Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Batman (Ben Affleck) seems to have a lot of trouble getting a good night’s sleep in Batman v Superman. Given that he dwells in darkness (both literally and figuratively) for a great majority of his life, this comes as no surprise. Most of the nightmares that Bruce Wayne has in this new film revolve around the death of his parents and their funeral, but there is one particular sequence in the film utterly divorced from those early traumatic experiences of his.
While he waits for his super-fancy computer to decrypt the information he stole off of Lex Luthor’s servers, Bruce falls asleep at his terminal. The film then cuts to what looks like a post-apocalyptic future, with Batman emerging from a bunker and awaiting the arrival of a military convoy. In the background there as a city burning, with at least one big portal opened in the sky above it.
The convoy appears to be bringing he and his followers some sort of weapon. Unfortunately for the lot of them, it’s a set-up. The soldiers in the convoy turn on Batman and his people, gunning down most of Batman’s soldiers before the Caped Crusader (or Trenchcoated Crusader, in this instance) takes out many of them. He seems to be getting a leg up on these soldiers, who are revealed to be wearing Superman’s symbol on their arms, until reinforcements arrive. Not only to more Superman soldiers arrive, however, but they also have winged monsters in tow as back-up. Batman and his remaining troops are captured and a few minutes later, they are put to death by Superman (Henry Cavill) himself.
Bruce then appears to awaken at his console, only to see a portal chaotically open up beside him. An armored version of The Flash (Ezra Miller) partially appears through it and screams a few things at Bruce before disappearing. “You were right all along!”. “She is the key!”. “Find us!”. Bruce then awakens from his sleep, looking dazed and confused. Judging from the looks of those around me, that audience felt the same way.
So what is simply a dream within a dream? Was Bruce being shown a vision of a possible future? Is the sequence a bit of both? The answer appears to be the latter, but I’m primarily leaning towards “vision of a possible future”. The editing of the sequence certainly does not help matters (nor does the film’s editing overall), but I’ll do my best to examine what it is that we actually witnessed in the scene.
It seems to me that we are being shown a future in which Batman failed to save Martha Kent (Diane Lane). Because of her death, Superman apparently lost faith in humanity and turned on mankind. Most are assuming he is to blame for all of the destruction shown in the sequence, but the presence of other comic book elements suggest otherwise.
The film ends with a vague threat of “He is coming!” from Lex Luthor and Batman having a bad feeling about what lies ahead for humanity. Who is “He”? He is Darkseid. An evil god-like being from the other side of the universe, Darkseid hails from the planet Apokalips and has always had designs for the planet Earth. His coming to our world is inevitable and it is highly likely that Darkseid will be the main villain in next year’s Justice League: Part One.
Judging from visual information presented within Batman’s nightmare, we are seeing a future in which Darkseid has arrived. The portals above the burning city are likely Boom Tubes, which Darkseid uses to unleash his forces around the globe. Those winged creatures helping the Superman soldiers defeat Batman’s forces? They’re likely Parademons, a malicious race of mutated and enslaved beings who serve Darkseid. We also see a Mother Box, something used to help control the Boom Tubes, in the short cameo sequence involving the creation of Cyborg (Ray Fisher).
So what’s the full scoop? It appears that after giving up on mankind, Superman eventually sided with Darkseid upon his arrival. Yes, he is clearly at the command of his own group of soldiers (whom wear his symbol), but the inclusion of Boom Tubes and Parademons makes it clear that Darkseid himself is ruling this horrific potential future. The Flash is merely warning Bruce as best he can that he not only needs to bring the Justice League (Aquaman, Cyborg, The Flash, Wonder Women) together to combat this distant threat, but that he needs to prevent Superman from going down a dark path.
Unfortunately, since the film takes absolutely no steps to make this clear to a regular audience, it will all likely fly over the heads of most folks who are not familiar with the comics. Should the film have stopped dead in its tracks to explain everything? Of course not. It could have, however, made it all make sense by adding two short exchanges of dialogue. An extra 30-60 seconds of words and all would be much clear. For example…
Batman soldier: “Parademons inbound!”
Batman to Superman: “I can’t believe you chose Darkseid over mankind!”
There are more eloquent ways of getting both ideas across, but you get the picture. Here’s hoping the promised longer (and R-rated) cut of the film will contain a bit more information in this regard. The sequence was clearly meant to tease what is coming in Justice League: Part One (and perhaps also Justice League: Part Two), but we as fans already know that stuff is on the horizon. It’s general audiences that are unaware of this pulp sci-fi insanity. They are the ones who needed to be clued in, even if only a little, on this sequence, instead of left scratching there heads. This is another in a long line of weird editing choices that hinders the film in a way that could have easily been prevented.
I said it in my review and I’ll say it again here: This film’s biggest problem was not its performances. Most of the actors carry themselves well in their roles and the majority of them are quite enjoyable in them. It’s biggest problem wasn’t Zack Snyder’s direction. The film is well-shot and well-directed for the most part. It’s biggest problem wasn’t even Terrio & Goyer’s messy script. Batman v Superman‘s biggest problem lies in its editing and there is no better example of it than this particular sequence within a film. A striking set piece made into a confusing mess through poor choices in the editing room.
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