“The bell has been rung …. and he heard it. Ding, ding, ding, ding.”
That was Lex Luthor’s not-all-that cryptic message at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in which he implied that something – or someone – was coming to Earth and that the heroes assembled at the end of the film would have to deal with it. Though it’s not stated outright, there’s a strong implication he’s talking about Darkseid, the evil lord of Apokolips, and one of the most powerful villains in the DC Universe. After all, this scene caps off a film loaded with imagery tied to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World and New Gods, the saga that birthed Darkseid among other iconic ideas and characters.
With Fourth World trappings, and specifically Darkseid, being hinted at so heavily throughout the film meant to set the stage for the two-part Justice League movie, and Darkseid serving as the uniting threat for the team in their latest comic book incarnation, could Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. be setting the New Gods and Darkseid up as their film world’s equivalent of Thanos and the Infinity Stones – an endgame around which most or even all of their cinematic endeavors will hinge? It certainly seems possible, and there’s even potential evidence in some of WB’s other upcoming DC films, like Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and even the far off Aquaman. Will the Fourth World be the element that ties DC’s heroes – and possibly even its villains – to one unified narrative?
Before we start speculating, let’s look at what’s confirmed, what we can see with our own eyes in the films and footage that’s already been released. In Batman v Superman, the Darkseid imagery is strong. In the now-infamous “Knightmare” sequence, Batman envisions a world where he glimpses Darkseid’s Omega symbol scorched into the Earth as soldiers bearing the Superman logo take down an entire force of freedom fighters at his command before being beset by what are, unquestionably, Parademons, the flying cannon fodder of Apokolips. In the end of this scene, Batman is confronted by a murderous Superman before suddenly waking up. It’s a puzzling scene, followed by perhaps an even more puzzling moment that we’ll get to in a minute.
But regardless of its specific story implications, this sequence is perhaps the most direct hint that Darkseid is looming over the DC Cinematic Universe, not in the least because it may be drawing inspiration from Earth 2, a comic book in which Superman is killed only to be resurrected as a villain by Darkseid.
Immediately after, we get an even more confounding puzzle piece, in which the Flash seemingly travels through time and space to warn Batman that Lois Lane is the key to something or other, and given its attachment to the ‘”Knightmare” sequence, the implication seems to be Lois not being taken away by Batman is the key to Superman not turning evil. The Flash arrives through a portal that bears a striking resemblance to a Boom Tube, the wormholes used by the New Gods to travel across the cosmos.
This, combined with what Snyder has confirmed is a Mother Box seen in the origin of Cyborg, demonstrate that New Gods tech is alive and well in this universe – and that some Earthlings already have their hands on it. There’s also the matter of that recently revealed deleted scene in which Lex Luthor confronts someone – or something – in the downed Kryptonian ship, surrounded by what look like more Mother Boxes. That being could be our first glimpse at one of the denizens of Apokolips - or is it?
This brings us to the rest of DC’s Cinematic Universe. With the clues laid bare in Batman v Superman that Darkseid and the New Gods are undoubtedly a presence in this world, how do Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman - the three upcoming DC films about which we know the most – tie-in to that larger narrative? We’ll start with Suicide Squad.
While Suicide Squad may seem pretty straightforward – a group of the worst criminals and killers in the DC Universe are pitted against a threat that could kill them all – there’s some definite weirdness hiding in the most recent trailers that we’ve seen. For starters, there’s a plane that is seemingly downed in a city street implying a threat comes from above, and there’s definitely a moment in which some alien-looking tentacles seem to be flailing around, accompanied by one hell of a light show.
Then there’s the little matter of that character that’s standing in the way of a subway train, slicing it in half. It’s hard to see, but that creature bears more than a passing resemblance of the one in the deleted scene from Batman v Superman. If they’re connected, and that is a reference to Apokolips, the Suicide Squad trailer would actually mark the first appearance of a New God in the public eye.
But how does that all connect together? It seems strange to shoehorn the New Gods and the Fourth World into Suicide Squad - unless that larger narrative is the movie’s driving factor. Suicide Squad may represent the first echoes of Luthor’s ringing bell – and if so, could the Joker have an even deeper role in the DC Cinematic Universe? What if the Joker also knows what’s coming? What if he’s even trying to hasten it? That would make him a credible enough threat to send an entire team against, and it wouldn’t be a new conceit that his unique kind of madness gives him some level of cosmic awareness, or susceptibility to cosmic manipulation. And, that would be a unique way to keep the powerhouse casting choice of Jared Leto relevant for multiple films.
Meanwhile, we’ve only gotten the barest hints of what’s at play in Wonder Woman and Aquaman, but there are clues to their place in the larger narrative embedded in our limited information as well. Wonder Woman says, while fighting Doomsday, that she’s fought monsters like him before. Does she mean aliens? Could her World War I adventures, on which her solo film is based, have involved fighting some kind of Apokoliptian monster? If so, a similar threat looming on the horizon would be a great reason for her to come out of retirement in time for Batman v Superman.
Over in Aquaman, director James Wan has discussed his movie’s adventurous scope, saying we’ll see Aquaman taking on sea monsters. If there is a unifying connection there, if both Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s monsters have roots in Apokolips, that only raises the stakes for Justice League, with the individual members coming together to fight a much more dangerous version of something they’ve faced separately.
And we can’t wrap this up without mentioning The Flash. Star Wars duly noted, it’d be unusual for a big budget feature film to just rely on a broad concept like the Speed Force to explain a character’s abilities. Could there also be some sort of otherworldly technological explanation for Barry’s origin, or at least the existence of said Speed Force.
While the writing isn’t exactly on the wall, the bell is ringing, as Luthor might say. So many nods, Easter eggs, and outright evidence seem to be pointing to a larger-than-anticipated role of the Fourth World in the DC Cinematic Universe – a role that could again, like Marvel’s Infinity Stones, provide connective tissue to many disparate elements of the world Snyder, Wan, David Ayer, Patty Jenkins and co. are building, connecting Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Justice League, and the individual character films to a larger narrative about not only Earth coming under threat by Darkseid and the New Gods of Apokolips, but tying much of the public rise of meta-humans together with a unifying bond?
Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.
Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping.