How Justice League Looks To Be Continuing This Problem
The implication in the trailer is that a dream is the reason that the League are uniting in the first place, presumably the Knightmare (which at least promises some explanation for what it really is) but perhaps another, new premonition. Whatever the case, it isn't the arrival of Steppenwolf in Themyscira, or of any tangible, real-world threat, nor what Lex Luthor witnessed and alluded to at the end of Dawn of Justice that sets things in motion.
There is the possibility of finicky trailer editing blurring comprehension lines and that this dream Bruce discusses is unrelated to the bigger threat. Trailer editing is a constant bugbear amongst movie fans, and while Warner Bros. are taking a different, more restrained tactic here, the Doomsday spoiler drop still stings. However, as presented, it means that for all the outside plot interference, the events of both Batman v Superman and Justice League feel like they hinge on how Bruce Wayne interprets an ill-defined outer-body experience.
We've already established the irritation of a rug-pull dream reveal, but this also makes Batman seem out of sorts. The version of the Caped Crusader we've gotten from the DCEU is an older, jaded, brutal take on the Dark Knight, and also one whose first reaction to Superman is to batten down the hatches and prepare for war. Yet while one magical occurrence sends him crazy, another becomes his key motivation (and this is from before the Martha scene); it doesn't fit.
What The DCEU Needs To Change
The real issues center on using dream sequences as get arounds for natural character development. In the DCEU, a hero falls asleep or encounters some figment of their imagination, then wakes up or walks away fundamentally changed; they've been told or shown explicitly a point they need to get to and snap into place rather than becoming that in a real or organic way. This is a big part of why so many have rejected Snyder's attempted deconstructions of these characters.
Why does so much of Batman's development in his introductory film and the baseline for the second film need to be done in this manner? Wouldn't it make for greater storytelling if this occurred via an in-universe cause and effect? Had Batman v Superman opened with a plain telling of the Waynes' murder, Bruce only taken steps to stop Superman out of his own fear (or secret puppet-mastery from Lex Luthor), and Clark Kent wrestled with his internal demons of heroism in a less hokey manner, it's likely the film wouldn't have proven as divisive; there'd still be oft-cited problems, but they'd tidy up the narrative flow.
Put this way, the franchise trope of dreams just isn't necessary (indeed, it's worth noting similarly confounding flashbacks hampered Suicide Squad, although that was part of a bigger problem). A smart move would be to just question each one's inclusion in future; while they may make for impactful fan moments that allow a wider net of comic book influences, their current usage evidently doesn't lead to better films.
Justice League can have dream sequences and work. The Lois and Clark scene is clearly key to the film's core vision and there's every opportunity we'll get some level of subversion of Batman's ethereal motivations (just as Blade Runner 2049 did for the special one trope). However, based on the franchise's form, it's definitely a concern.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020