Zack Snyder Delves Into Justice League's Ending—and What Could've Come After

Batman lives a Knightmare of his own design in Batman v Superman.
Batman lives a Knightmare of his own design in Batman v Superman.
Image: Warner Bros.

Four years on from the release of Joss Whedon’s mangled Justice League—the ramifications of which are still being felt, both at Warner Bros. and among fandom circles alike—Zack Snyder’s Justice League has been unleashed upon the world. But this is a Zack Snyder project, so of course it’s far from over.

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Speaking to Vanity Fair today, Snyder blows wide open the largest addition he made to his four-hour-long take on Justice League. That addition was made possible by the film’s financial injection to properly “finish” what the director already had when he first departed the project under tragic circumstances. But “finish” feels wrong to say, when those additions actually untie plot threads of his Justice League to set the stage for multiple new movies.

“They didn’t want me to suggest more films to come, they wanted me to cul-de-sac it as much as I could,” Snyder told Vanity Fair, before offering a fascinating, grim, but astonishingly true sentiment about comic book blockbusters as we know them. “I’m like, ‘Look, that’s just not the genre.’ It’s not the comic book genre to end the story, regardless if we ever make [another] one or not.”

So he didn’t. And while these are movies that may never be seen, the director then went on to set up what could’ve happened in two more Justice League films—the conclusion to what he believes is a “five-part trilogy,” alongside Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman, and now Justice League. If you’ve not had the four entire hours to sit down with the new film just yet, you’re going to want to turn around now.

Illustration for article titled Zack Snyder Delves Into Justice League's Ending—and What Could've Come After

Snyder’s Justice League concludes its gargantuan runtime—divided into six “parts,” even if it is presented as one long, continuous thing on HBO Max—with a roughly 30-minute long epilogue sequence. It’s here you’ll see things like Harry Lennix’s Martian Manhunter appearing to Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne (Snyder originally wanted John Stewart’s Green Lantern, but Warner Bros. pushed back against usage of the Green Lanterns in general, presumably due to its own plans for that stable of characters), and an expanded version of what became the 2017 film’s post-credit scene, a team-up between Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke that would’ve set the stage for Affleck’s now-scrapped solo Batman movie.

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But the bulk of its runtime is given over to an alternate-reality known as the “Knightmare sequence,” previously hinted at in Batman v Superman and the theatrical release of Justice League as an alternate future where DC’s New Gods/Apokolips character Darkseid successfully subjugates the Earth. It’s here Affleck’s Batman—alongside Ray Fisher as Cyborg, Amber Heard’s Mera, Ezra Miller’s Flash, and Manganiello’s Deathstroke—gets a scene Snyder always wanted to do: putting him up against Jared Leto’s Joker.

“The cool thing about the scene is that it’s Joker talking directly to Batman about Batman,” Snyder said. “It’s Joker analyzing Batman about who he is and what he is. That’s the thing I also felt like fans deserved from the DC Universe. That is to say, the Jared Leto Joker and the Ben Affleck Batman, they never really got together.”

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The Joker’s barbs set the stage for an alternate reality that would’ve been explored, and ultimately undone (as it is in this version of Justice League), across two more films. Calling back to a line from future-Flash in Batman v. Superman—in which the speedster tells “our” Batman that “Lois Lane is the key”—Snyder wanted to explore a timeline where, knowing that Superman’s true weakness is his greatest love, Darkseid’s agents hunted down Amy Adams’ Lois Lane and, after Batman fails to stop them, murder her. “Darkseid comes to Earth. Superman says to Batman, ‘Guard Lois. This is a war between me and Darkseid. If you can help me as a friend, keep Lois safe,’” Snyder explained. “Lex tells Darkseid that the key to Superman’s weaknesses is killing Lois Lane. For whatever reason, Batman fails. Darkseid comes back and kills Lois. Batman fails, he hesitates. They were in an argument.”

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This would’ve created the reality now seen in Justice League’s epilogue, where Batman’s ragtag group of survivors attempt to go back and change time, avoiding the wrath of Superman, now controlled by Darkseid’s mastery of the Anti-Life Equation—a powerful command from the comics that lets whoever successfully masters it dominate the minds of the galaxy. But that’s not even the wildest thing about Snyder’s revelations. It’s why Batman fails to save Lois: he’d fallen in love with her in the time between Superman’s death and resurrection.

The final Justice League movie would’ve seen Batman’s apocalyptic team successfully manage to go back in time to the moment of Lois’ death and encourage the past Batman to overcome his feelings and sacrifice himself to save Lois and all of reality. “Superman doesn’t succumb to the Anti-Life Equation,” Snyder said of this new, Batman-less timeline. “Then the final movie has Aquaman leading the forces of Atlantis, Diana leading forces of Themyscira, and Superman and Flash leading the forces of [humans] against Darkseid in a giant war.”

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You can’t have a DC Universe without a Batman for long, and that’s where the 2021 version of Justice League comes back into the picture. When Snyder’s film picks up with Lois, a brief shot of her rummaging through a dresser reveals a positive pregnancy test. It’s never picked up on in the film again, but according to Snyder, that would’ve set the stage for the big reveal of his third Justice League film. “It was going to be Lois and Superman’s son,” Snyder concluded. “He doesn’t have any powers, and then he was going to end up being the new Batman. 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.’”

It’s...a lot to take in. And the fact that Snyder has unleashed this bucketload of information to the public as his cut finally sees the light of day indicates that, perhaps, he’s doing so as a way to let fans know that for all the set up in the “Snyder Cut” as we now know it, this future series of movies won’t ever actually get made. After all, now you know all the ins and outs of what would’ve been a wild trifecta of Justice League movies, do you really need to see it unfold?

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But then again, this is Zack Snyder, a man who’s become very keenly aware of the power of wielding his fan’s desires in the last four years. “I didn’t think I’d be here talking about [a restored] Justice League,” Snyder teased to Vanity Fair. “So never say never.”

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is now streaming on HBO Max.

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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

DISCUSSION

A five-part trilogy.

For fuck’s sake.