead, Darkseid skewered Aquaman just as Aquaman skewered Steppenwolf, and Superman is… not a good guy anymore. Apparently, Darkseid vaporized Lois Lane with his Omega Beams and then used the Anti-Life Equation in Superman’s moment of weakness to bend him to his will.
This explains why Superman is “evil” in Batman’s original Knightmare vision from BvS, and explains the wrecked Hall of Justice, the dead Green Lantern, and more from Cyborg’s vision at the moment of his resurrection. Things are apparently so dire that even the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime and an Agent of Chaos, has thrown in his lot with Batman, the Flash, and all the rest in an attempt to reverse time and save Lois Lane from being obliterated. Hence Joker asking Batman, “You need me to undo this world you created by letting her die. Poor Lois.”
Of course, Joker also hints that the only way to truly undo this is for Batman to ultimately sacrifice himself, and Snyder has indeed said that the plan was for Batman to die at Darkseid’s hands, in his final bid to save Lois. Batman getting fried by Darkseid was a key part of the climax to Grant Morrison’s excellent Final Crisis series, too, but that’s another matter entirely.
And if a ragtag band of heroes and villains fighting an alien invasion and an evil Superman isn’t out there enough for you, Snyder ALSO told Vanity Fair that Batman’s ultimate sacrifice would restore the timeline to where Lois Lane survived…but was pregnant with Bruce’s child. No, not a typo. And then the Justice League trilogy would end with: “Twenty years later, on the anniversary of [Batman’s] death, they take young Bruce Kent down to the Batcave and they say, ‘Your Uncle Bruce would’ve been proud if you did this…something like that.”
Anyway, with this weird potential future stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the more immediate implications of what happened in the ending there.
The Flash and Flashpoint
Barry comes to a realization as he sprints towards Unity that he can “make your own future/your own past/it’s all right now.” When moving at this speed and when he’s this deep in the Speed Force, he perceives time differently than we do.
More importantly, from a wider DCEU standpoint, this is absolutely the moment when Barry realizes that he could potentially change the past. Specifically, he probably wants to go back in time and prevent the murder of his mother, and thus keep his father out of jail. In other words, this is the first seed of what would have been (or will be?) the long-gestating and troubled The Flash solo movie, which will be based on the Flashpoint story.
In Flashpoint, Barry goes back in time, prevents his mother’s murder and…does NOT live happily ever after. Instead, this causes ripples in the timeline that lead to a very strange and unpleasant world, and Barry realizes that maybe he shouldn’t be doing things like that.
The current Flash movie plans (the film is now in the hands of director Andy Muschietti) probably involve Flashpoint in some capacity, since Barry is able to access the multiverse and meets Michael Keaton’s Batman from the Tim Burton movies. So Barry might not have just gone back in time a few seconds here in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, he may have accessed the DC Multiverse itself. That, of course, is another can of worms entirely.
Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, and Batman
Think of this as what would normally be a “mid-credits scene” and a tease for the Justice League 2 that we’ll never see. Lex Luthor escapes from Arkham Asylum (which is a weird place for Lex, but whatever) by using a fakeout move kind of similar to the one Gene Hackman’s Lex pulled in Superman II.
But when next we see Lex, he’s in the recruitment business. His first meeting is with Joe Manganiello as Slade Wilson, better known as Deathstroke. You might remember this scene from the Joss Whedon version of the film, but here it plays out differently. While here, as there, Lex is indeed looking to put together a team of supervillains, he’s a bit more specific here, revealing Batman’s true identity to Slade, who apparently has a grudge against the Dark Knight.
This was supposed to be the premise of the Batman solo movie when Ben Affleck was still involved as both director and star, but that, like so many other DCEU projects, fell to pieces. It’s a shame, because after Affleck’s terrific performance as Batman in this, that really could have been cool.
Lex earning Deathstroke’s loyalty here by doing him this little favor also would have helped set up Lex’s team-building efforts, which apparently would have paid off in Snyder’s planned Justice League 2.
As we learned earlier in the film, Harry Lennix’s General Swanwick was actually J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter in disguise. Here, he finally reveals himself (in his true form no less) to the no-longer-xenophobic Bruce Wayne, who is now fully the hero we hoped he would be when he was introduced in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
It’s pretty self-explanatory stuff. Martian Manhunter tells Bruce Darkseid will come for the Anti-Life Equation, lets him know he’ll be around to help, and flies off. Bruce accepts this pretty readily, and we’re ready for a sequel, and for that “unite the seven” marketing prophecy to finally come true.
But while Lennix’s reveal as Martian Manhunter was always intended to be part of this film and Snyder’s DCEU in general, he wasn’t the superhero intended for this scene! Yes, just as Bruce wanted “room for more” at the Justice League headquarters table, this movie would have also introduced an eighth hero.
“We shot a version of this scene with Green Lantern, but the studio really fought me and said, ‘We really don’t want you to do Green Lantern,’” Snyder told Vanity Fair. “So I made a deal with them, and they let me do this [instead].”
The Green Lantern in question would have been John Stewart. But it turns out the studio has long intended for Stewart to be the center of their Green Lantern Corps movie, so according to Snyder, Martian Manhunter “was the compromise.”
Wait, did I say eight heroes? I meant nine!
Ryan Choi is The Atom
In case you were wondering, Ryan Choi, the STAR Labs scientist who works with Silas Stone throughout the film is indeed an important character from the comics. Choi is destined to become the Atom, the shrinking superhero who will one day become a member of the Justice League.
Here, we see him getting granted the position of “director of nanotechnology” for STAR Labs, a role which will certainly lead to some useful discoveries for him down the line. Hopefully someone decides to give Zheng Kai another shot at the role down the line.
What do you think? Do you still want Zack Snyder’s vision of the DCEU and his plans for Justice League 2 and Justice League 3 to become a reality? Let us know in the comments!