The past of the DCEU has proven divisive, but the future of Justice League is the only conversation to be had thanks to the release of the newest trailer. New looks have been offered of the team working together, a tease of the villain Steppenwolf, and most importantly the ancient war between Apokolips, Atlantis, Amazons, and mankind. Because as action packed and unexpected as the invasion of Steppenwolf and his Parademon soldiers may be, the story of Justice League begins thousands of years ago in Earth's unrecorded history.
That secret was revealed during our Justice League set visit, with the producers outlining the prologue sequence that opens the movie. To understand why Apokolips has returned to Earth, audiences will see the Parademons' first attempt at conquering the planet - and who stopped them. An alliance between Atlantis, the Amazons, and early Mankind fought back the alien invasion, before dividing themselves into their isolated, modern empires. And thanks to the Justice League trailer, fans have their first look at that (predictably awesome) battlefield.
The War For Earth
Following that set visit, we gave a detailed summary of Justice League's prologue and war scenes. But seeing is believing, and the images spliced into the trailer are easy to miss, but reveal much. At first glance, the scene pictured above may look like any usual blockbuster war scene forged in the Lord of the Rings tradition, with countless thousands facing off against thousands more. But on closer inspection, fans can see that not only are those Apokoliptian troop transports landing in the distance, but the three allied empires of Earth can be picked out on the battlefield as well.
The sprawling horde of Parademons kicking up dust (and given air support by their winged infantry) are easy enough to make out on the opposing side, but note the differences on the nearer front. On the left side, just above the molten slash into the Earth's crust you can make out the Amazons cavalry charge. The dust being churned up by their horses makes their silhouettes easier to decipher (and the following shot giving their perspective of the enemy ships seems to confirm this angle of attack). But they're just one of three columns engaging the Apokoliptians.
Closest to the viewer, the gleaming gold armor of the Atlantean soldiers is impossible to miss, making sure that each and every fighter is well lit by the sunlight reflecting from behind the enemy ranks. That leaves that deceptively sparse space in between the two - look closer, and you can see the army put forward by the nations of Man, cloaked in dark animal furs, with the occasional flicker of their metal and leather armor and shields. Three races, three empires, forged into one front... but that wouldn't last for long.
An Alliance of Three Empires
Now, exactly what has brought the forces of Apokolips to Earth - led by either Steppenwolf or Darkseid himself - hasn't been revealed. The comics would offer an explanation, but we're not sure that the DCEU will be leaping into the cosmic mythology of the "Anti-Life Equation" typically sought after by Darkseid so soon. Especially since it doesn't seem to fit too well with Steppenwolf's usual motivation of... well, just killing whoever opposes his army. For now, we would advise fans to view this prologue from the perspective of those actually fighting within it.
It's entirely possible that they did not know exactly who was invading, what brought them to Earth, or what would befall the planet if they were not resisted. But when an enemy scars the face of your planet by its mere presence, you find common ground. So that's what the Earth's ancient peoples did, the Justice League prologue tells us: three empires became one army. The Amazons took to horseback in their leather armors and war paint, relying on their gods to protect them as they tore through their enemy (showing them what female furies really look like).
The Atlanteans marched in a fashion fitting their immaculately crafted armor and society, looking as regal and magnificent as the Elves of Lord of the Rings. At that time, Atlantis had yet to be sunk into Earth's oceans, which meant they, too, were familiar to the third army of Mankind. Early men may have been less impressive in their armors of bone, metal, and animal hides, but were clearly effective. And when the dust settled, and the invading armies were vanquished, the real story began.
The real story of the DCEU, and why this united Earth soon began to crumble into the hyper-divided one of the modern era, that is.
That was only the first half other prologue detailed by the producers at the time, with the fallout playing possibly even a larger part in the Justice League narrative, literally and figuratively. Because once victory had been won, the Old Gods of Earth - delivered in the form of the Greek pantheon (Zeus and his kin) - gave each people a chance at peace. Three relics were left behind by these strange, highly advanced soldiers. Each relic would be entrusted to one of the empires, to do with it as they pleased.
Since these relics - known to DC Comics fans as Mother Boxes - were most effective in threes (a new wrinkle introduced for the films), their division encapsulated the strength and danger of this new alliance. Each nation can stand on its own, but together they can be much more powerful... and dangerous. Since the Justice League Comic-Con preview trailer showed a human king burying the Mother Box, the new Amazon origin story of Wonder Woman ends with their escape to a hidden island, and Atlantis sank, fans can let their imagination fill in the blanks.
The important thing is that the birth of the DCEU, as is set to be shown in Justice League, began in war against Apokolips. Will its end be set against the same? Or will the Justice League's opposition - a new alliance of Atlantis, Amazon, and Mankind - give Earth another shot? Only time will tell. The good news is it looks like one incredible fight.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017