*MAJOR SPOILERS for 'Batman v Superman'*
Even way before we got our first look at the feature-length superhero showdown that is Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice there was a huge amount of chatter and speculation circling about the "Knightmare" dream sequence that shows a captured Batman (Ben Affleck) and a pretty scary looking Man of Steel (Henry Cavill). You know the one.
This footage provided us with a glimpse into a terrible dystopian future, a world swarming with Darkseid's Parademons and the Omega brand burned into the ground as Batman stands above a ruined city (presumably either Gotham or Metropolis).
Dream Sequence Or Flash Vision?
A few weeks back, the Empire Batman v Superman magazine cover hinted that this scene isn't actually a paranoid Batman dream sequence (as had been theorized) but rather a vision seen by the Flash (Ezra Miller), who has the ability to flash forward into the future and alternate timelines or flash back from them. Upon full viewing of the movie this theory was confirmed — but it's a little more complex than we'd thought.
Because, as it turns out, it's both a Batman dream sequence AND a Flash time-traveling moment, and it carries flavors of Inception in it. Let's break it down.
The use of dreams isn't a new staple of Batman's character, especially in The Dark Knight Returns from which Batman v Superman takes a lot of inspiration. But in the comics and previous on-screen iterations, Bruce Wayne's dreams have been used to portray his underlying psychology — so they've not really been held as prothetic before.
So, Bruce falls asleep while waiting for his program to crack Lex Luthor's (Jesse Eisenberg) files and in his dream we see him standing before a ruined city, just like in the promo material. He heads into the ruins to meet with a team of mercenaries who have been tasked with retrieving Kryptonite for him, but he's betrayed and a firefight ensues.
If that weren't bad enough, the Parademons then show up and begin picking off the dead and wounded. Batman is overpowered and knocked out, and awakes chained in a basement beside the soldiers who were fighting for him.
Superman shows up, and damn he's pissed. He stalks down the corridor towards Batman as his soldiers bow and eye beams the crap out of the other men strung up beside Batman. He then rips the cowl from our captured hero's head to reveal Bruce Wayne beneath, before punching Batman full-force in the chest, presumably killing him in a manner very similar to how he offs Joker in the Injustice comics. That's gotta leave a bruise or two.
But, aside from Superman killing the other men and punching Batman, this is all footage we'd seen before. The really interesting stuff happened after that, when Bruce snaps awake from his dream, back at his desk. As he's reeling from the dream, the Flash then appears before him, dressed in clothes similar to those worn by Bruce in the Knightmare sequence, phasing in and out of what could be a Speed Cannon connecting two different universes or timezones.
Flash warns Bruce, "you were right about him!" and says he has to save Lois Lane (Amy Adams) ("she's the key") to prevent the future he'd just witnessed from coming true. Presumably the "him" he mentions is Superman, but he's not actually mentioned by name in this sequence. After Bruce receives this warning he immediately snaps awake again as his program finishes running.
What to make of all this? If it'd pertained to the current situation it seems more likely that Flash would've warned him to save Martha Kent (Diane Lane) as of course ends up happening during the climactic battle (and Supes seems to have everything under control when it comes to saving Lois).
A Possible Explanation...
According to Flash, it seems that at some point in the future timeline Lois was killed, with Superman blaming Batman for this happening and taking over and subjugating the Earth, with Bruce standing as resistance against him (just like in Injustice). But the Omega symbol and the Parademons still stand as testament to the presence of Darkseid in this post-apocalyptic future.
So, from this we can take two things: 1) it's possible that Flash flash-backed too far when warning Bruce, as his cryptic message doesn't really seem to pertain to the situation that unfolds in Batman v Superman, and 2) could it be that Superman is working with Darkseid in this timeline?
Speaking of the Big Bad, there wasn't really any other Darkseid teasing during the Knightmare sequence, but there did seem to be a big one right at the end.
After the millennial bad guy Lex had been incarcerated in all his iconic bald headed glory, Batman pays him a little visit in his cell to deliver a warning. An erratic character throughout, at this point in the movie Lex is acting more than a little cracked as he warns Batman that he can hear the bells ringing.
But it's the bell ringing out in space that he seems most concerned with, as he warns Batman that something, or someone, is coming to Earth. Something shaken awake by the events of the movies, perhaps alerted by the frigging nuclear warhead set off just outside the Earth's atmosphere.
In the same way that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been teasing Thanos for years now, it's very likely that this mysterious warning of Lex's pertains to Darkseid, but how does he know about him? It seems as though he may have uncovered information pertaining to the ruler of Apokolips in the databanks of the crashed Kryptonian ship, which we saw him accessing prior to creating Doomsday.
In a way, Batman v Superman posed more questions about Darkseid than it answered, but of course it's not meant to be a standalone with everything wrapped in a neat little bow at the conclusion. It's only the second film in the DCEU, and the first featuring more than one superhero, so if it's setting up Darkseid as the main series villain it's going to be a while until we start discovering more about him.
Batman v Superman is laying breadcrumbs, while the real meat of the thing will likely be explained in greater detail in the upcoming Justice League films. For now, at least we had Bats and Supes punching each other, that was pretty great.