Features and Columns · Movies

There’s No Ending for ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’

The Snyder Cut revels in Injustice and shows that there may be gods amongst us, but we should take no solace in such knowledge.
Zack Snyder's Justice League Ending
Warner Bros.
By  · Published on March 18th, 2021

Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we tumble through the epilogue of Zack Snyder’s Justice League and consider the cataclysmic chess board set up for a sequel that may or may not come.

You just enjoyed a taste. It took four hours to gobble down, but Zack Snyder’s Justice League is merely an appetizer for an apocalyptic feast we may never actually get to wrap our jaws around. The final moments of the movie reveal a grimdark future where not only have Darkseid’s minions take control of Earth, but an evil Superman (Henry Cavill) patrols the skies hunting for heroes to vaporize.

Whatever satisfaction we got from seeing Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Flash (Ezra Miller) united against Steppenwolf is dashed. When it comes to the DC Comics Universe, hope is a fleeting notion. Since Metropolis fell in Man of Steel, armageddon was the endgame.

The moment the Justice League propels Steppenwolf’s severed head through the Boom Tube and under Darkseid’s boot, the space dictator starts plotting. His sparkly armored lackey failed in his conquest, but he did discover the Anti-Life Equation carved into the planet’s surface. The deadly formula (i.e. DC’s Infinity Stones equivalent MacGuffin) is something Darkseid has sought for eons, and its revelation motivates the big bad to ready his armada.

Apokolips’ forces will use the old ways to invade Earth, and we cannot take his threat as a mild one, even if we did just witness our champions decimate Steppenwolf’s overly confident Parademon soldiers. To seal the deal on the Darkseid menace, Zack Snyder propels the plot several unknown years ahead. We see the burnt orange skies initially glimpsed by Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s a judgment day peek to tighten our pucker.

A Justice League wanders the wasteland, but its roster is not the one we last saw. Camo-clad Batman is locked and loaded while Cyborg, Flash, Mera (Amber Heard), and Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) trail behind. That last fella is a bit of a shock to the system, as the previous scene before the apocalypse flash-forward depicts an eager Deathstroke receiving a Batman kill order from Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Clearly, the world has turned upside down if Deathstroke and Batman have become bosom buddies.

As your brain is racing to understand how this hell could come to pass, this little suicide squad reveals itself to be even stranger. Batman dares to sympathize with Mera, who has apparently lost Aquaman by Superman’s violent means. She scoffs at his soft words, “You have no idea how I feel. Who have you ever loved?”

And that’s when the laughing starts. The Joker (Jared Leto) rests atop a blown-out automobile. He assures Mera that Batman knows exactly what it’s like to lose somebody he loves, “Like a father, like a mother, like an adopted son.” At the moment, it takes everything Batman has not to rip Joker’s head from his shoulders. The reference to a dead Robin the Boy Wonder sends ripples of agony through the caped crusader’s body.

So, why doesn’t Batman do it? Why doesn’t Batman put a round through the smiling demon’s face? He’s not above it. We’ve seen him obliterate Parademons and riddle Gotham hoods with bullets. Shouldn’t the Joker be the next person on his kill list, especially if he’s the monster responsible for killing one of his Robins?

Joker’s giggles are their own kind of lethal projectiles. Beneath every “ha” is some mysterious knowledge slightly out of reach from the audience. The information rolls on chuckles, cementing what we feared during our last visit to this hellscape. Lois Lane is dead, and her passing transformed Superman into a rage monster.

This villainous Kryptonian plot is torn straight from the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game and the nearly endless comics it spawned. Representing a shard of the DC Comics multiverse (a concept we’re now familiar with thanks to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and WandaVision), Injustice: Gods Among Us reveals how the Joker tricked Superman into killing Lois. The act drives Kal-El mad, twisting his righteous thinking into a despotic grip around Earth.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is basically Mortal Kombat meets Justice League with Superman sitting on his Shao Kahn throne. Assembling to topple his tyranny is Batman and an army of various heroes and villains stolen from across the multiverse. The game fulfills the same thrill experienced whenever Star Trek dabbled in its Mirror Universe. These characters look and feel somewhat like the spandex gladiators you know, but they deviate in ways that the publisher would never allow their canon counterparts to behave.

In the video game, the evil Superman is brought down by the good Superman, or Prime Superman, from the main DC Comics universe. Of course, with a little assist from Batman, Yellow Lantern, Wonder Woman, Shazam, and Flash. They imprison the wretched tyrant using Red Kryptonite radiation, rendering him powerless. At least that’s what they think, as the game leaves the player with the evil Superman’s eyes glowing with fire. Those cell bars won’t last long.

With multiverses being all the rage these days, could the apocalypse we see at the end of Zack Snyder’s Justice League actually be a reality splintered from the main timeline? Absolutely. Zack Snyder’s Joker practically says as much when he ponders, “How many alternate timelines do you destroy the world…because you’re too afraid to die?”

Batman returns the jab by reminding Joker that Harley Quinn died in Bats’ arms, begging him to kill the clown slow. Whether Joker is truly wounded by this or not, we will never know. The twisted Superman arrives on the scene, and Bruce awakens in a sweat upon his cushy billionaire’s mattress. As was the case in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Darkseid’s future is resolved as a nightmare…or Knightmare, if you prefer.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League ending refuses to leave its audience wallowing in despair. Instead, it revolves around the Martian Manhunter (Harry Lennix) making a housecall. The floating green alien explains to Bruce that Darkseid is not finished with Earth, and he’ll never quit us as long as he believes the Anti-Life Equation resides here.

Martian Manhunter offers his services to Bruce. The Justice League’s unity inspired him. He’s ready to stand by their side and defend humanity against a villainous wave. No longer will he hide in plain sight as General Swanwick, the seemingly benevolent supporting character from Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Considering Martian Manhunter is nowhere to be found in the Knightmare sequence, his services may not amount to a hill of beans. We need a solo film to act as a Martian Manhunter hype-man. What’s this guy got that Aquaman or Flash can’t already provide?

In the comics, Martian Manhunter is an escapee from his red planet, where he was a corrupt cop guilty of numerous crimes. He seeks to make amends for his past on Earth, serving as a police office and Justice League member. His shape-shifting abilities are not that different from what you see from Marvel’s Skrulls. In addition, however, he also sports invisibility, intangibility, flight, regeneration, telepathy, telekinesis, and more. He’s a regular swiss army knife, maybe more Superman than Skrull, actually.

And yet, he’s noticeably absent from the Knightmare, and the impending doom promised by Zack Snyder’s Justice League ending.

The Snyder Cut is a beast, a mighty meal that leaves the viewer more than full — engorged. Steppenwolf caused some tremendous damage, but once Superman joined the team, after a little scuffle, they mopped the floor with him. The Kryptonian is key. He’s a god, and you can’t make him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Let’s remember Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, though. Before he let “Martha” slip, Batman had Superman on the ropes. The Dark Knight can dispatch Clark Kent, and he doesn’t need Wonder Woman, Mera, or Deathstroke to do so. He just needs a little Kryptonite, red or green, it doesn’t matter which. Maybe that’s where Joker is leading the merry band during the Knightmare.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League ending leaves its audience on a sunrise, with Martian Manhunter offering assistance and a tired Bruce Wayne returning to bed for some much-needed rest. Having brought the League together, he can let the torment of his parents’ murder go. He can be at peace.

Wait, wait, wait, no. Again, Knightmare. There is no peace in the Snyderverse. Darkseid and an evil Superman hover over everything. Whatever victory there is today is fleeting. Evil owns the future, and if Warner Bros. never releases that tension cinematically, let’s hope DC Comics does. Give Snyder Jim Lee. The two of them can knock out some desperate resolution together via a comic book event series. Without it, we’re left hanging.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)