Justice League: The Snyder Cut's Anti-Life Equation, Explained

The Snyder Cut of Justice League has officially been released to the masses, and the DC Comics [...]

The Snyder Cut of Justice League has officially been released to the masses, and the DC Comics epic absolutely isn't pulling any punches. The film, which provides a four-hour, comprehensive version of Zack Snyder's take on the comic franchise's mythos — and as a result, quite a lot of characters are part of its orbit. In addition to those who were part of the 2017 theatrical cut, the Snyder Cut introduces a fair amount of DC heroes and villains to mainstream audiences, including the formidable Darkseid (Ray Porter). While Darkseid's role in the film is relatively small, it's undeniably significant, in part because of its involvement with one of the strongest forces in the DC universe — the Anti-Life Equation. Spoilers for Zack Snyder's Justice League below! Only look if you want to know!

By and large, the majority of Zack Snyder's Justice League revolves around the Motherboxes, which are powerful tools that Darkseid can use to terraform any world in his image. As Steppenwolf tries to track down the trio of Motherboxes on Earth, he discovered an unexpected truth -- that the Anti-Life Equation, a literal equation that holds the key to full cosmic power, is written on the surface of the Earth itself.

"Before mighty Darkseid came to the throne he searched the universe for the ultimate weapon: The Anti-Life Equation," Steppenwolf explains in the film. "The key to controlling all life and all will throughout the Multiverse. He found it hidden on a primitive planet... I have found the primitive planet. The world that fought back. It is Earth. The Anti-Life Equation is carved into the surface of this very world. I have seen it, I have looked with my own eyes."

This adds an extra layer to Steppenwolf's mission, as the idea of him conquering Earth could do more than just repay part of his debt to Darkseid, as well as Darkseid's mission in and of itself.

So, what exactly is the Anti-Life Equation? Created by Jack Kirby and initially debuting in 1971's Forever People #5, the Anti-Life Equation is established (surprisingly) to be a literal mathematical formula. Using aspects like love, alienation, guilt, and self-worth, the Anti-Life Equation allows whoever utters it to control the free will of any sentient race, partially through convincing them that hope and freedom are not worth living for. The formula was initially hypothesized by Darkseid after he crossed paths with Martians centuries prior and discovered the "Life Equation" that forms their personal philosophy.

Since its debut decades ago, the Anti-Life Equation has taken many forms (including, briefly, a physical form in Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola's 1980s event Cosmic Odyssey) and factored into many events, including Final Crisis. It also has been adapted into multiple of DC's animated shows and video games, and was even brought up multiple times on Smallville.

While the Anti-Life Equation has been part of the DC cosmos for decades, the way it is utilized in Zack Snyder's Justice League is definitely new, particularly the somewhat-simplified idea of it literally existing on Earth. And while we might not get to see the continuation of that fact — and whether or not Darkseid does succeed in acquiring it and controlling all life — its defacto big-screen debut is still a compelling one.

Zack Snyder's Justice League is now available to stream exclusively on HBO Max.