The planned appearance of Martian Manhunter in the "Snyder Cut" of Justice League gives a new twist to General Swanwick's scenes in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While Harry Lennix portrayed the role of General Swanwick in both films, Snyder has unveiled via social media that Swanwick had actually been Martian Manhunter in disguise, a revelation intended for his original version of Justice League. While Swanwick's portrayal in the two films would noticeably evolve in a number of ways, the news that he was the Martian hero J'onn J'onzz the whole time now puts his role in the DCEU in a totally new light.
Snyder stepped down from Justice League in the aftermath of a family tragedy, with the film undergoing significant rewrites and reshoots in his absence. Some DC fans have since tirelessly lobbied Warner Bros. to release the Snyder Cut of Justice League, with the director providing equally heavy teases of his version of the film on social media. The cast and crew of Justice League have also begun to show increasing support for the Snyder Cut's release, with Jason Momoa being especially vocal.
Most of Snyder's social media teases of his original cut of Justice League have dealt only with the film itself, but his reveal of Swanwick as Martian Manhunter carries with it a much more retroactive impact on the DCEU. While the storyboard posted by Snyder does indicate there were likely further plans for the character, it also suggests Martian Manhunter was present in the DCEU well before Justice League. However, looking back on Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, there are a number of elements that very well could have been clues laid about by Snyder pointing to Swanwick's true identity as J'onn J'onzz.
The very appearance of General Swanwick provides some hints to his Martian identity, with his attire especially being a visible tip of the hat on Snyder's part. Swanwick is frequently seen in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman in military clothing, and upon closer inspection, his Class A uniform carries several notable similarities with the alien garb that Martian Manhunter is known for. The uniform itself is dark green, reflecting the character's natural green form of his origins on Mars, while he also carries gold loops on his shoulders similar to the rings that hold the cape of J'onn J'onzz in place. Additionally, there are several red pins on Swanwick's uniform just below the shoulders, a small parallel to the large red "X" emblazoned on the character's chest when seen in his natural form, which taken together may have been intended to lay some subtle groundwork for the character's look in future DCEU appearances.
Furthermore, another clue can be found in Swanwick's identity as a black man. While not necessarily an Easter Egg to Swanwick's alien origins in and of itself, it does carry over a bit of a tradition the character has seen in his live-action DC adaptations. Shape-shifting is one of the many abilities possessed by Martians in the DC Universe, and while there's no limitation to the human form that J'onn J'onzz can assume, the character has frequently been depicted as taking on the likeness of a black man. This has been particularly notable in his live-action appearances on the long-running Superman prequel series Smallville, where J'onzz was portrayed by Phil Morris, and on the ongoing series Supergirl, with David Harewood in the role. Taken together, General Swanwick's race and attire provide some notable hints that he was indeed more than he appeared to be, and even that only scratches the surface of Martian Manhunter.
The Superman Interrogation
The scene in which Superman surrenders to the U.S. military in Man of Steel also offers some retroactive indications of Swanwick's true nature. The General views Kal-El with clear hostility, and while this was clearly meant to advance the film's thesis of the discovery of an indestructible alien secretly living on Earth, Snyder's reveal may also give cause to view Swanwick's perspective through a new lens. Swanwick is clearly going to great lengths to keep his identity a secret, and with the arrival of General Zod and Superman being unveiled to the world concretely proving the existence of aliens, Swanwick's attitude towards Kal-El could now also be viewed as J'onn J'onzz being concerned that his own secret may be uncovered.
Furthermore, Superman's interrogation now also brings with it a new interpretation when Kal-El casually breaks the handcuffs binding him and approaches the two-way mirror of the interrogation room. With the sole exception of Swanwick, every person on the other side of the mirror retreats in visible fear of the superhuman alien. The General standing his ground can effectively now be seen as indicative of his own alien nature (and strength on par with the Man of Steel's), which in light of Snyder's revelation, is now further hinted at when the scene cuts back to Superman in the interrogation room, his reflection in the mirror now in the place of where Swanwick stood a moment prior. Swanwick is essentially the only character in Man of Steel to show no visible fear in the face of the knowledge of an alien living among humans, a fear further fueled by the mass destruction of the film's third act, and the General's true nature as an alien refugee himself can now be pointed to as the reason why.
Swanwick's Attitude With Lois In Batman V Superman
Following the events of Man of Steel, General Swanwick is promoted to Secretary of Defense, and his interactions with Lois Lane provides further hints towards the revelation Snyder intended for Justice League. As Lois investigates the incident in North Africa in the beginning of the film, Swanwick is noticeably reticent towards her efforts to uncover the truth. Although the General does eventually provide a degree of assistance to Lois in uncovering the truth of the incident, he continuously keeps her at an arm's length. Lois is ultimately able to put together the pieces of Lex Luthor's plot herself, with Swanwick having more pointed her in the right direction rather than actively aiding her.
As we see later in the film, Lex Luthor has been keeping close taps on metahumans, with Bruce sending Diana encrypted files from Luthor's database on The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Furthermore, Luthor has already made clear efforts to set up a defense system against metahumans with Kryptonite refined from the wreck on the World Engine in Man of Steel, with Superman having his first encounter with his one weakness in the film. Since Swanwick himself is a super-powered alien in disguise, so his reluctance to become directly involved in Lois' investigation could signal an awareness on his part of what Luthor is up to. As DC fans will know, Martians have a much more readily available weakness than Kryptonians in the form of fire, meaning that Swanwick's exposure could lead to a much swifter demise if Luthor and the rest of the world had the same polarized response to his presence as Kal-El's. Additionally, the Martian vulnerability to fire could also be pointed to as a major reason for the absence of Swanwick, now known to have been Martian Manhunter, from the battle against Doomsday.
Swanwick Doesn't Want Superman To Die
Superman's presence was something that Swanwick was clearly perturbed by in Man of Steel, further seen in the end of the film when Kal-El destroys a military drone, leading Swanwick to angrily ask "Are you effin' stupid?!" The scene itself also notably sees Swanwick alongside Major Carrie Ferris, effectively setting up Green Lantern within the DCEU. However, the General takes a much softer stance towards Kal-El's presence in Batman v Superman, and this is most clear during the climactic rampage of Doomsday. As Superman tries to carry the beast into space, the observing military leaders propose firing a nuclear warhead on them as they exit the Earth's atmosphere. Swanwick protests this course of action, arguing that Superman would be the one casualty of the launch, with the President (voiced by Patrick Wilson, who would go on to portray Orm in Aquaman) ultimately ordering the nuclear strike. Though both Superman and Doomsday survive, Swanwick is visibly distraught when it momentarily appears that the Man of Tomorrow perished in the blast.
Additionally, following Superman's death in the battle with Doomsday, Kal-El is given a soldier's funeral in Washington D.C., with Swanwick in attendance, and the General again appearing far more affected by the death of an alien refugee than his attitude in Man of Steel would have suggested. To be sure, Swanwick never called for Superman's outright execution or banishment from Earth when the two first met. Nevertheless, the General clearly displays a far greater level of concern for Kal-El in Batman v Superman than was the case in Man of Steel, indicating that he has come to trust Superman over the course of the two films, and being an alien in hiding himself, has perhaps even come to see a kindred spirit within him.
Martian Manhunter's presence in Zack Snyder's version of Justice League is undoubtedly one of the more surprising revelations about the Snyder Cut (which Jason Momoa recently confirmed to have seen on Instagram.) It is also certain to add further fuel to the push for its release, while DC fans will also now surely be watching both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman in a whole new light. Ultimately, the news of General Swanwick as Martian Manhunter is just the latest in an ever-growing list of revelations about the director's original vision for the movie, and it is a list that Zack Snyder has 214 minutes worth of material to expound upon until and unless Warner Bros. gives the Snyder Cut of Justice League the green light.
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