Whatever you thought about 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, one thing’s fairly easy to agree on – its reception had a huge impact on Warner’s DC Extended Universe.
As a result of the response to Batman v Superman, the tone of its sequel, Justice League, was gradually altered. When Zack Snyder departed as director on that film in 2017, later reshoots shifted its story even further away from the dark texture of Batman v Superman – a film that was initially supposed to establish the rhythm of the entire franchise.
This left a few dangling threads and minor mysteries from Batman v Superman – including that strange ‘Knightmare’ that Bruce Wayne had somewhere in the middle of the movie. You know the one: we see a faintly surreal, Mad Max-like future where the Earth has become a dustbowl, overrun by Parademons and an army of human soldiers loyal to Superman. The Man of Steel, it’s clear, has turned into a raging despot.
So what was it all about? Snyder’s said in the past that it’s an “impressionistic view of a possible future”. More recently, though, thanks to LRM Online, we’ve discovered from Snyder what the scene was hinting at for a future movie.
One popular theory was that the Knightmare scene was following an event from the Injustice videogame, in which Lois Lane’s death turns Superman into a power-crazed tyrant. When asked about this inspiration, Snyder offered an alternative explanation:
“…Or if someone lost someone close to them they might be susceptible to a certain Equation and might blame a certain Bat for events that a too soon Bruce would know nothing about.”
The equation Snyder’s referring to is the Anti-Life Equation, a formula which gives whoever learns it the power over all living things. Said formula is something the villain Darkseid was after in the comics, and according to the Knightmare version of events, he gets hold of it and uses it on Superman.
Going a bit further, then, Snyder implies that the death of Lois Lane makes Superman susceptible to the Anti-Life Equation, making him to fall under the control of Darkseid. Hence the swarm of Parademons – Darkseid’s winged minions – the human troops with S symbols on their uniforms, and so on. Superman also blames Batman for Lois’s death, so that explains why the former’s so angry with the latter.
Following DC’s full-on departure from Snyder’s plans with the retooled Justice League, though, it looks as though this possible version of events will no longer come to pass, at least for now. The central villain in Justice League was shifted to Steppenwolf during production, so DC could still reintroduce Darkseid in a future movie. But with Warner clearly wanting to avoid Snyder’s designer darkness, we may not see Superman succumb to the Anti-Life Equation for a good few years yet.