Audiences watching Batman V Superman were probably more confused than anything when a Mother Box first appeared to give birth to Cyborg (pictured above), cracking the DCEU mythology wide open and setting the stage for Justice League. Since then the studio has confirmed the comic book cubes are a key factor in the next team-up, but it's hard to imagine that the few short glimpses of them in Justice League's trailers were intended to reveal as much as they have. In short, quite possibly the entire plot of the movie from beginning to end.
For those unfamiliar with Mother Box mythology, they're best described as magic, intelligent cubes created by DC's New Gods (the race of beings to which Darkseid, and his general Steppenwolf belong). For the DCEU, however, Zack Snyder has done some creative re-imagining, singling out three Mother Boxes left on our planet after Darkseid's first war against Earth. Darkseid wants them back, and he's sending Steppenwolf to get them. But thousands of years can make anything hard to find... so the Justice League trailers revealing the locations of these relics comes in handy.
And if fans want to pay close enough attention, we may be able to sketch out the movie's story, twists, character motivations, seeds for future spinoffs, and a connection to be teased in Wonder Woman. Let's get started.
The Mother Box of Mankind
Before we begin, we would recommend catching up to speed on the Justice League's opening battle scenes, depicting the ancient war mentioned above. The forces of Apokolips were vanquished with the combined efforts of Mankind, the Amazons, and Atlantis (with some help from the Greek gods, of course), and the three Mother Boxes left behind. It's unclear just how unique these versions are supposed to be in the DCEU's version of Apokolips, since they are positively common in the comics, but they seem to have been instrumental in Apokolips's plan for Earth, and were therefore divided for the safety of everyone.
One was entrusted to each of the three empires, and the first one actually revealed came in Justice League's Comic-Con trailer, showing a human king burying the relic in the middle of a forest. It seems that whatever powers the Mother Box could bring to its bearer, if any, was deemed too great a risk, and was (intentionally) lost to history. Or, if you're feeling a bit more optimistic about humanity, it's possible Mankind saw the Amazons and Atlanteans as untrustworthy, and took it upon themselves to guarantee the three would never be united by casting it into an unknown hole.
Whatever the case, the Mother Box popping up in Batman V Superman's montage of Justice League teasers (minus its metallic, decorative exterior, we presume) was almost certainly this Box, used by Dr. Silas Stone to transform the remains of his son, Victor, into 'Cyborg.' Little did he know that the unknown alien relic would reshape both their lives before long.
Now, we can jump to what the new Justice League trailer revealed. First came a clip of Silas in his apartment being ambushed by a Parademon soldier of Steppenwolf, juxtaposed with the unmistakable glow of his secret Mother Box. Apparently, he knows enough about the device to realize keeping it concealed in his home is a wise move. In our breakdown of the Justice League trailer, we pieced together this trailer footage with what we learned, and suspected from our visit to the film's set. Specifically that Cyborg turns down the invitation to the Justice League, until he learns that his father has been kidnapped by the Parademons due to his familiarity with the missing Mother Box.
Vic Stone may not be ready to save the world, but he's ready to save his father. He joins up with Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and The Flash. And according to the trailer image above, he's bringing the Mother Box the Parademons were looking for along with him. It's an interesting reveal which can be taken two different ways. Vic could, with the use of his own Apokoliptian programming, deduce the plan and prize the Parademons were after. Or, he could be making his intentions of ransoming his father for the Box clear to Batman and company.
Either way, the mythology hinted at so far suggests that Steppenwolf (or his commander, Darkseid) having just one of the Mother Boxes isn't the end of the world. Three is the magic number... but it's still bad news if he gets his hands on two.
The Mother Box of Atlantis
Here is where things become a lot more interesting, as the most immediate Atlantis plot - the location and protection of their Mother Box - opens larger doors into Atlantis and Aquaman's complex, New 52 history (which happens to have been largely written by DC Films boss Geoff Johns). First, the obvious: the above shot of Amber Heard's Mera also seems to include the Mother Box entrusted to the Atlanteans alongside their victorious human allies. And, typical to their culture and personality, they have decided that giving the relic a visible place of honor is preferable to secrecy or security.
No one can blame them, since it's a fairly incredible chunk of their culture's history. But it may hold a far more tragic significance to the Atlanteans who remember that when their ancestors drove back the Apokolips invasion with Mankind and the Amazons, Atlantis was a mighty and glorious kingdom - above the surface of the ocean. That's a piece of New 52 history that we believe will be adapted to the DCEU in that same ancient prologue (the Mother Box being placed at the top of a now-illogical staircase supports the theory).
Fans can immediately speculate on whether or not the Mother Box itself was to blame for the sinking of Atlantis, but there's another shot in the same trailer that may have Mera wishing they had upped their royal security.
That's an image of Aquaman himself (Jason Momoa) swimming through the same hallowed underwater chamber as the previous shot (the Mother Box's podium has just passed out of frame on the left). And yes, that is an image of Steppenwolf's giant battle axe being hurled at the aquatic hero. Since Aquaman has clearly yet to reclaim his Atlantean armor and signature weapon, it would seem that Steppenwolf personally seeks out this Mother Box first - perhaps because it's the easiest to find. Somehow Aquaman survives Steppenwolf's attack, and presumably retrieves said armor and weapon to prevent the villain's use of his people's relic.
Aquaman fans will want to pay close attention to this next part. Remember when we mentioned that Atlantis sunk sometime after the victory over Apokolips? Well in Geoff Johns's Aquaman comic run, the identity of the king who sunk Atlantis in a blind rage can be known. That calamitous ruler's name was King Atlan, the first and greatest ruler of Atlantis whose trident was powerful enough to sink the kingdom with a single strike. That's the 'ancient Atlantean king' we expect to see leading his army into their greatest battle... and he may have already been shown in a prior piece of Justice League footage.
We're referring to the brief clip of Jason Momoa's Aquaman swimming underwater, or more specifically, what it is that he's swimming up to in that shot. His destination is what looks to be a statue of a seating king, dressed in the armor Aquaman later wears, wielding the trident Aquaman later uses, and bearing the crown Aquaman... leaves behind. If that king is intended to be Atlan, then it's possible that Aquaman will pursue the relic of Atlantis's greatest victory, wearing the armor of the king who won it, and wielding the weapon with which he ruined his kingdom.
How's that for poetic?
The Amazons Alone Can Keep The Secret?
The only lingering question is the location of the Mother Box granted to the Amazons. After all, if Steppenwolf can only gather two of the three, it sounds like his plan will be over before it's begun. Fortunately for fans of the DCEU, the Wonder Woman origins trailer shows the woman warriors favor secrecy and protection more than their former allies. Honestly, it's hard to know if Steppenwolf could even find the Amazons, since they inhabit an island hidden from the outside world (gifted to them by Zeus himself).
It's the one real mystery that we haven't been able to puzzle out - and that may be the whole point. It seems fitting, thematically, that at one point in the distant past of the DCEU, the realms of Man, Amazon, and Atlantean were equally honored. Humans decided they couldn't be trusted with such power, and hid it away. Atlanteans claimed it at the heights of their glory, and tumbled into the sea soon after. The Amazons kept their faith, honored the gods, and may end up saving the planet (and beyond?) as a result. Basically, the exact kind of discipline you would expect from the warriors who raised Wonder Woman.
That being said, it's purely our speculation. We could be completely wrong, and Steppenwolf may have also swooped into Themyscira and stolen the Mother Box away by the time the film begins. Either that, or Wonder Woman's solo movie will offer a crash course in Amazonian history that makes mention of that ancient battle, and the relic that was lost in their escape to Themyscira.
Your guesses and theories are as good as ours, so we welcome each and every one of them in the comments!
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017