Zack Snyder’s Justice League ending explained

Zack Snyder's Justice League
(Image credit: HBO Max/Warner Bros.)

Spoilers follow for Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League has arrived on HBO Max, and Sky Cinema and Now TV, in the US and UK respectively, and we’re sure you have questions about its ending. The Snyder Cut’s climax is different to 2017’s theatrical cut in a few ways and, given how it’s structured, you may be slightly confused about what’s going on and how the movie closes out.

We’ll be diving into what the ending means in this article, and we'll cover the key plot points in case you want further analysis of what happened. Just so we’re clear, there are huge spoilers for the Snyder Cut after the image below. If you haven’t finished it, or even started watching for that matter, now is the time to turn back.

What happens during the final battle in Zack Snyder’s Justice League? 

Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Image credit: HBO Max/Warner Bros.)

Throughout Zack Snyder's Justice League, Steppenwolf has sought out the Mother Boxes that Darkseid left on Earth after his previously failed attempt to conquer it. In the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), combining three Mother Boxes - a process known as ‘synchronization’ - into a single entity is called the Unity. The Unity has the power to terraform planets into worlds similar to that of the Mother Boxes’ master: in Darkseid and Steppenwolf’s case, any Unity event transforms planets into a replica of their home world, Apokolips.

After Steppenwolf acquires them all, he returns to his stronghold and begins the synchronization process. In a last-ditch bid to stop him, Batman and friends hatch a plan to separate them using a combination of Cyborg’s and The Flash’s abilities. Running as fast as the speed of light, The Flash will whip up an electric charge big enough to allow Cyborg to enter the synchronization, rip the Mother Boxes apart and save Earth. Meanwhile, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman will deal with Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons.

With his memories having returned - and kitted out in his new black suit - Superman arrives to help. As Cyborg hacks into the Mother Boxes, however, the plan falls apart. The Flash, who has been running laps outside to build up his electric charge, is hit by a Parademon cannon. Unable to heal himself in time to reach the rest of the group, he doesn’t supercharge Cyborg and the Unity is completed. Darkseid arrives via a portal behind the group and, in the blink of an eye, the Unity unleashes a gigantic wave of energy across the planet that destroys all life and terraforms Earth.

Zack Snyder's Justice League: how do The Flash and Cyborg reverse the Unity? 

Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Image credit: HBO Max/Warner Bros.)

It seems that the Justice League have failed - or have they? The Flash, now healed from his wound, decides to break his only rule regarding his powers. Running faster than the speed of light, he begins to turn back time. The terraforming of Earth is reversed, the Justice League - killed in the Unity’s explosion - are brought back to life, and The Flash returns time to a point before the Unity is completed. Barry Allen supercharges Cyborg, who enters the synchronization.

Inside, Cyborg is greeted by an illusion of his parents and his former human self. The imaginary trio try to convince Cyborg to join them but, rejecting his former life, he pulls them apart. The illusion is revealed to be the three Mother Boxes in ‘physical form’ and, with Superman’s help in the real world, Cyborg halts the synchronization. As the Mother Boxes fall to the ground, an enraged Steppenwolf cries out, but his screams are short-lived. He’s impaled on Aquaman’s trident, punched towards Darkseid’s portal by Superman, and beheaded by Wonder Woman as his lifeless body lands at Darkseid’s feet. The Justice League looks on as Darkseid’s portal closes.

Has the Justice League succeeded in the Snyder Cut? 

Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Image credit: HBO Max/Warner Bros.)

Yes - but there’s a caveat. Zack Snyder’s Justice League ends in a similar fashion to the 2017 theatrical cut, with each hero getting their moment in the sun. Bruce Wayne buys the Kent farm back for Clark and his mother Martha after it was repossessed by the bank, and Barry Allen - aka The Flash - gets a job in Central City’s Police Department. Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) joins Bruce at Wayne Manor to formally set up the Justice League's headquarters, while Arthur Curry, or Aquaman as we know him, returns to Atlantis to assume his title as King of the Seas.

There are some changes to Snyder’s ‘happy’ ending, though. Rather than step back from her heroic duties, Diana forlornly looks out across the ocean towards Themyscira, and wonders if her home, family and friends survived Steppenwolf’s assault. Meanwhile, Victor Stone - aka Cyborg - reassembles his deceased father’s dictaphone and restarts the message that he refused to listen to earlier. This differs from the theatrical cut, which saw Cyborg and a still-alive Silas Stone explore the former’s abilities at S.T.A.R Labs.

We also get that post-credits scene, which was part of the theatrical cut, involving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) - who has escaped Arkham Asylum - and Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) on board the former’s yacht. The sequence is a little different this time, however, teasing the film that would've been The Batman starring Ben Affleck, rather than a second Justice League movie. 

However, while that short sequence brought the 2017 film to an end, save for Superman and The Flash’s race, Zack Snyder’s Justice League has two final moments to share. Read our explainer on the Justice League epilogue here, and find out more about the appearance of the Martian Manhunter, too. 

Senior Entertainment Reporter

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