Despite reassurances from the cast and producers, it was clear the moment Justice League hit theaters that it had seen some severe alterations from the movie made by Zack Snyder. The tone was drastically different, the visuals were not the same, plot points set up in previous installments were missing, and footage from which made up the majority of the movie's trailers. It has since surfaced that Zack Snyder didn't merely take a step back from the project, but was actually removed by the studio during post-production, bringing on Joss Whedon to lighten the tone, add humor, and cut the runtime down to under 2 hours.
A recently revealed storyboard proved that Snyder's original movie hewed far closer to Batman v Superman than the final product, specifically in the reappearance of the infamous "Knightmare" alternate future, featuring a stunning appearance of DC universe big bad, Darkseid - a character totally cut from Justice League.
Due to the numerous changes during reshoots and post-production, it's not immediately obvious where this scene would fit into the theatrical cut of Justice League, but a close examination of a few scenes and some additional information reveals exactly how the Knightmare worked into the original plot of Justice League and confirms just how important Darkseid was to Zack Snyder's Justice League.
This Page: The Knightmare's True Purpose Revealed
The Knightmare's True Purpose Revealed
The Knightmare scene was one of the more surprising scenes in Batman v Superman, featuring what appeared to be a potential future where Earth had been devastated, reformed in the shape of Apokolips, complete with Apokoliptian firepits and a giant Omega symbol - the brand of Darkseid - in what used to be Gotham Harbor. Batman leads a ragtag group of followers, all decked out in Mad Max style wasteland garb. They receive a special shipment Batman believes to be Kryptonite, but he's betrayed and has to fight off a horde of Parademons and Superman branded soldiers before being subdued and captured.
Tied up with other prisoners, Batman is confronted by a dark, angry Superman, who tells Batman “she was my world, and you took her from me,” before he kills the fallen Caped Crusader. Back in the main reality, Bruce Wayne jolts awake from what seemed to be a dream, only to have the Knightmare future version of The Flash tear through spacetime in the Speed Force to deliver a warning:
"Bruce! Listen to me right now! It’s Lois! Lois Lane! She’s the key! Am I too soon!? I'm too soon! You were right about him! You were always right about him! Fear him! Fear him and find us. You have to come find us, Bruce!"
Needless to say, the whole thing appeared to lack context, both for the audience and for Bruce Wayne, who used the dark premonition to fuel his fear of Superman conquering humanity, ultimately leading to his titular face off against Man of Tomorrow.
The Knightmare would be teased again at the end of the movie when Batman visits Lex Luthor in prison. The Ultimate Edition of the movie reveals that Lex had been communing with the data archives in the downed Kryptonian scout ship, and had seen an image of Darkseid's military commander, Steppenwolf, and three Mother Boxes. Luthor is clearly rattled by what was revealed, telling Batman:
"The bell's already been rung. And they've heard it. Out in the dark among the stars. Ding dong, the God is dead. But a bell cannot be unrung! He's hungry. He's found us. And he's coming!"
The Knightmare sequence happened in an alternate future where the Justice League had already come together and built the Hall of Justice at Wayne Manor. Using the Mother Boxes, Darkseid devastated the Earth, and Superman joined forces with him, likely because of the loss of Lois in an incident he apparently blames Batman for. After he kills Batman, Flash travels back in time to warn Bruce. While it's still a bit of a mystery exactly what his words mean, Bruce's dialogue in the trailers referring to his dream about the end of the world, Luthor's warning, and the appearance of Darkseid in the storyboard, the "him" in Flash's warning could be Darkseid. The insistence that Lois is "the key" is a little more obvious as that concept still made it into the theatrical cut of Justice League with Batman referring to her as the "big guns."
The scene that would have depicted all of this was another dream-esque premonition, but instead of happening to Batman again, it actually happens to Cyborg during his interface with the scout ship. Considering he's made out of Apokoliptian tech, he's plugged into a Kryptonian ship, and Flash uses the Speed Force to zap a Mother Box, there's obviously a number of crazy science fiction reasons this could happen.
This dream is the reason for his violent reaction to Superman, which triggers the fight in Heroes Park. In a line of dialogue that may have escaped the effort to remove references to Snyder's original plan, Victor's armor starts freaking out and he says "It's my armor's defense system. It's stronger since the interface." This makes little sense in the context of the theatrical cut, but if his interface had resulted in a Knightmare premonition, then it makes sense that it would react defensively against Superman, considering the Man of Steel may have killed the rest of the League (or at least Batman) in the dark potential future.
This understandably creates an even bigger conflict between the League and Superman than was seen in the movie, while also setting up the potential devastation that can be caused by Darkseid, which brings us to his place in all this.
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