Justice League is the latest superhero blockbuster to hit cinemas, and as usual it’s stuffed with secret callbacks, references and Easter Eggs taken from decades of film, TV and comic-book history.
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These were just a few of our favourites…
1. Green Lanterns
While DC might be keen to forget Ryan Reynolds’ ill-fated Green Lantern movie from 2011, they’re not giving up on their spacefaring, energy-controlling heroes altogether.
In Justice League’s flashback battle scene (where Ciaran Hinds’ Steppenwolf takes on the combined forces of Atlantis, the Amazons and humanity) we also see a couple of Lanterns join the action, with one protector slain and his trademark power ring jetting off to find a new, worthy master to protect the Earth.
DC and Warner Bros currently plan to show us more of the lanterns in upcoming 2020 movie Green Lanterns Corps, though at the moment there’s no more information about that movie other than that it will star TWO comic-book Green Lanterns (characters Hal Jordan and John Stewart).
Early in the film, eagle-eyed viewers might spot Batman standing near a large lit-up sign for something called ‘Janus,’ and while this could mean nothing it could also be a hint at the return of one of the Caped Crusader’s deadliest foes – disfigured mobster Two-Face, most recently played by Aaron Eckhart in 2008’s The Dark Knight and who used Janus as an alias on at least one occasion.
Janus is also the name of a Roman god of duality depicted as having two faces (one looking to the past, one to the future), so it’s a very appropriate name for Two-Face to have picked up.
3. S.T.A.R. Labs
Standing for Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Labs, S.T.A.R. Labs play a big part in Justice League and have been a part of the DC Comics world for years, first turning up in a 1971 Superman comic and since appearing in multiple screen adaptations of DC characters.
Eagle-eared (is that a thing?) fans may recognise some iconic music among the score during Justice League, with the film’s composer Danny Elfman reviving his own score from the 1989 Tim Burton Batman.
Elfman’s old score also sits alongside John Williams’ famed Superman theme from the original 1978 Richard Donner/Christopher Reeves film, while more recent tunes from Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Wonder Woman also make an appearance.
6. “Exploding penguins”
At one point during the action of Justice League, Jeremy Irons’ butler Alfred dryly comments “One misses the days when one’s biggest concerns were exploding, wind-up penguins.”
This is a reference to a weapon of choice from classic Batman foe The Penguin, last played by Danny DeVito in Batman Returns, with the comment seemingly confirming that the Penguin (and presumably others of Batman’s colourful rogue’s gallery) not only exists in the DCEU but was tackled by the Caped Crusader at some point in the 20 years that Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne has been donning the cowl prior to Justice League (a time period confirmed in the new film).
We can only hope these means that villains like Condiment King will also get the big-screen outing they deserve.
7. “Do you bleed?”
Perhaps one of the best-known lines from 2016’s Batman vs Superman (and its trailers) makes a reappearance in Justice League, with a newly-revived Superman (Henry Cavill) repeating Batman’s (Ben Affleck) challenge back to him when they briefly clash in the new film.
8. Arkham asylum
After being name-checked in Batman vs Superman, we now get a chance to see the iconic Arkham Asylum – the home of most of Batman’s vanquished foes – in Justice League, where Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is being held prior to his escape in the film’s second post-credits scene.
In the same post-credits scene we’re also introduced to Deathstroke, a longtime DC villain popular with fans who also served as the inspiration for popular Marvel antihero Deadpool (played by Ryan Reynolds’ in Fox’s Deadpool movies).
Deathstroke, a mercenary who first fought young heroes the Teen Titans in the comics before battling the likes of Batman and Green Arrow, is played by Joe Manganiello and is set to be the main adversary in the solo Batman film coming from Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves. You can read more about him here.
10. Injustice League
In that same post-credits scene AGAIN Eisenberg’s Luthor (above) raises a proposition with Deathstroke – they need a “league of [their] own” to battle the new superheroic alliance, and should work together going forward. This is almost certainly foreshadowing the debut of the so-called Injustice League in a future movie instalment, a team of villains that at various points in their history have featured Luthor and Deathstroke as members.
Alternatively, it could be that the Legion of Doom, the Secret Society of Supervillains or any other number of villain teams are in the offing, if we don’t take the “League” comment entirely literally.
Early in the film we see Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen (aka super-fast superhero The Flash) visit his father in prison, with Henry Allen (Billy Crudup) apparently wrongfully convicted for the murder of Barry’s mother.
And it seems likely that this storyline will continue to be explored in the upcoming Flash solo film, as in the comics it’s later revealed that Barry’s mother was actually killed by his mortal enemy Reverse-Flash, a fellow speedster from the future obsessed with the historic Barry Allen who travels back in time to torment him.
Notably, actor Billy Crudup also has plenty of experience when it comes to Zack Snyder-fronted DC superhero movies, having played blue-skinned demigod Doctor Manhattan in 2009’s Watchmen.
12. Other comic-book characters
Saw this hydrokinetic vision come out of the sea and snapped a photo with my Leica. pic.twitter.com/rwU54XzScK— Zack Snyder (@ZackSnyder) October 12, 2016
On a similar theme, while they’re not exactly Easter Eggs it’s worth noting the on-screen debut of some classic DC characters in this film, including JK Simmons as police commissioner Gordon and Amber Heard as Atlantean and Aquaman love interest Mera (pictured).
Fictional comic-book locations like Central City (home of the Flash) also get a shout-out, prepping them for appearances in future movies.
Ciaran Hinds’ Steppenwolf may have been the main threat this time around, but in the comics he’s more of a lieutenant for DC’s real Big Bad – outer-space conqueror Darkseid, whose army of parademons and Omega symbol were first hinted at in dream sequences of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Basically, as Thanos is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Darkseid is to the DC Extended Universe – a bigger threat the films are heading towards in future instalments. And we’re betting even this newly-united League won’t be enough to stop him…
Justice League is in UK cinemas now