Injustice For All

Justice League ending paints a grim future for the DCEU

The epic four-hour Snyder Cut reveals Batman’s shocking fate.

Warner Bros. / HBO Max

“Lois Lane is the key.” Indeed she is — and indeed, as Batman warns toward the final act of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Lois is also “something darker.”

The Snyder Cut is finally here, and in the thick of its four-hour runtime, the HBO Max feature film drops more than a few bombshells regarding filmmaker Zack Snyder’s plans for the DCEU. Chief among them: the war-ravaged Knightmare sequence from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, depicting a future world or an alternate timeline in which monsters freely roam the Earth, and Batman rocks a really cool trench coat.

What was the point of that Batman v Superman scene, ultimately? Justice League now holds the answer in the form of a new, extended epilogue sequence that takes up the final 15 minutes or so of the film. The epilogue is all about Batman’s “Knightmare,” and while she’s not the reason for this bleak world, Lois Lane is very much a key figure in it.

Spoilers for Zack Snyder’s Justice League ahead.

Justice League Knightmare, explained

The Snyder Cut ends peacefully enough — until it doesn’t. After beating the bad guys and celebrating in their individual ways, all hell breaks loose for the League once again at around the film’s 3-hour-and-45-minute mark, with roughly 15 minutes remaining.

The final thrust of the film takes place in the Knightmare timeline, where it’s quickly clear that many of the Justice Leaguers are dead or otherwise missing. Batman, Cyborg, and The Flash are the League’s sole reps on the board, with Mera of Atlantis along for the ride, very much insinuating that Aquaman is no longer among the living.

The crew is armed with two villains as well: Deathstroke, played by a mohawked Joe Manganiello, and Jared Leto’s Joker, who tauntingly offers a “truce, Bruce.”

Ha, ha, ha ...Warner Bros. / HBO Max

The Batman and Joker’s conversation is the most significant part of the Knightmare scene. It’s monumental for being the first time Ben Affleck and Jared Leto’s versions of the characters have shared an extensive, intimate, dialogue-heavy scene with one another.

The two foes talk about the mutual sidekicks they lost at each other’s hands, once again returning to the well of a dead Robin (with Joker mocking Batman for sending “a Boy Wonder to do a man’s job”) and a dead Harley Quinn.

Batman and Joker forge an uneasy peace, despite Bruce’s promise to someday kill the Clown Prince of Crime — a promise Affleck delivers with a fully uncensored F-bomb. Batman, cursing in the face of extreme stress? He’s just like the rest of us after all!

Ben Affleck’s Batman and Jared Leto’s Joker finally face off.Warner Bros. / HBO Max

But there’s no time for Batman to make good on his promise, not with the arrival of the monster responsible for this dark new world: Superman. It’s implied that Lois Lane is dead, and her death has driven Superman insane.

The Man of Steel’s off-the-rails heel-turn feels ripped straight from the Injustice video game franchise, which takes place in an alternate reality where a vicious Superman reigns over all, thanks to Joker luring him into killing Lois Lane. Did something similar happen in this alternate Knightmare future?

Before we get any clarity, Batman wakes up, back in cold reality, haunted by what he’s seen. But he and we have little time to process it, because a new superhero, The Martian Manhunter, arrives to sign up for the Justice League. Cool! Maybe he could have shown up a little earlier, but still, great! The more the merrier!

Justice League 2: How does the Knightmare set up a sequel?

For now, forget the Martian Manhunter. When it comes to the “Knightmare,” the sequence shows Snyder’s untold plans for DC’s cinematic future in the most vivid detail yet, at least onscreen.

Off-screen, alleged storyboards for Snyder’s Justice League sequels have made the rounds, with potential plot details including the introduction of Lex Luthor’s Legion of Doom, the Green Lantern Corps’ eventual arrival in the third movie, and Batman sacrificing himself at Darkseid’s hands to save the day.

Tony Stark’s estate could not be reached for comment.

Kidding aside, Snyder’s plans for the future Justice League movies point toward their very own Avengers: Endgame angle, with the out-of-retirement Batman throwing himself on the proverbial sword to save the day — a move that feels not just in line with Iron Man’s own Marvel Cinematic Universe ending, but also in line with Final Crisis, a popular DC Comics crossover event in which Batman similarly loses his life in battle against Darkseid.

(Of course, Batman wasn’t actually dead, just lost in time — because, you know, comics!)

Will this Knightmare scenario ever come to pass? Is all of this as theoretical as the world in which Superman razes all things to the ground? For Snyder’s part, the filmmaker has indicated that his time in the DC Comics universe is at an end. But that’s what we all thought when he walked away from Justice League to begin with. Now, here we are, four years later, with a four-hour director’s cut. Anything is possible — even Kal-El ending the world.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is now streaming on HBO Max.