Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is nothing if not ominous. The movie is filled — perhaps to a fault — with references to events and characters that audiences are presumably going to see in future installments of the so-called DC Extended Universe (or DCEU). But the most explicit supposed foreshadowing shows up about a third of the way into the movie, when Batman falls asleep at his desk and has a grim, sepia-toned vision of the future. (What, you didn’t know about Batman’s famous Bat-Precognition?)
If you were left scratching your head at the weird stuff that happens in the dream sequence, you can find some answers here about what was going down — and how it relates to a few more of the movie’s most mysterious moments, as well as to the planned superhero team-up Justice League: Part One, coming next November. Big spoilers ahead, of course.
Was there some unifying thread to all the omens and cameos?
That appears to be the case. The key to everything is a character named Darkseid (pronounced “dark side”). He was introduced in the world of DC Comics in 1970, the brainchild of one of the medium’s greatest geniuses, writer/artist Jack Kirby. Darkseid’s a nearly invincible alien dictator from a distant world called Apokolips, where he has crushed his population’s will and lords over them with the help of a cabinet of sadistic cronies.
But Apokolips isn’t enough for him: he’s often depicted as obsessed with finding something called the “Anti-Life Equation,” which would allow him to kill or subjugate everyone in the cosmos. He’s a literal god and more or less the ultimate personification of evil. In other words, to use a video game metaphor, he’s DC's Final Boss. When DC rebooted its fictional universe in 2011, the new origin story of top-tier superteam the Justice League involved them all coming together to fight Darkseid. Having that be the organizing principle for the filmic League would be a logical bit of brand synergy.
What was the symbol future-Batman sees carved into the ground?
That’s our first tip-off to Darkseid’s presence in the DCEU. He’s traditionally associated with the Greek letter "omega," often wearing outfits that feature the symbol and firing dangerous energy rays that have been variously referred to as Omega Beams or the Omega Sanction. That brings us to the dream sequence. Batman is wandering a Mad Max–esque landscape and, at one point, gazes out toward a ruined city. In the expanse between him and the ruined buildings, you can see a massive omega inscribed on the soil. Presumably, this means Batsy is dreaming of a future in which Darkseid has accomplished his goal of conquering Earth and branded it accordingly.
What was with the giant grasshopers?
Ah, yes, the grasshopper-men. Batman meets up with a rag-tag group of dudes who claim to be offering him some Kryptonite, but it turns out to be a trap. He’s soon beset by soldiers with the Superman insignia on their shoulders, and then things get weird. The soldiers get some winged backup from flying creatures that look like humanoid insects. These are another Kirby creation: Parademons. They’re Darkseid’s foot soldiers, always dependable for a mindless rush into battle on their master’s command.
So is future-Superman working for Darkseid?
I … guess? That was left ambiguous. Given that the Supertroopers and the Parademons are working in concert, it would appear that the Man of Steel is in some way allied with the big, bad space-meanie, for reasons unknown.
What was Superman talking about when he yelled at Batman in the dream?
After Batman is captured and strung up, Supes shows up and tells the Dark Knight, “She was my world, and you took her from me.” Maybe this dystopian future came to be as a result of Lois Lane dying (perhaps due to something Batman did) and Superman subsequently giving in to rage at his adopted world? That’s similar to the setup of DC’s recent hit video-game Injustice: Gods Among Us, which would make this another example of brand synergy. That game didn’t feature Superman working for Darkseid, but it’s not unreasonable to think Supes might have allied himself with the Apokoliptan after turning against humanity.
Who was the guy who appears in that weird portal right after the dream?
That’s the Flash, played here by Ezra Miller. (There’s currently a screen incarnation of the character on The CW’s The Flash, but that show’s entirely unrelated to the DCEU.) He’s often depicted as being able to travel through time, either by running really fast or using some kind of time-travel technology. Since he’s wearing a weird mechanical suit (which is not a mainstay of the comics version of the Flash), the latter seems to be the case here. It appears that he’s coming from the future to warn present-day Batman about something involving Lois Lane. It’s all deliberately vague, but seems to fit with Superman’s “she was my world” bit.
What was up with the video of the dismembered kid and the scientist?
Later in the movie, Wonder Woman looks at some video footage relating to other DC heroes. One video shows a scientist named Silas Stone (played by Joe Morton) attempting to save a kid (played by Ray Fisher) who seems to only consist of a ripped-up torso and head. This was a look at the origin of Cyborg, a longtime DC character who’s slated to get his own DCEU movie in 2020.
He debuted in 1980 but got a big push from DC for new popularity in the aforementioned 2011 reboot. He’s a young football star named Vic Stone who, in the rebooted continuity of the comics, gets injured in a laboratory accident while visiting his emotionally distant dad. Silas saves his son’s life by grafting experimental robot parts to the boy. But in the movie, as in the comics, Vic’s new robotic life is forever changed by the presence of a weird box. In the comics, Silas’s newfound cybernetic parts attach themselves to yet another Kirby invention called a Mother Box. Mother Boxes are pieces of extremely advanced technology used by gods like Darkseid, and they can do all sorts of magical things — creating teleportation wormholes, healing the sick, merging living organisms, you name it.
In the movie, we see Silas bring a mysterious, moving box near Vic, at which point it shape-shifts and replaces the kid’s body. Given that ever-present brand synergy, it seems likely that this was the big-screen debut of the Mother Box. (It’s also possible that Daily Planet editor Perry White’s earlier mention of a “football underdog” whose dreams were dashed is a reference to Vic and his injuries.)
What was Lex Luthor babbling about at the end?
Darkseid, most likely. When Lex is imprisoned and yelling at Batman, he says, “He’s hungry, he’s found us, and he’s coming!” Given that the camera then moves to Lex’s father’s painting of hell and zooms in on Satan, the hidden meaning is pretty obvious to anyone in the know about comics mythology.