NOTE: The following post contains minor story spoilers for Justice League
Ever since the DC movie universe started to take shape, fans had speculated that New God and Apokolips ruler, Darkseid, would be the main villain to face-off against the Justice League - when Warner Bros. brings the full superhero team to the big screen in 2017. Prior to the release of Batman V Superman, rumors began circulating that Darkseid could even play a role in Dawn of Justice - speculation that became more concrete when the supervillain's Omega symbol showed up in one of the film's trailers. In one way or another, Darkseid was expected to be present in Batman V Superman - even if he was never explicitly shown - laying the foundation for the New God to appear in subsequent DC movies. After all, what better way to "Unite the Seven" than with a threat too big and too dangerous with too many resources for any one hero to handle alone.
One of many pieces of shared universe setup that director Zack Snyder included in Batman V Superman, there are several references to Darkseid - ranging from Batman's aforementioned post-apocalyptic view of Earth marked by the symbol to Lex Luthor's suggestion that "He is Coming." However, following the film's theatrical release, Warner Bros. released a deleted scene online, which will be featured in the upcoming "Ultimate Cut" Batman V Superman, depicting Luthor "communing" with a demon-like creature - who is holding three extra-terrestrial "boxes." Fans were quick to point out that the malevolent character could be a relative of Darkseid, either his father Yuga Khan or uncle Steppenwolf. Now, thanks to our visit to Snyder's Justice League set, we have an answer - and an idea of how the villain will factor into the DC movie universe.
While on the set of Justice League, the filmmakers made it clear to us that the character depicted in Batman V Superman's deleted "Communion" scene is Steppenwolf - and that, contrary to what some fans might have thought, Darkseid's uncle will be the main villain of Snyder's Justice League Part 1, not Darkseid. Of course, Steppenwolf will almost-certainly be acting on orders from his nephew, the ruler of Apokolips, and will be leading Darkseid's army - even if Darkseid himself does not face-off with the Justice League himself.
In case you missed it before, check out the deleted scene featuring Steppenwolf below:
As for what viewers will get when Steppenwolf makes his live-action debut as a central antagonist to the Justice League, the character's design has been updated significantly to appear more alien and demonic - and less human - even when compared to his most recent appearance in Darkseid's New 52 story arc. Elements of the original character design remain, most notably the spiked protrusions on Steppenwolf's shoulders along with the New God's horned headpiece. Considering the visual overhaul, producer Deborah Snyder confirmed that Steppenwolf will be an all-CGI character - and that the studio is close to locking down an actor for the part; though, she did not elaborate on whether that actor would perform the villain's voice and motion-capture or just the voice.
Either way, the character should provide a framework for eye-popping action - given that Steppenwolf is a super-powered immortal being, accomplished hand-to-hand combatant, and genius tactician. In addition, our set visit also confirmed that Steppenwolf won't be alone in his mission, joined on Earth by an army of Darkseid's parademons (who were previously seen in Batman V Superman's post-apocalyptic fight). The Apokolips tech known as "Mother Boxes" (that Steppenwolf was holding in that "Communion" scene) will also play a pivotal role in the story. Could Darkseid have sent Steppenwolf to Earth in order to find the Mother Boxes and armed him with a horde of parademons for muscle? This explanation would certainly shed light on the character's scene with Luthor from Dawn of Justice - as Steppenwolf could have been enlisting Luthor to aid in the search (rather than using Mother Boxes already in his possession on Apokolips to open comm lines with Earth).
That said, given what we saw on set, the appearance of those Mother Boxes has changed (in relation to where they each reside on Earth) - at least since the last time Steppenwolf would have seen them.
Ultimately, it does make sense for Warner Bros. to hold-back Darkseid for a few more films - and make him, much like Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a resourceful commander working behind the scenes until his hands-on efforts are needed. Since Snyder had no problem throwing an iconic character like Doomsday into the mix so early in the DCEU, it's unlikely the filmmaker will keep Darkseid out of the fight for too long. Still, while it certainly seems as though Steppenwolf is a lead-in to a larger threat, with Darkseid likely appearing as the central threat in Justice League Part 2, there's no guarantee the King of Apokolips will even take center stage in that film either.
We'll have to wait for more official info but, in the meantime, even if he's not the most well-known DC villain, Steppenwolf poses a formidable threat - even to the Justice League.
Suicide Squad will arrive on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020.