Everything that happens in Zack Snyder’s Justice League is because of Mother Boxes. Mother Boxes are otherworldly containers that wield ultimate power, especially when combined. However, after seeing the movie, I have some questions about how they actually work.
To talk about the Mother Boxes, we’ll have to get into some minor Justice League spoilers. Best to keep away until you’ve seen the film.
Okay, so the whole reason the Justice League is formed in Justice League is to stop Steppenwolf. He’s an ultra-powerful character who, thousands of years ago, brought three Mother Boxes to Earth to try and conquer it. He was defeated, though, and since then the boxes have lain dormant. That is, until Superman died. Once Superman was dead, Earth spiraled into chaos and the boxes deemed it ready to be conquered again. So they called Steppenwolf back to Earth so he could reunite the boxes and form the Unity, a power which would turn Earth into a living hell and make it ready for Darkseid.
That’s the gist of it, right?
Okay, so let’s dig into it. When do the Mother Boxes decide that Earth is ripe for the picking? Superman is dead now, that is true. And his death has made the world hopeless. But wasn’t Superman also not around for thousands of years between the first war with the Mother Boxes on Earth and this one? Why didn’t they call Steppenwolf before? Maybe they were scared of Kryptonian ships that were on the planet, but that seems like a stretch if no one knew they were there.
That whole first war is weird too. We’re told that, thousands of years ago, Atlanteans, Amazons, and humans teamed up with the Gods, Green Lanterns, and whoever else to defeat Steppenwolf and his minions. Fine, that works. But once they won, why would they decide to hide all three boxes on a single planet? Sure, the Atlanteans and Amazons are ultra-powerful, but humans aren’t. Why didn’t the Green Lanterns take one? Or the Gods? No, let’s leave them all on Earth, so if Steppenwolf comes back, he can get them in a single swoop.
Either way, each Mother Box is being protected on Earth. The first one we see in Justice League is being guarded by an army of Amazons. Now, it kind of seems like they’ve been standing there for thousands of years which, of course, isn’t true. They likely were stationed there in rotating shifts once the box woke up. But again, when and how did it wake up? And when it did wake up, why didn’t it just immediately call Steppenwolf? Did it need to charge up?
Then, once Steppenwolf gets that first box, why does the next box take so long to call him? Why doesn’t it just call him right away? Shouldn’t they have all called at once? The actual answer is that the movie needed time for some exposition about the other characters, but it still feels super flimsy.
Lex Luthor knew about these Mother Boxes too, right? There were drawings of them in his notes. So why does Bruce Wayne offer to pay $30,000 to Arthur Curry for an explanation when he could just go and talk to Lex Luthor? The reason, probably, is Luthor doesn’t know... or he doesn’t trust Luthor, and I don’t blame him. But that seems like it would have been at least worth a shot.
You have to guess Luthor partially knew about the Mother Boxes because he had footage of one of fusing itself to Victor Stone to create Cyborg. Which, in itself, raises even more questions. Weren’t the Mother Boxes dormant until Superman died? That one wasn’t, obviously. Or did it just wake up suddenly a few years before to create Cyborg and then go back to sleep? And if it was awake, even for a bit, did Steppenwolf feel that?
Plus, in the comics aren’t the Mother Boxes semi-sentient? And can’t they talk to other characters and do all these incredible things? That would have added a nice twist to the story, to have them fight back themselves as well as work with Steppenwolf. Maybe call in reinforcements, heal Steppenwolf, something. But the movie totally takes their comic book complexity out of the equation. Or, at least, just refuses to mention it. They could still be able to do those things; it just never comes into play.
Finally, once the Justice League prevails over Steppenwolf, why does the Unity change into this weird, alien plant life? Is that saying the Mother Boxes don’t only have to be used for evil? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the spreading evil just to vanish? Or for it to stay there?
Frankly, I could go on and on about the Mother Boxes in Justice League and how they are beyond baffling. Like Steppenwolf, Mother Boxes come from the cosmically trippy New Gods mythos that Jack Kirby created at DC decades ago. They could’ve been introduced in a cooler, more imaginative ways, but in Justice League, they’re basically Amazon Echoes for a big, dumb villain. And that sucks.