Spoiler warning! We're diving deep into the two -- yes, two -- bonus scenes attached to DC's latest offering and speculating over what it might mean for the DCEU.
Spoilers below for Justice League.
Despite, uh, less than super reviews for Justice League, the DC Universe is barreling forward, it seems, if the two -- yes, two -- post-credit scenes are any indication. (Y'know, in addition to all the seeds planted in the actual movie for Queen Atlanna, Darkseid and Green Lantern Corps.)
While the DC brain trust has tended away from adding tags on the movies -- "'I don't know, can I do that?' Because Marvel does that," Zack Snyder once said -- Justice League isn't the first film to come with bonus scenes. But while the stinger attached to Suicide Squad was mostly just puzzling, there's quite a bit to speculate over here.
Mid-Credits Scene: The scene itself doesn't require much explaining: Barry Allen aka The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Superman (Henry Cavill) meet in some remote location to race. "It's not like a competition, you know," Barry explains. "Well, it is a competition, but, you know, it's not like a macho, um, measuring thing."
"But if I win, you're off the team?" Superman replies, then cracks a smile and makes a callback joke to Barry's rant about brunch. It's a bit of fun that plays on the earlier (and more dramatic) moments in which Flash realizes he may not actually be the fastest man alive -- a dynamic that plays out in the comics, as well.
More notably, that the tag was clearly filmed in reshoots -- clock Cavill's uncannily mustache-less mouth regions -- means Joss Whedon built the bit to capitalize on the fact that not only is Miller the clear standout of the movie, but he and Cavill have the best chemistry of the bunch. That's promising for the beleaguered Flashpoint movie.
While a The Flash movie was once planned for a 2018 release, it's since been departed by two directors (The LEGO Batman Movie writer Seth Grahame-Smith and Dope's Rick Famuyiwa) as titles like Whedon's Batgirl, Shazam starring Zachary Levi, Gotham City Sirens and The Batman (more on that in a moment) gained steam. Rumors swirled that DC could be holding off on the project to see how Justice League performed -- now, hopefully, things will get back on track.
And Justice League does lay a lot of the groundwork for Flashpoint, a 2011 comic run that saw Barry travel back in time to stop his mother's death, only to return to the present and discover the Justice League no longer exists. We've now met Barry's father, Henry Allen (played by Billy Crudup), behind bars, with Barry proclaiming Henry's innocence, and while there were reports that Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman would appear in the movie, perhaps it should be a buddy pic with Superman instead? It'd certainly be a better move than Man of Steel 2.
End-Credits Scene: The scene begins in an asylum -- Arkham Asylum? -- as a prison guard turns a bald-headed, straight jacketed, maniacally laughing man around to realize it is not Lex Luther. We cut to a small speed boat that is transporting a masked man wearing an orange and black super suit and wielding dual katanas to a yacht.
It's Deathstroke, the assassin and mercenary who has become one of DC's most iconic villains. "There he is," Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) welcomes him, offering Deathstroke champagne. "I was just celebrating God's return, out of the ground and back up into the sky."
"He and his odd little friends are forming some sort of league," Luther says.
"You better not be wasting my time," Deathstroke warns, taking off his mask and revealing that it is indeed Joe Manganiello underneath, sporting true-to-the-comics white hair, a goatee and an eye patch.
"No, I have too much to live for and more important things to do," Luther replies. "We have to level the playing field, Mr. Wilson. To put it plainly, shouldn't we have a league of our own?"
Lex is referring to the 1992 movie starring Geena Davis and Rosie O'Donnell. Only joking! While there are any number of villainous team-ups he's been involved in that he could be hinting at -- Legion of Doom, Secret Society of Super Villains -- Luther is mostly likely teasing the, wait for it, Injustice League.
In comic book canon, the Injustice League was founded by a cosmic baddie named Agamemno with an assist from Luther, but it did include Deathstroke (real name, Slade Wilson), along with Joker (Jared Leto in Suicide Squad), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad), Black Mantra (who will be the villain in 2018's Aquaman, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Penguin (who was mentioned in Justice League, so...he's out there). The founding members also included familiar names like Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Sinestro and Two-Face.
So, what does this mean for the DCEU? Manganiello was originally cast as Deathstroke to be the villain in The Batman, back when Affleck was writing the script and was attached to direct. Affleck even shared test footage of Manganiello is the suit, which appears to be the same one he wears in Justice League:
Then Affleck stepped down as director and was replaced by Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes), who tossed Affleck's script to focus on a "noir-driven" story. Then speculation began over whether Affleck would even play the Caped Crusader again in it. (He stoked that fire when he said he's looking "to find a graceful and cool way to segue out of it.") To ET, Affleck recently said, "I can only tell you that time will tell."
Meanwhile, reports have now surfaced that DC is prepping a solo Deathstroke movie with The Raid's Gareth Evans writing and directing. Days before that news broke, Evans posted a cryptic pic of a Deathstroke comic to Instagram:
But does the post-credits scene suggest Deathstroke's movie could be -- god forbid -- another team-up movie for DC, with Manganiello recruiting and leading a team of villains? That hasn't worked out for Suicide Squad or Justice League so far, but that also hasn't seemed to stop DC from doing it anyway.
The only DC movies with concrete releases dates at the moment are Aquaman, hitting theaters on Dec. 21, 2018, Shazam (out April 5, 2019) and the Wonder Woman sequel, out Nov. 1, 2019, so perhaps DC doesn't even know what they're doing with Deathstroke yet. Time will tell.