As the launch of Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s shared universe of superheroes began to play out, the arrival of the big screen Justice League was a certainty. But having seen Marvel unite their heroes against a single massive threat, the conversation immediately turned to the threats from DC history that could do the same. And you didn’t have to look far to see that the most obvious solution to bringing Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg together was the forces of the cosmic nightmare Apokolips, and its leader Darkseid.

Batman V Superman packed plenty of hints or outright evidence that Darkseid was on his way to Earth, but our time on the set of Justice League has cleared up much of our confusion. For starters, Darkseid may be on the way, but it’s his general Steppenwolf who will be leading the charge in this story. Not only that, but we now know that the Apokoliptian technology glimpsed in Dawn of Justice wasn’t just an easter egg – but the first introduction to the items that will actually begin the Justice League story.

The producers have promised a mind-blowing prologue to the present-day plot, so for those who can’t wait to hear what lies in store, or need to do some homework on the cosmic technology driving the story, read on to see the Justice League Movie Ancient Prologue & Mother Boxes Explained.

The Prologue

DCEU Justice League Concept Art Justice League: Ancient Prologue & Mother Boxes Explained

Though most of the movie is set in the present-day, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the heroes of the Justice League are going to be fighting an enemy decades, if not centuries in the making. As such, the movie actually begins… well, at the beginning of the story – thousands of years ago. The filmmakers are still keeping the exact ‘event’ of the prologue under wraps (thankfully), but what we do know is this: when the dust settles, the Amazonians and the Old Gods (the ancient Greek gods and goddesses: Zeus, Artemis, etc.) decide that actions must be taken to protect the fate of the planet and its people.

At this time, that consists of three different empires: that of the Amazons, the all-female tribe of warriors, the Atlanteans, at this time building a gleaming civilization above water, and that of Mankind, beginning its march towards the world that we now know. Now, according to previous rumors, the ‘event’ that has brought these three people together is an assault upon the Earth by Darkseid himself. It’s unknown exactly how Darkseid’s forces were beaten by, but perhaps with the Old Gods still fighting on humanity’s behalf, it was enough to turn the tide.

What we know from the actual producers is that the Old Gods, notably Zeus, and the Amazons determine that the mysterious cosmic relics left behind by these invaders must be divided and entrusted to each faction. Relics that, to DC Comics fans, are best known as ‘Mother Boxes.’

Three Empires, Three Mother Boxes

Justice League Movie Prologue Ancient Justice League: Ancient Prologue & Mother Boxes Explained

The producers teased the fact that these Apokoliptian devices “are best when they work in threes,” so depending on which side of the Darkseid/Earth battle you fall, that means they’re either most powerful when joined, or most dangerous. Whichever it is, the Old Gods and their immortal followers determine that they should be kept apart: one will go to the Amazons, led by Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), one will be passed to the ‘Ancient King’ of Atlantis, and the final passed to the early humans (rough depictions above).

Thanks to some concept art of the Mother Boxes themselves, we know that audiences will have no trouble determining which Mother Box comes from which faction. While we don’t know explicitly what the Mother Boxes actually look like in their natural form, we know what they look like once the different factions take hold, and honor them – with each a reflection of their respective technology, culture, and materials. For the Amazons, depicted as the ‘wildest’ of the group, wearing leathers, feathers, and war paint, the Mother Box is blood red in color, intricately decorated in lettering and designs that hint at their metal armor and classical style still to come.

DC Comics Human Mother Box Justice League: Ancient Prologue & Mother Boxes Explained

The Atlanteans, predictably, wind up with a Mother Box ornately styled with crustaceans and coloring of their deep sea kingdom – just as their armor and weaponry’s color and grand designs make them look something similar to the Elves of the Lord of the Rings universe. By contrast, the early humans have a Mother Box as rough and harsh as they are (though not without a sense of culture). The humans appear in the prologue dressed in armor made of bones and animal skins, wielding clubs and crude metal weapons. And their bronze Mother Box is as durable and simple as their own early culture.

The impact that the gifting of these relics have on each culture isn’t something the filmmakers are discussing, but these details raise an important question: does the fact that these Mother Boxes match the future style of these people mean that the concept art was simply revealing the exterior cases for the actual relics, or that the designs themselves are what each culture based their art, crafting, or entire culture upon? There’s something to mull over in the months to come.

What is a Mother Box?

Justice League Movie Mother Box Justice League: Ancient Prologue & Mother Boxes Explained

Thankfully, the question of ‘what is an Apokoliptian Mother Box’ is an easy one to answer, since it’s basically anything you want it to be. That is, it’s an otherworldly, artificial intelligence with impossible abilities and knowledge, and can do just about anything that its user (typically a New God) requests of it. There’s a good chance that the film universe will never pursue a clearer explanation, simply referring to it as a piece of alien technology that humans, Amazons, or Atlanteans simply used, without totally understanding it.

Not for lack of trying, necessarily. A Mother Box is capable of doing more than can be understood by even science fiction: healing, providing wisdom and information its user doesn’t have, carrying complex messages from one point in space to another, and most often, allowing the user to teleport anywhere they require. That feat is accomplished by using ‘Boom Tubes,’ a nickname applied thanks to the sound of one opening. Of course, for those wondering what fictional mythology fuels the devices – which may be the real game-changer in the Justice League film – the details may be a bit too vague.

Justice League Mother Box Explained Justice League: Ancient Prologue & Mother Boxes Explained

But to know what the Mother Boxes are, you have to grasp where they come from: the Fourth World of the DC Universe. Not a literal world, but another dimension, essentially, where beings exist on a higher plane than that of our universe. A higher plane meaning ‘a plane closer to the Source, from which all power and life in the universe is born.’ The Mother Boxes are basically conduits to and from that Source, meaning they may function as artificially intelligent electronic devices, but they’re just as much relics or totems of a mystical, all-powerful entity.

Now, imagine dropping three of those onto Earth when its civilizations are still in their infancy, and there’s no telling just how much they may guide, advance, or damage the progress of the Amazons, Atlanteans, and Humans.

The Villain’s Endgame

Justice League Movie Steppenwolf1 Justice League: Ancient Prologue & Mother Boxes Explained

We know that the Apokoliptian general Steppenwolf will be the one sending Parademons on abduction missions in Justice League, presumably gathering figures somehow tied to the Mother Boxes ( the only confirmed overlap between Earth and Apokolips). We also know that Steppenwolf has always been the lieutenant of Darkseid, Lord of Apokolips – rumored to have first attempted domination of Earth thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, the insights offered by the comics end there.

The notion that three of these Mother Boxes can somehow join together to become even more powerful is largely something new for the fiction, for one major reason: Mother Boxes aren’t all that rare. Just about every New God of Apokolips has been shown to have one, whether it be in the form of a literal box, a dagger, or contained in clothing. So the idea being thrown around by some that Darkseid or Steppenwolf are on a mission to ‘reclaim these lost relics’ seems to tell only half of the story.

There’s something special about these three, but exactly what may be a story told from scratch by Zack Snyder and his team. Only time will tell.

Next: Justice League Prologue & Backstory Revealed?

Suicide Squad will arrive on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017Justice League on November 17, 2017The Flash on March 16, 2018Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018Shazam on April 5, 2019Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020.

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