It has now been confirmed that the races battling in the flashback sequence in Justice League were actually supposed to be fighting for Darkseid's Anti-Life Equation. Many changes and reshoots took place once Zack Snyder left the film and Joss Whedon took over as director. Since then, fans have been petitioning to have a Snyder cut of the film which may have included Darkseid and his Anti-Life Equation.
The Anti-Life Equation is different depending on which comic you are reading. It is most often a literal equation but it was a weapon, and even a living entity at one point in the comics. In short, the equation convinces people that life, hope, and freedom are pointless, allowing the wielder of the equation to conquer any form of life. It is unknown to what extent the Anti-Life Equation would have been used for in the film, but given the fact that Darkseid was originally going to be in the film makes the equation seem much more important.
Weta Digital has confirmed on their website that the massive battle depicted in the flashback was because of the Anti-Life Equation. Under the films tab on their website for Justice League, the caption for their contribution reads, "We handled the massive battle flashback where Steppenwolf and legions of armies from all over the DC Universe fight for the anti-life equation." Since digital effects departments obviously have to have a deep understanding of the film before they can begin creating CGI worlds, this confirms that the Anti-Life Equation was supposed to be included in the original cut of Justice League.
The big baddie of Justice League was first seen in a deleted scene from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice holding three of the Mother Boxes. Together, the Mother Boxes form a weapon called Unity which can terraform an entire planet. Steppenwolf's big plan in Justice League was to literally transform Earth into the planet Apokolips after he collected all three Mother Boxes.
Snyder also teased the equation back in March when a fan asked him a question on the Vero True Social app. David Peña asked if the firey designs on the ground were actually alluding to anything in which Snyder simply replied, "Do the math". Given this tease with the confirmation from Weta Digital, the Anti-Life Equation was definitely supposed to be present in Justice League. It is unknown whether the inclusion of the Anti-Life Equation would have supported Unity or simply replaced it but either way, it is what Snyder had originally intended.
Source: Weta Digital
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