By now most of you have seen Batman v Superman. It was a pretty divisive film. I’m a fan of the movie, but I have to admit that it has more detractors than supporters and there’s very few people in-between. The movie isn’t perfect and its flaws are well documented: the “dark” nature of the movie, the limited dialogue for Superman, the unusual take on Lex Luthor, the shoe-horned in reveal (via email) of Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, and the seemingly random and unexplained encounter between Bruce Wayne and Flash that followed a seemingly random and unexplained dream (?) wherein Batman fights Superman in a post-apocalyptic world.

The recently-released “ultimate edition” added thirty minutes to the movie, and though that upped the runtime to three hours, it was not a detriment: The longer time gave the movie a chance to breathe, to flesh out its sub-plots and just flow a little more smoothly. It’s a much improved version of the movie, but it doesn’t make it any less dark. It doesn’t add too much more dialogue for Clark/Superman. It doesn’t change the new, “millennial” take on Lex. It doesn’t make the first look we get of Aquaman or Cyborg any less random and inconsequential. And it definately doesn’t give any answers on what Bruce’s “dream” (?) was all about, or the sudden appearance/warning by Flash right after.

And that’s probably by design.

Months before Batman v Superman even released, the writer—Chris Terrio—was quoted as saying that the first Justice League movie would have a much lighter tone, and that BvS was dark by design, because the concept of the story is naturally dark (heroes who misunderstand each other become obvious initial foes and are easily pushed toward fighting each other). That doesn’t mean that WB and DC didn’t immediately respond to the backlash against BvS’ gloomy tone by all but promising that Suicide Squad would be “an edgy Guardians of the Galaxy.” It’s also no mystery as to why Flash and his quirky humor was the main focus of the first Justice League teaser.

Nevertheless, there is a story they are going to tell with Justice League next year and it’s a story whose foundation was laid in Batman v Superman. That story isn’t going to be (significantly) altered just because BvS failed to crack a billion at the Box Office. It’s obvious that the two biggest “wait what?!” moments of BvS were deliberately left unexplained. Those are plot-threads to be explored in Justice League. Batman v Superman came out three (long) years after Man of Steel, and so much time passed that no one really considered the fact that it was supposed to be a sequel to the DCEU’s origin movie. Even when BvS made direct references to Man of Steel (such as in the opening, which basically retells the climax of MoS from Bruce Wayne’s perspective), it still felt like we were seeing the “first” movie in the DCEU and not the second.

After next November, it’s going to be obvious that Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Justice League form a cohesive, cinematic trilogy. Right now that’s not so obvious, but the hints dropped halfway through BvS make it clear.

It’s very telling that Chris Nolan made it a point during the development of Man of Steel (of which Nolan of producer) to say that it would not have a MCU-like mid-credits teaser. True to his word it didn’t and neither did Batman vs Superman. But it did have a mid-credits style teaser and had it happened in the usual mid-credits spot it might have been better recieved. Instead, perhaps to differentiate themselves from the MCU, WB took what will next year be revealed as a proper teaser to Justice League and slapped it the movie an hour into the runtime.

Watch it below:

There’s a lot to digest from the scene and not every question can be understood until we see the end of this three-part story next November (yes, I know there’s a Justice League part two already scheduled for 2019, but it’s been well-established that Justice League part one will stand on its own). Theories can be had, however.

So let the wild speculation commence!

First thing is the setting for Bruce’s “dream” (which, the theory goes, is actually a vision brought to him by Flash). It’s a post-apocalyptic version of Metropolis. The vision starts with Batman exiting a bunker in Gotham, looking across a barren field toward Metropolis. In this cinematic universe, the two major DC cities are separated by a Bay, like Oakland and San Francisco. It’s a change from the comics but it allows for some new storytelling possibilities, so let’s all just be cool with it, k? In this weird, dismal future, however, the Bay is dried up and an Omega symbol (the logo for the dreaded Darkseid) is carved into the ground. There are also giant eruptions of lava bursting forth from the ground. If that seems random and even over the top, just do a quick Google-image search for “Apokolips DC” and you’ll begin to see the inspiration.

The city of Metropolis—Batman’s destination in the vision—is in ruins. The caped crusader is heading there to acquire some Kryptonite, obviously in the hopes of defeating Superman. Instead it’s a set-up and Batman has been betrayed. Immediately the hero finds himself surrounded by armed gestapo, sporting Superman logo-patches on their shoulders. There is some gunfire, where the gestapo mow down a bunch of unidentified people. What seems to be happening is the Superman police are killing the resistance fighters that betrayed Batman moments prior. Superman (or whomever he is working for) convinced the resistance to turn on Batman and then killed them when they got what they wanted. Brutal.

Batman then whips out a pistol—illustrating just how different this future is (with open warfare)—and goes on a one-vs-all fight against the soldiers. He puts up a good fight too (naturally) before getting overwhelmed by Parademons.

If you don’t know Parademons, they are the flying “dragonflies on steroids” minions under the command of Darkseid, Emperor of Apokolips and big bad of the DC universe. The parademons take out Batman, who regains consciousness just in time for Superman to make a reappearance.  The Man of Steel looks the part, but instantly it’s apparent that something is very wrong. The soldiers kneel before him as he angrily approaches Batman, killing the prisoners tied next to him. Batman doesn’t act a bit shocked to see Superman straight-up murder two doods in cold blood, either.

Finally he speaks and we get our first clue to maybe understanding what in the world is going on here. Superman tells Batman “She was my world, and you took her from me.” After that he grabs Batman’s heart, squeezes tight, and presumably kills him.

That kicks off the second part of this teaser: Bruce is startled “awake” by a loud crashing sound (like a thunderbolt striking) and someone shouting “Bruce!” The camera pans over to show a red, armored character, leaning halfway out of a portal, or a wormhole or some kind of break in the space-time continuum. His face is covered by an armored helmet, but it soon retracts to show a face behind a more traditional superhero mask.

Unfortunately, the sparks and the flashes of light and all the other bells and whistles that accompanied this person’s appearance makes it hard to know who this is. It’s clear already, however, before Justice League is released, that this is Flash and that he is using Speedforce to send a message back in time. If all you know about Flash is “he’s fast…like Quicksilver.” No. He’s got a lot more going on. Once we understand this is Flash, it helps us understand what is happening in general, although some of the particulars are still fuzzy.

His words are transcribed here:

Bruce! Bruce! Listen to me now.

It’s Lois…it’s Lois Lane. She’s the key.

Am I too soon? *pained scream* I’m too soon.

You’re right about him. You’ve always been right about him. Fear him.

Find us Bruce, you have to find us.

The whole thing ends with Bruce seemingly “waking up” but this was not a dream. You’ll notice that papers are flying around behind him as he regains consciousness. His experience with Flash simply knocked him out temporarily.

So what do Flash’s words mean?

First of all he says that Lois is the key. In what way? Perhaps in a way that ties to her being Superman’s “world.” That’s what Superman says to Batman in the apocalyptic-vision Bruce had. That’s also what Johnathan Kent said to Clark about Martha in his mountaintop vision later in the movie. It’s then what Superman told Lois just before flying the kryptonite spear into Doomsday, killing himself. Clearly we’re supposed to see significance to that line. More on that in a bit.

Flash then says that he might be “too soon” implying that he went back further in time than is useful. More on that in less than a bit,.

Flash then warns Bruce that he was right about “him.” Bruce then immediately takes that as confirmation that Superman (the “him” as he understands it) is an enemy that needs to be defeated. But is that what Flash said? That’s how Bruce took it, but perhaps his being “too soon” messed with Bruce’s interpretation. The audience too might assume Flash was speaking of Superman. Though Superman is the ultimate hero and should never be “feared,” the vision Bruce just had featured a Superman very much playing the villain. So the editor (guided by Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio) clearly cut the movie to give that initial impression.

But what if the “him” is actually Darkseid? He’s the reason Bruce decides that he needs to find the other metahumans at the end of Batman v Superman. Darkseid’s the one that is “coming” after hearing the bell that can’t be unrung, according to Luthor at the end of the movie.

flash-batman-v-superman

So, speculation: Maybe Flash is returning from a dark and bleak future where Darkseid has won and has turned our planet into something like Apokolips, with scorched earth and lava and bad vibrations and so forth. Flash went back to warn Bruce of this danger, but accidentally went too far and caused Bruce to misinterpret his words. Flash’s appeal for Bruce to “find us” is obviously in reference to Aquaman, Cyborg and Flash himself, but how that all ties together won’t be understood until probably Justice League.

That still doesn’t explain why Superman was acting Superevil though. Why is he a villain in this hypothetical future that Flash is going back in time to try and prevent?

Perhaps, since Lois is “the key” and also Superman’s “world” that her death triggers something that causes Clark to go all Sith Lord on the earth. Keep in mind that one of Darkseid’s powers is a form of mind-control. Depending on how they adapt it in the cinematic universe, this could be seen as traditional mind-control or a form of mental manipulation where he alters the reality around his victims, making them think and act in ways they normally wouldn’t. Since Superman is naturally Darkseid’s biggest threat to conquering earth, it would be a good strategy to turn him evil and make him a lieutenant instead of an enemy. Killing Lois, or perhaps making Superman think Lois is dead might be the ticket to getting in his head and turning him bad.

Superman is all over the early promotional material for Justice League so it’s not likely he turns evil (if at all) in that film, but maybe the second announced Justice League film (2019), which is supposed to feature the big debut of Darkseid (the heroes will reportedly contend with his right hand man, Steppenwolf in the first movie), will make that integral to the story. On the other hand, it could be that Flash showed Bruce a possible future—his future—but that future can be changed by finding the other League members and protecting Lois, meaning this mind-trip of a vision might be the only time we see Superman go Supertyrant.

There’s a lot that happens in those confusing five minutes early into Batman v Superman, but a lot of groundwork was very likely laid that will not be paid off until at least the next time we see all the heroes together.

In the meantime, it’s always fun to speculate!

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