This article consists of nothing but Batman v Superman spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie, you probably do not want to read this. It originally ran on March 26th, but has been updated with new information based on what we learned about the Justice League movie.
Seriously, SPOILERS, don’t read if you haven’t read the movie. Stop reading. We’re serious.
Just in case the title didn’t give it away, the stated purpose of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has always been to get the DC Extended Universe jumpstarted, and accelerate the timeline of a Justice League movie (or two). Whatever your feelings about the movie itself, Batman v Superman definitely puts the future of the DC superhero movie universe in an interesting position.
So, the obvious thing that has to happen in order for everything to work as it should is that Superman needs to come back to life. And he has to do it fairly quickly, because the Justice League movie started filming in April, and Henry Cavill will indeed be a part of it.
Is Superman Really Dead?
The final shot of the Batman v Superman ending is pretty explicit about the fact that Superman’s “death” isn’t exactly the end of the road. You can see the dirt begin to rise off of Clark Kent’s coffin in a nod to the weird kind of anti-gravity effect we would see manifest before Superman first learned to fly in Man of Steel. So, yes, a resurrection is imminent.
This shouldn’t be too big a deal, of course, since it’s just a question of what kind of route the filmmakers want to take in order to get us there. Nobody is ever really dead in comics or superhero movies (except for the thousands of people who were collateral damage in the climactic Man of Steel battle, of course), and Superman is no exception.
Now, the method of Superman’s death is lifted straight out of one of his most famous comic book stories, The Death of Superman (which was promptly followed by his return). There, as here, Superman dies in his final effort to stop Doomsday from destroying everything in his path.
The comics took a circuitous route to Superman’s resurrection, one that isn’t exactly economical enough for the big screen. In the comics, in the wake of his death, four “Supermen” rose to take his place, each with a seeming claim on being the “real” one. The four were a 16-year-old Superboy, apparently a clone of the Man of Steel, a cold, almost ruthless alien version manifesting some alien powers, a hideous Terminator-esque cyborg, and John Henry Irons who wore a suit of armor while seemingly inspired by Superman’s spirit.
In the course of this story (which is actually rather excellent, despite its gimmicky nature), it was revealed that (of course!) none of these individuals were the “real” Superman. Instead, Kal-El was merely in a deep coma, and he is resurrected by Kryptonian technology, just in time to stop an even greater threat to the planet than Doomsday. When he returns to life, he’s even wearing a black suit with a silver “S” logo, a color scheme that his coffin design was a fairly obvious nod to.
Needless to say that none of this will be happening when we get to the Superman resurrection scene for Justice League (although, maybe we’ll get that cool black and silver Superman costume). But Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice offers several other clues long before Superman actually dies that hint at not just the potential nature of Superman’s return, but also the potential stories that the upcoming Justice League movies will explore.
Who Was Lex Luthor Talking About?
For starters, there are several visual and verbal clues in the movie that indicate that Darkseid is coming to the DC Extended Universe. The mysterious figure who has “heard” the “bell” that Lex Luthor is referring to can only be one character, and that’s Darkseid. Darkseid is a stone-faced dictator of nearly unimaginable power who rules the world of Apokolips, and commands an army of nightmarish parademons and horrible superhumans of his own.
Since Lex is a scientist, and a xenophobic one at that, it makes some sense that he is already looking to the stars for potential alien threats to life on Earth. And make no mistake, Darkseid is the biggest threat of them all. But saying that Darkseid is going to be the big bad of a Justice League movie is a “breaking news: sun rises in east!” kind of scenario, so let’s dig a little deeper.
Earlier in the film, we had Batman’s nightmare sequence where he’s fighting Superman-branded soldiers, and winged alien creatures. Clearly visible on the ground is an “Omega” symbol, which is one of Darkseid’s trademarks. The hideous alien things that Batman is fighting are unquestionably Parademons from Apokolips, too.
Warner Bros. released a deleted scene that’s a pretty massive clue, too:
It turns out that this is Steppenwolf, the villain of the Justice League movie. He’s Darkseid’s uncle, and a massive powerhouse in his own right.
The Flash also appears to Batman after his nightmare sequence, telling him that he was “right” about Superman and that Lois Lane is somehow the “key” to something. I have a sinking feeling that when Superman does indeed return to life, he isn’t going to be on the side of the angels.
Why do I say this? Well, aside from the fact that Zack Snyder apparently hates everything the Superman character stands for and will go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that no purely heroic version of the character will appear on screen in any of these films, there’s also a comic book tradition of Superman turning evil (even temporarily), and this Flash moment, coupled with the impending arrival of Darkseid, seems to nod to at least two of them.
The easiest way to turn Superman evil is to kill Lois Lane. So, yeah, remember what Flash said about Lois being the “key?” If Lois dies, there goes Superman’s last, best tie to humanity (or so certain illogical logic goes), and then it’s off to the world-domination races. Most of this comes from the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game and comic book series, an exceedingly dark and grim alternate reality version of DC mythology that somehow seems to have an inordinate amount of influence on the sensibilities of the DC Extended Universe.
Now, Superman’s heel turn in Injustice doesn’t have anything to do with Darkseid. But Darkseid has a long history of manipulating Superman for his own purposes, and it’s easy to see an out-of-it, freshly de-corpsified Supes falling under the thrall of an interstellar dictator. There is a brilliant Superman: The Animated Series story called “Legacy” (the two-part series finale) which sees Superman brainwashed into believing he’s one of Darkseid’s children, and he behaves accordingly. There have been other instances in the comics where Supes ends up an unwitting pawn of Darkseid, including in the New 52 Earth-2 comic where a clone of Kal-El is a servant of Darkseid known as (I kid you not) Brutaal, a name that seems just subtle enough for this movie’s tastes.
The Lois Lane/Injustice connection may be circumstantial evidence, but the arrival of Darkseid-related characters in the DC Extended Universe is a matter of undeniable fact at this point. But I’m not sure why there would be two massive clues indicating the impending presence of an “evil” Superman in future movies if there weren’t plans to go down this road for at least half a movie. If Darkseid indeed ends up manipulating the resurrected Supes, it’s possible that Batman’s nightmare vision wasn’t just a nightmare after all… it could be a prophesy of what’s to come. And yes, that could include the weird Superman stormtroopers, too.
But if nothing else, Superman’s death seems to have made Batman change his fascist ways… at least a little. For that moment there during Clark’s funeral, and while talking with Wonder Woman, he almost seems optimistic about the difference that heroes can make. From what we learned on the Justice League set, it sounds like Superman’s sacrifice will be the thing that opens up the DC Extended Universe movies to something actually resembling a heroic ideal. And then when he does finally return, he’ll be the inspirational figure he’s supposed to be. If nothing else, Batman and Wonder Woman now know they have to gather more heroes together in order to defend the world from larger threats.
Hopefully, they try to make the world a better place while they’re at it.
Anyway, in short, you just need to know that Superman will indeed return in some form or another in time for Justice League, which opens on Nov. 17, 2017. If you have any theories of your own about Superman’s fate and the Batman v Superman ending, feel free to share ’em in the comments or shout ’em at me on Twitter.