The Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice ‘Knightmare’ Sequence: Understanding What It Means

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We help you understand the imagery and importance of this esoteric sequence in Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice. Why its not a dream and its greater importance to the future of the DC Cinematic Universe and what it actually means.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice bowed this past weekend with the highest ever debut for a comic book film in history, grossing 170.1 million domestic and over 420 million worldwide, amidst a critical backlash that saw fans come to theaters in droves to see the first big screen showdown between The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel. At Cult Following, we gave it a positive review, noting its adherence to the source material where it is derived from; comics such as The Dark Knight Returns and Zack Snyder’s experience in directing comic adaptations. However, there is one sequence in the film which has been a source of much critique and analysis by fans and critics as to what it actually means and we’re here to help sort that out. Warning, there will be spoilers.

SPOILERS!

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Halfway through the film, Bruce Wayne (as played by Ben Affleck) is trying to decipher some military encryption on files he steals from a home server at Lex Luthor’s home. We see the decoding program is going slowly and Wayne nods off. At this point, we are presented a view of A POSSIBLE NIGHTMARE FUTURE.

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Batman climbs out of a makeshift batcave, wearing an alternate costume with a duster and steps out into a literal apocalypse. It is a barren, burning landscape; where there are giant burning fire pits in the distance and a giant stamp of an OMEGA symbol. Batman and a bunch of rebels meet up with a convoy, at which point Batman asks, if they have it. The box is opened and we see a green aura. The audience and Batman are led to believe this is kryptonite; informing us that Superman has something to do with this state. However, its a green bulb and Batman is ambushed. The rebels turning out to be Superman’s stormtroopers and an army of PARADEMONS who subdue Batman after he kills many of them.

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This cuts to a scene where Batman is imprisoned and Superman shows up, as his troopers bow to him, he unmasks Batman and tells him that “she was his whole world, and he took her from him.” At which point, Superman then kills Batman.

Batman then awakens suddenly and we see The Flash (as played by Ezra Miller) breaking through the multiverse from a possible future wearing some makeshift armor (which is important). He tells Batman:

“Listen to me now! It’s Lois! It’s Lois Lane! She’s the key! Find us soon! (Screams in pain) I’m too soon! You’re right about him! You’ve always been right about him! Fear him! Find us soon, you have to find us!”

Flash then melts into the ether as Batman shudders and awakes.

So what did that all mean. Let’s unpack it – piece by piece.

THE FLASH, THE SPEED FORCE & THE FILM’S CONNECTION TO DARKSEID

In the “Knightmare” scenario we see, Earth is clearly under the thrall of Darkseid. Darkseid, is a classic Jack Kirby villain. He is a New God, the lord of the planet Apokalips; a world in deep space with smoking flame pits who is constantly at odds with the denizens of the neighboring world New Genesis, and its leader, Highfather. Darkseid (who the Marvel character Thanos is based on), feeds off the pain of others for his source of power and thus conquers worlds to add to his empire and sustain his energy as he seeks something called the Anti-life Equation. The Anti-Life Equation would give him control over all life. Superman, the Animated Series did a masterful job of explaining the Fourth World Saga as it is called in this short 3rd season video below:

The Flash, is a speedster whose power is tied to the Speed Force – a primal force tied to the Source, which is the opposite of the Anti-Life Equation, which allows him many powers beyond just super speed. He can create portals through time and space and his actions in crossing these barriers can give the Flash access to other worlds in the Multiverse. The Multiverse being a collection of alternate Earths and timelines within DC continuity. The actions he takes could potentially even end all of reality as they almost did during an incident known as Flashpoint. Here, the Flash’s actions created an alternate timeline where the world would be destroyed through a doomsday failsafe in a war between the people of Themiscrya and Atlantis. The Flash had to enter the Speed Force and find his past self within it to stop this paradox and avoid this alternate future timeline as you can see here:

This is where we as the audience are at in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The Flash is communicating to Batman about this dark future and that he has to avoid it by “finding us” – the metahumans that will comprise the Justice League. However, since its cutting through time, the message isn’t being exactly understood by Batman, since Flash has clearly overshot his mark – “he’s too soon” so his words are misleading Batman. The “him” is Darkseid, not Superman. But Batman doesn’t know that.

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When Barry tried to warn Batman about the Crisis in Crisis on Infinite Earths – a similar situation as Flashpoint. It has a similar effect. Batman is confused and doesn’t know what it means.

WAIT, HOW IS A DREAM COMMUNICATION? SEE MAN OF STEEL.

You might ask yourself, why would Batman take a dream seriously? Or why/how would it actually serve as a ways of communication. Notice that The Flash is wearing an odd armor in that clip. It seems to be the intent of the writers that this is allowing Flash to tap into Batman’s mind the same way that Zod does to Superman in Man of Steel.

In Man of Steel, Zod enters Superman’s mind and they share a dreamscape where they can each see into each others mind as they have a conversation. Zod tried to portray himself as a savior and servant of Krypton wanting the Kryptonian Codex back from Kal-El. But since they’re sharing a dreamscape, Kal-El can see that Zod’s true plans are to use the Kryptonian world engine and terraform Earth into creating a new Krypton once he has the codex. Since they’re connected, they can’t lie to each other. As the dreamvision ends, Superman awakens as if he had been asleep but they continue their talk as if it did happen outside the dreamscape. You can see a clip of that here.

Moreover, the Kryptonians learn that Superman’s ship is in Kansas and head there to try and find the Codex. They learn this from using the same technology on Lois Lane. Once Superman saves her, she tells him that they were able to get inside her mind and she didn’t tell them anything. This proves the technology also works on humans.

In the “Knightmare” scenario, Batman is connected to Flash and through their shared dreamscape, he sees what happens to this alternate future Batman and what may have set Superman on this dark course. While it seems like a dream, it is actually a glimpse into a dark future. One where Superman and Darkseid are working together.

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The biggest clue that the “him” referenced by the Flash is Darkseid was also provided to us via a deleted scene on the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice YouTube channel. Here’s a clip of Luthor in the Genesis chamber of Zod’s ship. As you may recall watching the film, He asks the ship for knowledge of all the universe’s alien races. At the end of the film, he tells Batman “he” is coming. In this clip, we see Luthor, as he is about to be arrested, “communing” with a figure who is clearly Steppenwolf, one of Darkseid’s hunters as he holds 2 mother boxes, the communication and teleportation devices used to communicate across time and space by Darkseid. This communing is the same kind of mindscape communication, so thus, the bell is rung for Darkseid.

EDIT: Some people have advocated that this is not Steppenwolf, but rather Yuga Khan, Darkseid’s long dead father. I believe this is unlikely for several reasons. If Lex Luthor is using the library to reference the history of Apokalips, it makes for a far murkier narrative for future films to introduce an apocryphal character with a limited publishing history like Yuga Khan versus an established character like Steppenwolf who reports to Darkseid. Steppenwolf answers directly to Darkseid, as do Desaad and Kalibak. These are established Kirby Fourth World characters versus Yuga Khan, who came along in the 1990’s and has never been traditionally depicted in adaptations of Kirby’s Fourth World Sage stories. The end scene of the film has Luthor tell Batman that Batman is too late, that “he” knows that God aka Superman is dead and he’s coming, then references the ding ding ding sound Mother Boxes traditionally make as analogous to a bell. Yuga Khan is a more recent creation, showing up in the nineties and his storyline is primarily directed at trying to breach the Source Wall and achieve ultimate knowledge and at one point to try and overthrow Darkseid as ruler of Apokalips.

Simply put, Yuga Khan is more of a B-level storyline that would be very hard to explain without already having established the civil war and backstory between Highfather and Darkseid. The storyline of Darkseid coming to conquer Earth and Luthor making contact with Steppenwolf via a mother box is a much straighter line in setting up Darkseid as the villain in Justice League.

Moreover, if you listen to the Communion clip at 0:04, the projection of Steppenwolf clearly says Lex Luthor’s name – insinuating that a communication has been made. The projection has no reason to dissipate once the soldiers show-up unless its an active communication.

A DARK FUTURE IS AN INJUSTICE

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It’s been long established in canon, that all it takes Superman to fall is one bad day. In
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Superman is convinced that he has to either convince Batman to save Martha Kent or kill him. This is the same thinking that led him to killing Zod in Man of Steel. A great example of this ultimatum scenario is seen in Justice League Unlimited, where an alternate Superman kills Luthor in a The Dead Zone like scenario where Luthor is a mad President of the United States and has killed the Flash. Superman kills Luthor in retribution, after Luthor convinces him that their story is a never ending cycle where Superman is essentially an accomplice to his evil by not killing him.

In this universe, the Justice League become the Justice Lords and take over Earth, since they see that mankind can’t control their dark impulses and would be better off being ruled.

This series of episodes is the basis for the video game Injustice, where The Joker mind controls Superman into killing Lois Lane and destroying Metropolis. Batman captures the Joker and the Joker laughs off their threats, asking to be incarcerated so he can think of an even grander scheme to destroy Superman and Batman. Superman, in the throes of grief, kills The Joker and comes to a similar “I must rule the world” scenario. Except in this world, Batman opposes him.

Alternatively, in Superman: The Animated Series, Superman is at one point captured by Darkseid’s chief interrogator, Granny Goodness, and her Female Furies, and made to believe he is Darkseid’s son, whereupon he tries to conquer the Earth as Darkseid’s heir.

This is also similar to Superman/Batman: Apocalypse where Supergirl is twisted and controlled by Darkseid and Granny Goodness into becoming his thrall as well:

Any of these could be possible scenarios for why Superman is working with, or, under the thrall, of Darkseid. Especially since Superman claims Batman took “her” (Lois Lane) away from him and she was his world. He could be the focus of Superman’s rage.

A DARKER KNIGHT

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Much is made of Batman using guns in this dark future sequence. This version of Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is seen as similar to the one from The Dark Knight Returns. This Batman was old and violent and bitter, even branding criminals to die. In an even darker future, its not hard to see this Batman crossing the line and killing and a big clue is his costume. This Batman is wearing a costume where his cape has been replaced by a duster, not unlike his costume in Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert’s Batman #666. This issue is set in a far off alternate future, where Damian Wayne has become Batman. A Batman who kills his enemies in a dark world where mystical powers and an apocalypse are nigh. This “Knightmare” Batman clearly seems to be referencing this version of the character.

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CODA

Even though there are some issues with its placement and sound design making it hard to follow, this is a real event, not a dream sequence; it is an actual event within the film that is meant to set up the larger DC Cinematic Universe. The Flash informs Batman he has to find and unite the world’s metahumans against a grand threat from Darkseid and his thrall Superman in order to save the world. This seems to be what the eventual Justice League movie will lead to and seems a promising scenario to unite the world’s heroes against.


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  • gRammarnazi

    Great article

    • http://www.victormoreno.com victormoreno

      Thanks, I appreciate the comment :)

  • 20Ⓥ

    Great article! From studying all the prediction/theory articles, getting the clues from BvS I can say that the Knightmare scene is most likely a vision of a possible future of Darkseid destroying mankind with Evil Superman on his side IF the Justice League is not formed on time and most importantly if Lois dies. Superman would lose himself if Lois passed, the Knightmare vision proves that. Superman in his own words basically says “You took her from me” right before he kills Batman. This implies that he indeed lost it and has become evil because of Lois’ death or at least her death being one of the major reasons and he has turned over to Darkseid and lost connection to humankind for good. Basically, Injustice. Who’s to say we will get Injustice? After seeing the movie 3x and having a note pad for 2 of them analyzing the crap out of this movie, I can say that there is a BIG chance we MIGHT NOT get Injustice.

    Now let’s just say that the Knightmare vision was a fixated future and Injustice is going to happen. This won’t make any sense. Here’s why: If that Knightmare scene is THE future, Batman dies. Superman clearly kills him in that vision; so that would just ruin everything. No future for any superhero or mankind unless it never happens.

    Which leads to Flash’s time traveling message..

    Flash time traveled to send a message to Bruce in order to PREVENT this vision from ever becoming a reality, so the Flash basically time travels to stop Injustice from ever happening. The Flash we see in this scene is probably coming from Earth 2 (alternate universe/alternate future) where Lois died and Justice League was never formed on time, which is why he strongly says, repeatedly to “FIND US!” So Flash clearly stated that Bruce needs to find them (Justice League). What is also VERY IMPORTANT in this scene is that the Flash also says that Lois is the key! A key for what? Well, obviously in order for Superman not to lose connection to mankind an go crazy, turn evil and siding with Darkseid, which results the end of the world basically. Flash warning about “him” is most likely Darkseid. The Flash also states that he is “too soon” which he probably was supposed to come after Superman’s death, therefore, would make much more sense to Bruce, but unfortunately like he said in his own words, he was too soon.

    In my opinion, based on every information I have gathered..the plot line for Justice League PT. 1 is Superman gets resurrected by Darkseid, which Darkseid manipulates/mind controls him to be on his side. Meanwhile, Bruce and Wonder Woman build the Justice League. Evil Superman being manipulated by Darkseid goes against the Justice League and are against each other, yet the Justice League cannot beat Darkseid without Superman so towards the end of the movie, to save Superman from Darkseid’s control they need Lois (The key) to bring him back. They need to pull his heart strings in order for him to snap out of this mind control, so they do get Lois to him to save the day.

    Now let’s just say Lois died throughout Justice League PT. 1, this storyline will lead us to the Knightmare vision and turn it into a reality, which would ruin all chances for a Justice League PT. 2 or any other DCEU sequel since the whole world and mankind is ruined and taken over by Darkseid. There is NO WAY Justice League can beat Darkseid with Superman on his side. No way.

    In conclusion, Justice League PT. 1 is about Justice League getting built and preparing to fight for something big (Darkseid) and Superman being resurrected and controlled by Darkseid. Justice League knowing that they need Superman in order for them to win, they try everything, every plan to save Superman from Darkseid’s mind control, and finally realizing THE KEY to who can only bring him back is LOUS LANE, so they mention her or bring her to him to make him snap out of it and he does. With the Justice League finally complete with Superman, Justice League PT. 2 is about Justice League with Superman on their side, and their plan on taking down Darkseid once and for all to save planet Earth and mankind.

    Share your thoughts! Thanks for listening to my predictions!

    The only Injustice (Lois’ being dead) storyline we will ever see based on this is Earth 2 (alternate universe/alternate future) which is basically what we saw in the Knightmare vision.

    • http://www.victormoreno.com victormoreno

      Pretty interesting theory as well. We’ll see if the writers go that direction. I appreciate you checking out our thoughts and leaving a comment here as well :)