After high anticipations, four years of a long-lasting social media campaign, and public support from the cast members, we are finally getting Zack Snyder's Justice League, the original story of DC's classic team of superheroes as envisioned by director Zack Snyder. The film will finally bring us the tale Snyder left crumbs of in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and shall help us forget the scrap Joss Whedon made. But there is one particular sequence that Snyder has got everyone excited about, and that is the Knightmare.
The Knightmare, which is interestingly stylized with a "K" in the prefix as a nod to its personal connection with Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne/Batman, is a sequence from Batman v Superman, where Batman is seemingly leading an alliance against Superman on a dystopian decimated Earth. At the time, it left some audience awe-struck while others were a bit confused, but what many failed to gather was that it was Snyder's trick to lure in the true DC fans into his own universe of DC Comics films, which would later unofficially be called DC Extended Universe, DCEU.
And now, it is revealed that Knightmare will be featured once again in the new iteration of the Justice League team-up, Zack Snyder's Justice League. That is some name for a movie; it's pretty dope seeing the director getting a place on the film's official title which shows how creative vision supersedes the agendas of commerce-oriented studios. Coming back to the point, this new "Knightmare" is more than just a tease, and it may open up new doors for the stumbling DCEU; the doors to the real DC Universe we all expected when Man of Steel first came to theatres. Let's dig those doors open!
What is "Knightmare"?
A quick recap of the first Knightmare - Batman (Ben Affleck) opens up a door, seemingly exiting a bunker, only to take a glimpse at a totally decimated and deserted city, with explosions happening afar. As he takes a close look at the horror he is witnessing, we see a large "unknown" symbol on the ground. Batman then meets a smuggler who's supposed to supply him with Kryptonite to defeat Superman, but he's betrayed. His resistance seems to be infiltrated when his team is revealed to be a group of mercs allying with Superman. Later, Batman is captured by some "flying alien creatures" and his loyal teammates and himself are then murdered by a raging, angry Superman.
The sequence in Batman v. Superman appears without any prior hint and then suddenly ends as a horrific dream Bruce saw. Blaming Superman for the decimation that he witnessed in the dream and realizing the magnitude of threat an invincible alien could pose to the world, Bruce resolves to kill him by any means, which sets up the rest of the plot of the film.
But this scene was not meant to be an epiphany for Affleck's character, but it was Snyder's call to DC fans about his plans for the future. You see, the "unknown symbol" was none other than the Anti-Life Equation, which supervillain Darkseid wishes to solve for him to take control of the free will of any sentient being and thus, become the sole dominator of any species. In the comics, Darkseid believes that a part of this equation lies in the human subconscious, which leads him to his invasion of Earth. The part where Superman has turned evil and vengeful is an indication of a world where Darkseid (not Superman) has won and has caused devastation across borders with the help of his human slaves and his army of Parademons (flying alien creatures).
Snyder's idea of putting this little detail had a greater significance than one could imagine at the time, which are now confirmed as he has revealed details of his plans for Justice League.
The hints towards the presence of Darkseid and his planned invasion way before the character was even mentioned showed how far Snyder had planned his vision. It was his way of telling fans that they're not just in for some epic Black vs Blue showdown but they're entering a new phase of shared universes which shall have a darker, more intense theme than ever explored before.
And there's more to it as the scene concluded with an epic cameo from Ezra Miller's The Flash, which could've set up a path for the real Justice League.
Knightmare Ends: Setting Up Zack Snyder's Justice League
In BvS, when Bruce is seemingly killed in Knightmare as Superman crushes his heart (WITH BARE HANDS!), he is woken up by a mysterious entity trying to reach out to him through a portal. The entity is The Flash trying to warn him of a coming threat, saying "Lois Lane is the key". The scene made more sense in the Ultimate Edition of BvS, which WB foolishly discarded just to ensure that the film was merely 30-minute short. Regardless, Snyder managed to drop hints towards his plans for the future of DCEU and his planned Justice League film which was then supposed to hit theaters in early 2017.
Now everyone is aware of bad decisions that went into the production of Justice League citing the bad audience response towards BvS that led to WB forcing Zack to alter his plans (that included a two-part Justice League). Things went worse when WB brought Joss Whedon to replace Zack in wake of a personal tragedy, and the rest is history. I mean, you know - #releasethesnydercut.
Finally Zack Snyder's Justice League is going to stream on HBO Max and there are hundreds of new details added into that movie including scenes removed by Whedon, characters that were cut out of the film such as Iris West, Nuidis Vulko, and Ryan Choi. Moreover, Snyder got the liberty to add more content to his cut, which also includes the said new Knightmare sequence. And though Zack Snyder's Justice League is 4-hour long, this one tiny scene alone can blast up a whole new DCEU.
Snyder's Knightmare Details
As per the details that have surfaced, the new Knightmare sequence will set up a new alternate timeline within the DCEU, which shall explore the expected devastation Darkseid and will cause on Earth, which shall turn Superman evil, resulting in total destruction. As per storyboards that were drawn by Jim Lee, the new Knightmare sequence will take place at least five years after the events of Justice League. The scene will feature Batman conversing with his archnemesis Joker.
Interestingly, Zack added Leto to his script within this alternate future after his director's cut of the film was approved by HBO Max. While this scene adds a new element to its overall significance, it shapes up a narrative that may lead to a well-constructed conclusion to this storyline, which now people are calling Snyderverse.
Zack Snyder's New Take On Knightmare and its Impact on Batman's Arc With the creative liberty, Zack has with the new project, he has gone ahead and shot a new Knightmare sequence, once again delving into the biggest fears of Batman.
You see, Ben Affleck's Batman is a war-weary vigilante, who has fought his whole life to bring a justified change to Gotham. He has expected that his deeds will change how things are in his city, but all he has received in return is chaos and the death of loved ones (Jason Todd is already dead in the DCEU). This has turned him more paranoid, leading him to kill his enemies which he has earlier swore to never do. In Batman v Superman, Bruce perceived the Knightmare as a signal of Superman's catastrophic repercussions. But in Zack Snyder's Justice League, Batman has a newly cleared conscience and may even have some hope as he resolves to form a team against Darkseid, Steppenwolf, and Parademon Army.
So this time, when Batman confronts the horrors of a Darkseid-invaded world, he'd probably be more mature, more sensible, and pretty much aware of what he's witnessing. Here, Batman's character arc may take a new turn and finally make him the true leader and recruiter of the Justice League, who understands both the powers and the dangers of his team and help them make pragmatic decisions in their quest to take the world.
Adding Joker to Knightmare
In the first full footage of Zack Snyder's Justice League, we can see Joker sitting at the edge of a destroyed city. He is wearing a S.W.A.T jacket with a gun in his hand. Joker's addition to the Knightmare specifically has called for some interesting debates. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Snyder revealed his inclusion of Joker and his conversation with Batman will have Joker "talking to Batman about Batman". It was said that this conversation will mean to offer Batman some "motivation through terror".
Through the looks of the first footage, it seems like Joker has taken up against Darkseid as well. Joker is a psychopath, who feeds on people's emotions and enjoys bringing them down to his own level. But in a world governed on Darkseid's Anti-Life equation, humans shall be devoured of their emotional selves, and lead them to the brink of devastation. This would mean a big defeat to the Joker. His insanity depends on the trauma and pain he puts others through, but when he'd be rendered unable to do any mental and psychological damage to society and will be ripped of his power he gains by torturing others, he may be driven back to "sanity".
What to Expect From Knightmare This Time?
In BvS, Knightmare was about having Bruce realize the real threat the world is facing, which he mistakenly believes is Superman. As Snyder has previously described, his version of Justice League will have Batman on a path of redemption, trying to correct his wrongs and honor the legacy of Superman. In this Knightmare, Batman may receive help from none other than the Joker himself. Snyder has earlier revealed that Joker would help steal the Mother Box to help Flash time travel and warn Bruce of the future, just like in Batman v Superman Knightmare.
In the comics, despite being the menace to Gotham, Batman has always believed that even a psychopath like him can change. This is a belief Batman has, which has been addressed during his confrontation with Joker in the comic book The Killing Joke. The Joker may not change from the inside but in the wake of a defeat, he may choose to side with his own enemy for his own good. Joker needs the old world back as that world is full of chaos, lies, crime, pain, and differences. In such a world, Joker can bend people's will by manipulating or threatening them.
But with Darkseid on the throne, Joker cannot have any of that. In comics, Batman has resorted to taking help from criminals to defeat a greater threat, something you can also witness in the Batman: Arkham video game series as well.
Hence, this theory can make a lot of sense and since the sequence is set in an alternate future, going away from the traditional comic-book storyline is always an option.
Batman Needs to Save The World.
If you look at the first frame of Zack Snyder's Justice League's first teaser that released a couple of months ago at DC Fandome 2020, you can see Aquaman's trident and Wonder Woman's shield lying in the rubble when Joker's signature card flies by, as the camera then pans towards a wider ground. That scene is actually depicting a fallen Hall of Justice, which is actually Wayne Manor turned into a headquarters for the league. It indicates the fact that Darkseid has won, the league is gone, and probably both Aquaman and Wonder Woman have died battling Darkseid's forces.
In such a scenario, Batman would need someone on the team besides Cyborg and The Flash. Why not Joker, huh? I mean, to defeat an evil force such as Darkseid, Batman may need someone who has a knack for evil and catastrophe. Someone who can think beyond what's right and wrong. The new trailer of Snyder Cut has Joker saying to Batman - "We live in a world where honor is a distant memory". Batman may have to make a decision that questions his morals. And hiring Joker to help him would mean severe chances of betrayal and a major threat to his life.
But, in the end, Batman is the one who recruits. And this time, he may have to make some serious changes in his hiring policies. After all, he's got to save the world.
Knightmare for DCEU: Setting up Justice League 2
Snyder always wanted Justice League to be a three-part event, with the first one focusing on the team dealing with Steppenwolf with the other two putting the league directly against the dark side. His original plans for DCEU, called Snyderverse included a five-picture arc (with additional films centered around individual characters of the league), which would have explored the Apokolips War against Darkseid, as well as have brought Knightmare's dystopian future into reality.
The idea was to have Darkseid win against the league and kill Lois Lane, which would have driven him insane and on a path of evil. Snyder wanted to include a sequence where Flash travels back in time to warn Bruce of the future (which would've brought his cameo in BvS full-circle), thus having him set up the Justice League. There were several plans to include tonnes of characters, however, Warner Bros. scrapped that plan in wake of poor reviews of Batman v Superman, which, however, now have aged like a fine wine.
With Zack Snyder's Justice League, DCEU may still have a chance. The trailer has heavily focused on the Knightmare timeline, which means that Snyder Cut's Knightmare will have a greater significance on the overall story. It's possible that, finally, the Knightmare sequence will create a way for the Snyderverse to happen as it was meant to be. Zack Snyder also wished for a canonical shared universe with Wonder Woman (2017), Aquaman (2018), The Batman, Flashpoint, Cyborg, and probably Green Lantern Corps., three of them are officially canceled indefinitely.
However, with Zack's original version restored now and set for release, Justice League 2 could still happen, even though there are currently no plans. From the looks of the trailer and the earlier teaser, the destruction sequences, the fall of Hall of Justice, and the death of Aquaman and Wonder Woman teased, it feels like his plans are coming forth and we may have a Snyderverse altogether.
Besides, the Flashpoint movie may also have something to add to Snyder's idea of DCEU and may revive the film franchise just like its titular comic-book. Zack Snyder's Justice League streams on HBO Max from March 18th, in a 4-hour long cut format.