[WARNING: This breakdown includes MASSIVE potential plot spoilers. Read at your own risk.]
The age of the Justice League universe is now fully upon us, as Batman V Superman finally hits theaters, revealing much, much more than just the two title heroes. A lot has been made about the introduction of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), but the film lays an even broader foundation, planting seeds (or outright cameos) from the rest of the Justice League roster.
Unfortunately, some of the introductions can be lost on those unfamiliar with the characters in question - and in one case, raise massive questions about the universe that Zack Snyder has kicked-off. To guarantee that fans know exactly what they're seeing, and pointing out details that may have been overlooked - not to mention give casual viewers curious to know what was revealed at all - we've decided to take a closer look at the now-official origins/cameos/connections to the coming League.
Needless to say, the following analysis and discussion will be packed with MASSIVE SPOILERS (even ones that didn't get leaked before release). So proceed at your own risk...
5. Wonder Woman
Fans were completely aware that Wonder Woman a.k.a. Diana Prince (her civilian identity is confirmed thanks to a Turkish Airlines flight attendant) would be joining in on the fun, but what wasn't known is that she would be acting as the gateway to the rest of the DCEU meta-humans. After seeking out access to Lex Luthor's protected files, Diana must return them to Bruce, since they've been encrypted - keeping her from retrieving "the photo" he had taken which she so desperately wished to destroy. Once Bruce unlocked it, we learn that it isn't a photo Diana needs, but one featuring her - and she's not alone.
The photo is clearly taken from the set of the Wonder Woman origin movie, with Gadot's co-stars Chris Pine, Ewen Bremner and Saïd Taghmaoui, among others. A vintage photograph from Diana's exploits in 1918 (in what looks to be a war-torn village) isn't evidence of meta-human activity on its own, but when combined with the surveillance footage of her in the modern era, the Amazonian's immortality is made clear. What isn't clear is how Lex Luthor came into possession of the photograph to begin with, since according to Diana, she left western society for a century (long enough for her story to become nothing but rumors, perhaps).
It's also unclear how Diana came to know that Lex possessed evidence of her superhuman physiology, or how large a role she actually played in WWI. Those are questions obviously answered only in future films, but the early look at the Wonder Woman solo movie is an unexpected surprise. And in the end, it was just one of many.
4. The Flash
That's right, The Flash a.k.a. Barry Allen a.k.a. Ezra Miller makes not one, but TWO cameos in the story. The first of which is almost guaranteed to be the one more hotly debated, since it establishes the character as one mired in time travel right off the bat. The marketing showed more than a few lengthy looks at the 'Knightmare' sequence, named for its nature as a dream sequence from the brain of Bruce Wayne; his nightmare worst case scenario for aliens coming to Earth. But when he wakes from the dream, seated at the Bat Computer, things get even stranger.
Without warning, a tear in space and time erupts next to him, with an armored man half-emerging with a desperate message. The facemask slides up to reveal Barry Allen (Miller), informing Bruce that "you were right about him." The audience, like Bruce, recognizes that the most obvious interpretation is that Bruce is right to fear the worst of Superman. Urging Bruce to "find us" - presumably meaning other Meta Humans - and mentioning Lois Lane by name doesn't just give Bruce a reason to team up with Diana at the film's conclusion, but confirms that Lois is important to the future, in some way or another. Will her death send Superman on a path to becoming the murderous leader we see in the Knightmare? Or is Barry telling Bruce to protect Lois at all costs, since she is Superman's true weakness - if she's lost, so is their fight.
Combining these details with the Knightmare sequence, the fact that Bruce seems to actually see the arrival of Darkseid (the massive Omega symbol) and his Apokoliptian parademons (the winged, goggled soldiers) needs some closer examination. If Barry really is trying to contact Bruce from the future (it would be truly strange for these lines to be nothing but a dream), then perhaps this was just the first time Barry spoke to him directly, having previously projected visions of the world that could become real if Bruce fails to act. And pay close attention to the fluttering papers in the background when Bruce "wakes up" - papers that could only have been sent flying by Barry's arrival.
Whatever the case, it's only the first cameo from The Flash, and the second delivers on the superspeed fans of the hero have been dying to see. When accessing the rest of Lex's encrypted files, Diana stumbles upon one that seems mundane compared to the others: a young man caught in a convenience store robbery. With a smirk, the man - Barry Allen - halts the crime in a heartbeat, sending the cameras into digital destruction as lightning flashes everywhere around him. It may not be the clearest look at his powers, but if the solo Flash movie is going to be a true origin, Zack Snyder has at least shown the time-hopping hero Barry will become, and how important he can be to the world as a whole.
Obviously, the most prominent comic book story involving Barry Allen traveling back through time in recent years has been "Flashpoint", but in truth, there are too many to count. The very nature of Barry's time travel implies that the future is constantly in flux, or that the past has been formed by numerous trips he has yet to make... but already has. The bottom line: more than a few comic arcs have seen Earth reduced to a desert, or a nightmare to one or all heroes. The hints here don't tie directly to one story or another, but the mere suggestion that Barry is traveling back to prevent the future from being set is in keeping with the spirit of his character - especially relying on Bruce Wayne, the pragmatist, to get the job done, and understand the gravity of the message.
Continuing the march of meta-humans on display in Lex Luthor's cache of top secret files, video of an underwater shipwreck reveals a pair of glowing eyes in its ruptured hull. When those eyes become a man, it's no surprise that they belong to Aquaman a.k.a. Jason Momoa, in his full, tattooed, trident-ed glory. Unfortunately, Aquaman gets arguably the shortest end of the stick (at least in terms of fans eager to see how James Wan will tackle the challenge of setting a superhero movie underwater). After taking a shot at the camera with his trident, a camera farther away from the destroyed rig captures Aquaman as he bursts away from the wreck fast enough to send out not one, but two shockwaves.
How does he swim so fast? No idea. Does this footage imply that he has already returned to his underwater culture, instead of pre-release speculation that suggested he would be raised on the mainland only to discover his powers later in life? Or is this confirmation that the hero's origin story will be significantly reimagined? And most importantly, where does his unmitigated rage for underwater camera rigs originate? We may not know the answers until the Justice League gives him a proper introduction to the team.
Finally, it's Vic Stone a.k.a. Cyborg that takes the spotlight... with some help from his father, Silas Stone (Joe Morton). We had theorized earlier on that, in keeping with the usual comic book origin, Vic, a promising young football star, could be mortally wounded in either the Superman/Zod battle from Man of Steel, or the showdown with Doomsday in this film. The former is still possible, but when the files are accessed, Vic is already little more than a torso and head, suspended on a S.T.A.R. Labs workboard as his father records his findings to the camera.
As time passes, Silas resorts to technology, and electronic replacements in order to keep his son alive. The damage to Vic is even greater than the comics usually depict, leaving him with a mainly-artificial body. As he is brought to life (not unlike Frankenstein's monster), Vic begins to scream, confirming that he actually is on his way back to walking, talking, and fighting alongside the Justice League.
But Vic's condition isn't helped by random chance. It's a strange, pulsing box that gets the action started, and that box is instantly familiar to avid readers of DC Comics...
1. The Mother Box
The final video clip highlighting Cyborg features Silas noting that a mysterious cube has become operational, resembling a box made up of fluctuating tiles, pulsing and reconfiguring as a strong light shines from within. When this bix comes close to Vic, it goes into auto-pilot, zapping the components around him, and triggering the formation of a cybernetic skeleton and limbs. It may seem like unknown technology simply meant to look futuristic or artificially intelligent, but it seems most likely, given the other hints offered, that it's a bona fide Mother Box, hailing straight from the New Gods.
For those who don't know, the planet Apokolips is the home territory of Darkseid, one of the New Gods responsible for challenging Earth's heroes more times than can be counted. The prime technology of the New Gods are the aforementioned 'Mother Boxes,' a combination of sentient technological being, an A.I., and a magical guardian angel. In Cyborg's most recent origin in DC's New 52, it was one such Mother Box - left behind by an invading parademon - that triggered the same surge of healing (compiling his body out of alien tech that the scientists couldn't hope to understand).
Are we seeing the same origin story play out here? Is the unmistakable "ping ping ping" of the Mother Box connected to Lex Luthor's repeated "ding"s in his final, cryptic warning of an approaching enemy? Too soon to tell, but if Lex learned of Apokolips aboard the Kryptonian spaceship, the presence of a Mother Box in Silas Stone's lab suggests he may not actually be alone in knowing Earth has been visited by citizens of another world.
Those are the simplest explanations and breakdowns of the cameos that we could come up with, but which key points do you think we've left out? Let us know in the comments, and if you were unclear about these or another sequence, don't hesitate to ask, and we'll do our best to offer some insight.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19, 2020.