[WARNING, THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE]
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I’d say no sequence has been subject to more speculation and theory than the Knightmare Sequence in Batman v Superman. Everyone has their own take on what’s really going on, but now storyboard artist Jay Oliva has offered up his own interpretation of the scene. Some DC fans will recognize Oliva’s name from his previous work on Man of Steel, The Flash TV series, the upcoming Wonder Woman film, as well as directing the animated DC features Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Assault on Arkham, Justice League: War, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and countless others. Oliva’s take on this sequence carries some serious weight, considering many believe The Flash’s appearance right after Bruce’s Knightmare to be time travel, which Oliva just so happened to direct a movie about.
Oliva offered up his own explanation on the Hall of Justice Podcast:
“You want to know the answer? Okay… you’ve watched The Flashpoint Paradox, my movie, right? In the DC Universe in the comics, there’s this thing where– it’s a little different than the Back to The Future thing where you can go back in time and change your threads and stuff, but in DC, when you go back in time you create this kind of ‘Time Boom’ kind of thing where lots of things change.
“Okay, so let me just tell you this. Again… I don’t know if this is Zack’s thinking, but this is mine: what if that isn’t a dream sequence? What if what you saw was a Time Boom, a latent memory from the future when Flash comes back? If you look at the cut, he doesn’t go to sleep! He’s waiting for the [Lexcorp file decryption] and suddenly this [Knightmare sequence] comes in, and he’s jogged out of it seeing his own death. And what does he see? He sees Flash. And if you’re a DC fan, you know what’s happening. You know that Flash going back in time, that memory is now coming back to him… mind you, it’s jumbled.”
His description falls in line with the fact that audience members never actually see Bruce fall asleep. The screen just cuts to black as he’s waiting for the LexCorp files to decrypt and the Knightmare starts. Most audience members will miss the references to Darkseid, Apokolips, or realize who the out of focus frantic man in the red suit is and what his message means. And will likely be perplexed at the sequence starting with an awake Bruce at his desk, and ends with him face down startled at the Flash’s interruption and hit with papers denying that it could’ve only been a dream.
Oliva then added that he believes the ambiguity of the sequence was deliberate:
“The thing is that, it’s meant to be so kind of subtle, most audiences just think of it as a dream. And it’s meant to be that way. It’s just like in the comics when there might be some shadowy figure standing in the background, you don’t know who that character is until five issues down the line. The main purpose of that in the film – because people will probably say ‘why even have it, if it’s not going to be followed through?’ – I’m going to say: ‘Well, it’s there because it actually adds to… Bruce Wayne’s kind of mania. Because he sees this memory. He doesn’t quite know exactly what he saw, all it does is tell him is that Superman is bad.
“And remember, when Flash goes back in time, he tells him ‘you were right about him.’ He doesn’t say exactly who ‘him’ is. The average audience member, and even Bruce Wayne, is going to think that he’s right about Superman, when in fact he’s referring to someone else.”
Oliva’s thoughts are going to make perfect sense to DC fans and excite them even more for what’s coming and how director Zack Snyder is planting seeds for the DCEU to grow into. But in doing so the sequence has been subject to criticism for not really belonging in the movie. Oliva implies that these complaints are out of line. He doesn’t predict which character has to be being teased at, leaving that for Zack Snyder to decide what’s being hinted at and how everything plays out in future films. He then reminds all that these conclusions aren’t reaching or trying to make sense of a story that doesn’t, after all time travel is as important to DC lore as the characters themselves:
“I work with these characters constantly. Hell, I did The Flashpoint Paradox! So I know the whole time thing, and what DC is all about. It’s like ‘Days of Future Past’ for X-Men, you know that the time travel thing is a part of X-Men. Star Trek does that with the reboot. But for some reason, as soon as you do it in a DC film, people suddenly just forgot! Superman turning back time in the Donner films is suddenly okay, and I’m like, ‘Okay THAT doesn’t make sense!’”
Jay Oliva’s interpretation on the Knightmare Sequence in Batman v Superman should excite DC fans and leave them wanting more. And should his interpretation be Snyder’s intent then it certainly offers a chance for a thrilling jump back in time with Barry Allen in his future solo film or the Justice League to explain why Flash traveled to warn Bruce and exactly what his message meant.