You can tell what Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s primary goals were by looking at the two parts of the title. The first was delivering a conflict, both physical and ideological, between the Caped Crusader and Man of Steel. The second was laying the building blocks for the rest of the DC Extended Universe. However you felt about the fight between the two heroes, you can’t deny that the movie spent a lot of time including DC Comics Easter Eggs and set ups, from Wonder Woman’s presence to the graffiti-covered Robin costume. There was particular attention dedicated to the Justice League, which moviegoers will see in action next year.
On top of concluding Batman and Superman’s first live action, cinematic story, the movie also paved the way for how DC's greatest heroes will come together, and who they’ll likely fight in the near future. In case you didn’t catch all the clues about what’s to come, we’ve thrown together this in-depth analysis on the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ending, and how it leads into Justice League: Part One and maybe beyond!
Warning: there will be spoilers aplenty for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice from this point forward!
What Was Lex Raving About?Although he was still intelligent, manipulative and dangerous, Batman v Superman’s Lex Luthor was way more eccentric and unhinged compared to previous media versions, and he only got worse when the movie ended. Following Doomsday’s defeat, Luthor’s crimes were exposed and he was sent to prison, where he was finally rid of that horrible hairdo and given the classic bald look. While in his cell, he was threatened by Batman, who told Luthor he’ll always be watching him. Undeterred, Luthor told Batman that Superman’s death has left the world vulnerable, and now that the "bell’s been rung," there a mysterious individual on his way. Someone who is "hungry." Surprised by Lex’s babbling, Batman pulled his disappearing act, but he later alluded to Diana that he has a feeling the team he wants to form will have to fight an unknown threat.
By itself, Lex’s crazy comments don’t make a lot of sense, but when you take into account the movie’s bizarre visions, they all point towards the Lord of Apokolips, Darkseid. Bruce’s "Knightmare" had the Omega symbol burned into the ground, which is the symbol Darkseid uses to mark those vulnerable to his corruption, and those winged creatures snatching Batman’s allies were Parademons. To the casual viewer, this dream showed a bizarre future where a corrupt Superman ruled with an iron fist. But to the hardcore fans, it was clear that Darkseid initiated the destruction across Earth shown in Bruce's "dream." It’s hardly surprising, given what he's done in the comics and other media stories.
Then there was future Flash’s cryptic warning to Bruce immediately after the Knightmare ended, where the Scarlet Speedster mentioned that Lois Lane was "the key" and how Bruce had to "find them." Considering that Flash can travel through time and space when he runs fast enough, we can deduce that he came from the "Knightmare" future and was trying to prevent those events from ever happening. Presumably if Lois can be kept alive, Superman won’t be corrupted, and the "them" refers to the other powered people on Earth (more on that in the next section). So when you pair this warning and the Knightmare future with Lex Luthor’s ravings to Batman in the closing moments of Dawn of Justice, we can deduce that Darkseid will eventually find his way to our neck of the woods. How exactly Luthor knows about Darkseid wasn't made clear, but it’s likely that he stumbled across something while scouring the Kryptonian ship’s archives.
Now that Darkseid has been foreshadowed, when will we see him in the flesh? The first guess would be Justice League: Part One, and just like in the opening arc of the New 52 Justice League series, the superhero team first joins forces to battle the Lord of Apokolips and his army. However, it’s been rumored that another villain (perhaps Brainiac) might instead be the team’s first antagonist. If that’s the case, much like how Thanos isn’t becoming the MCU’s main antagonist until the Avengers: Infinity War movies, we may not see Darkseid fully unleashed until Justice League: Part Two in 2019. Whenever he ends up appearing, it’s going to take everything the Justice League has and more to defeat him, or at least send him back to Apokolips via Boom Tube.
As for Bruce’s "Knightmare," we can presume at this point that it’s a future that won’t come to pass. Because of those dreams (speaking of which, we still don’t know who or what is responsible for them) and Flash’s warning, Bruce kicked off a series of events that were enough to alter the course of time, and I suspect Superman’s death played a large part in that. Unfortunately, just because one dystopian future has been prevented doesn’t mean another one can’t take its place. Whenever Darkseid shows up, it’s possible that his invasion will result in Earth still being ruined, and the League will be fractured, either with certain members dying or switching their allegiance to Darkseid. Taking a cue from the Flashpoint storyline, Barry Allen will go back in time to try to prevent these events from happening, giving us a nearly-exact recreation of his cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and that horrible future from ever existing.
On the other hand, maybe the timeline has changed enough that things won’t be as bleak. Darkseid will still arrive to wreak havoc on Earth, but the Justice League will prevent him from taking over, and they’ll still be friends in the end. One also wonders if Lex Luthor might somehow find himself assisting Darkseid during Earth’s invasion, given how much he knows about the Lord of Apokolips. If that happens, Luthor better make sure he’s on his best behavior, since any attempt to screw over Darkseid results in disintegration from his Omega Beams.
So, how will the Justice League form? Read on, for our theories.
How Will Bruce Recruit The Justice League?Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice made it clear that although Superman was the first superpowered individual to go public, metahumans have been hidden among us for a while. (Just to be clear, the movie uses the term "metahuman" to refer to any person with special powers, not just regular humans granted amazing abilities). The four specifically highlighted in the movie are Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg. Bruce Wayne first ran into Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana Prince, at two high society galas, where he got a sense that she wasn’t any ordinary woman. It was only thanks to that photo of her in World War I found in Lex Luthor’s files that he realized just how special she was. Later in the movie, Bruce sent Diana the same files, and we got our first peeks at the other future Justice Leaguers via video footage. Aquaman destroyed an underwater camera before swimming away at super sonic speed; Flash foiled a convenience store robbery while shopping as Barry Allen; and we saw Silas Stone rebuilding his son Victor into Cyborg. These were merely cameos while Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman handled the heavy lifting in the movie, but even to the casual moviegoer, it’s clear these folks are important.
So now that the players are set up, how will they being brought together? That responsibility belongs to Batman, as he told Diana at Clark Kent’s funeral that he plans to seek them out and put together a group that will protect the world in Superman’s absence. As director Zack Snyder put it, Batman is going to "Seven Samurai them together," and it’s ironic he’s the one doing it considering he doesn’t have any powers. Given Batman’s intellect and resources, he should be able to track Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg down, though it will require a lot of effort. Although the team won’t officially form until Justice League: Part One (obviously), it remains to be sen whether Batman will have already contacted these other heroes when that movie kicks off... or if we’ll see him meeting them for the first time.
Of course, just because a guy dressed like a bat approaches you about joining a cool group doesn’t mean you’ll be receptive right away. While Wonder Woman seems open to the idea, Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg may not want to participate in this endeavor either because they don’t trust Batman, want to stay hidden or prefer working alone. Whatever the case, eventually they will have to join together to battle some unknown threat (more on who that might be later), giving the DCEU its first superhero team. The Justice League’s debut will also make it clear to the rest of the world that Superman wasn’t the only metahuman on Earth. The other Leaguers may not be aliens, but they’re "special in their own way," whether they’re from a secret civilization or were transformed via freak accidents. So far, the Justice League is only set to feature these six people, but if things work out, Green Lantern will join them in Justice League: Part Two.
Superman’s SacrificeAnyone who’s read the Death of Superman story arc from the ‘90s knows that the Man of Steel perished in battle against Doomsday, so obviously there was speculation about whether the same thing would happen in the DCEU once we learned that Zack Snyder was using Doomsday in Dawn of Justice. Well, even though Batman v Superman is only the second entry in this franchise, that doesn’t mean Superman couldn’t be taken off the board. Despite stabbing Doomsday with Batman’s kryptonite spear, he was impaled by one of the monstrosity’s spiked bones. Even though much of the world looked at Superman with fear and suspicion, he was given a classy and symbolic funeral, while Clark Kent was declared dead during the Gotham City attacks and given a more personal ceremony. To the citizens of this fictional universe, Superman is gone after 18 months of looking after humanity and sparking fierce debate, but to the viewers in the real world, we could easily assume this wasn’t the end of his story.
Fortunately, just like in the comics, Superman’s death is only temporary. In the final seconds of the movie, we saw that the dirt Lois tossed on Clark’s coffin slightly rose in the air before the credits rolled. Those of you who keep track of superhero movie news already knew Superman would be back, since Henry Cavill signed on for Justice League: Part One over a year ago, but this moment was meant to show people not familiar with the comics that the Man of Steel will definitely be back. How? That’s not so clear, but our solar system’s sun seems to be the key.
Just like in the comics, Kal-El’s powers in the DCEU come from his body absorbing the sun’s radiation, making him mightier than any normal human. However, we also saw during Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that the sun can also heal him from almost any injury. After getting hit by that nuke that was launched by the U.S. military to eliminate Doomsday, Superman seemed done for, but while floating out in space, he continued to bask in he sun’s rays. Eventually, he soaked up enough of its radiation that he returned to full health and flew back to Earth to continue the battle. So even though he did indeed die at Doomsday’s hands in the movie, that floating dirt showed that he can return, and odds are this will be accomplished by basking him in the sun again.
However, this is easier said than done. For one thing, humans know little about Kryptonian physiology, and no one actually saw Superman heal in space after being hit by the nuke. It’s also possible that it will take more than the sun’s rays to bring Superman back to life. There may be another element that Regardless, we can reasonably assume that the Justice League will initiate Superman’s resurrection. Someone on the team (I’m guessing Batman) will learn about how to bring him back, and they’ll accomplish this just in time for Superman to assist them in battling whoever the movie’s main antagonist is. Once Superman returns (no pun intended), ideally in his second life not as many people will look at him with distrust and fear and instead see him as the benevolent guardian he’s always been.