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What Is The Anti-Life Equation In The Snyder Cut?

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Contains major spoilers for Zack Snyder's Justice League

The Snyder Cut is officially here on HBO Max, which means fans of DC Comics who expected a lot more out of 2017's Justice League will receive everything they hoped for. That includes the revelation that Calvin Swanwick (Harry Lennix) was Martian Manhunter all along, as well as more scenes showcasing the origin story of Cyborg (Ray Fisher). On top of that, the excitement of fans would still be through the roof even if the only change between the two cuts was the addition of the DC supervillain Darkseid (Ray Porter).

In the theatrical version, Darkseid is merely alluded to, but Snyder's edition gives him the screen time he deserves. Not only does he show up in a flashback sequence depicting the first time he tried to conquer Earth, but there's an integral moment where he communicates with Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) about something that should be very interesting to anyone familiar with the comics. While Steppenwolf tracks down the Mother Boxes, he discovers the mythic Anti-Life Equation is also on the planet, which is of particular interest to Darkseid.

Steppenwolf's plan fails, but after coming face-to-face with the Justice League, Darkseid makes it clear that he's determined to go to Earth himself to find the Anti-Life Equation. This undoubtedly would've factored into the plot of Justice League 2, which Snyder had a plan in place for. And now, even though the likelihood of a sequel is minimal, it's intriguing to consider what would have been, and to understand that, we need to look into what exactly the Anti-Life Equation is in the comics.

The Anti-Life Equation provides the user with near-omnipotent powers

If you thought calculus was the worst kind of math out there, then you haven't seen anything yet. Jack Kirby came up with the concept of the Anti-Life Equation in 1971. At its core, it's a mathematical formula that proves the futility of existence, allowing the person who knows the theory to subjugate beings to their will (via Jack Kirby Museum). Whoever knows the equation, most often Darkseid, can effectively create an army of soldiers that bow down to his every whim. Think of it as a McGuffin in the same vein as the six Infinity Stones from Marvel Comics. It's something the villain wants, that will allow him near-total dominion over the universe. 

As for the exact formula? Via the DC Database, it is: Loneliness + alienation + fear + despair + self-worth ÷ mockery ÷ condemnation ÷ misunderstanding × guilt × shame × failure × judgment n=y where y=hope and n=folly, love=lies, life=death, self=dark side.

Cheery stuff, right? All Darkseid has to do is speak this formula to an individual, and they fall under his control, and he's done so several times in various comic book story lines. In Final Crisis, Darkseid and the New Gods use the equation to enslave humanity, and turn Earth into New Apokolips. This series is famous for the panel where Batman is killed with the villain's Omega Beams, which we can briefly see him use in Atlantis in Zack Snyder's Justice League. More recently, the formula was used as part of the DCeased storyline, where Darkseid used the Anti-Life Equation to essentially turn humans into zombies by exposing billions to it via the internet. With the comics in mind, it's easy to see how Snyder planned to expand upon this reference in Justice League 2.

The Knightmare sequences foreshadow Darkseid gaining dominion over Earth

We've known for a while now the broad strokes Zack Snyder's planned Justice League series would've gone (via Collider). Basically, Justice League 2 would've seen the heroes face off against Darkseid, only to lose when he likely gains control of the Anti-Life Equation to enslave Superman (Henry Cavill) and the rest of humanity — not unlike the ending of Avengers: Infinity War, where all hope seems lost. Justice League 3 would've involved the heroes making one last stand against the ruler of Apokolips, ultimately leading to Snyder taking a cue from Final Crisis, by having Batman (Ben Affleck) die at the hands of Darkseid (via Screen Rant). 

With this outline in place, it's clear Snyder wasn't just adding the Knightmare sequences in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League for fun. He was offering a glimpse at the dystopia that was to come when Darkseid rules Earth, as well as establishing a potential solution for the heroes with Flash (Ezra Miller) traveling back in time to warn Batman that Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is the key. Snyder's plans for his sequels also involved Darkseid killing Lois Lane, which likely would've made Superman susceptible to the influence of the Anti-Life Equation. This explains why he's been trying to kill Batman in the Knightmare sequences we've been able to see (via CBR). 

Finally getting to see the Snyder Cut, it makes a lot more sense as far as where the director planned the franchise to go. It all could've been a setup for one of the most epic finales ever put into a superhero film. However, if you still want to see the Anti-Life Equation in all its glory, don't worry: it has popped up in numerous comics, as well as Justice League UnlimitedSmallville, and Supergirl. No matter what medium he's in, Darkseid is.