When Zack Snyder was spearheading the so-called DC Extended Universe, he planned a five-movie arc consisting of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and a Justice League trilogy. However, after Joss Whedon took over as director of Justice League, plans for Snyder’s saga fell by the wayside. Although Snyder’s original cut of Justice League will make its way to HBO Max in 2021, his complete vision will likely never come to pass.
However, the spirit of Snyder’s planned trilogy may live on in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, the latest film in the DC Animated Movie Universe. Details about Snyder’s Justice League trilogy have trickled out over the years, and they’re not dissimilar to what Apokolips War brought to the table. So, while fans may never see Snyder’s five-movie arc fulfilled, let’s look at how Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is a worthy substitute that celebrates DC in grand fashion.
In the original ending of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Wonder Woman beheads Steppenwolf and the team comes face-to-face with Darkseid in a Boom Tube. This moment helps establish Darkseid as the league’s true threat going into the Justice League sequels. Apokolips War doesn’t take much from the first Justice League movie, but it closely follows the broad strokes for the planned second and third films to a striking degree. The animated movie has the Justice League lose to Darkseid on Apokolips, lick their wounds in an apocalyptic hellscape version of Earth and travel back in time to defeat Darkseid and avoid a dystopian future.
Justice League 2 would have seen the heroes take the fight to Darkseid on Apokolips where they would ultimately be defeated. Aquaman and Wonder Woman would die while Batman, Cyborg and Flash live to continue the fight. Darkseid uses the Anti-Life Equation to compromise Superman making him his top enforcer. Darkseid would then conquer Earth and enslave it as New Apokolips, creating the apocalyptic Knightmare scenario foreshadowed in Batman v. Superman.
From there, things get even more similar because, in both Apokolips War and the planned Justice League trilogy, the Flash goes back in time following the league’s failure to defeat Darkseid to regroup and change the past. In Snyder’s Justice League, the team is still reeling from their fight when they figure out a way to send Barry back in time to issue a warning to Bruce to save Lois Lane. A newly pregnant Lois dying in Justice League 2 would be the catalyst that would turn Superman evil, which is why the Flash warned, “Fear him” in BvS. Clark blamed Bruce for her death and this anguish made him susceptible to being taken under Darkseid’s control. Superman witnesses Lois’s death in Apokolips War as well, but this instead restores his powers as he is able to break free from Trigon’s influence to take on Darkseid.
In Apokolips War, Batman is brainwashed by Darkseid, effectively filling Superman’s role in the Justice League trilogy. As Lois is for Superman, Damian Wayne is the key to free Batman from his spell. Darkseid forces Batman to kill his own son, but the Dark Knight refuses when he realizes that he has turned into the very same killer that gunned down his parents, in a moment reminiscent of BvS‘s infamous “Martha” scene.
The similarities between the two projects continue when going down the roster of the League. Although Cyborg’s role was drastically cut in Whedon’s version of Justice League, the character was meant to play a much bigger part as Darkseid was going to hijack his Mother Box technology in an attempt to conquer the universe. This story was realized in Apokolips War when Darkseid made Cyborg into an unwitting spy against his former teammates.
Where the two franchises diverge is in their endings. Little is known about the conclusion of Snyder’s Justice Trilogy, but it’s said to involve going back in time so Bruce Wayne can heed the Flash’s warning and prevent the death of Lois. Apokolips War’s finale also sees time travel play a major role, but it’s more of the reality-wiping kind as Barry Allen once again rewrites the DCAU. It’s unclear how Warner Bros. will proceed with future Justice League films, or if they will continue at all beyond the Snyder Cut. But for those who wonder what might have been, Apokolips War is a fitting replacement.
While The Snyder Cut will give fans a tease, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War may be the closest translation of the original Justice League arc.