Zack Snyder's revelation that General Swanwick was actually Martian Manhunter in his cut of Justice League carries major implications for the entire DCEU. After the completion of principal photography, with a few months of post-production left, Snyder departed Justice League in the wake of a family tragedy, with the film undergoing significant reshoots and retooling. Upon its release in November 2017, many moviegoers swiftly realized that, contrary to previous assertions made by Warner Bros. that the reshoots were minimal, the version of Justice League released into theaters was a far cry from what Snyder had envisioned.
As the two-year anniversary of the theatrical debut of Justice League nears, the ongoing campaign for the release of the "Snyder Cut" of the film shows no signs of slowing down. Numerous cast and crew members have also begun to support its release, with Jason Momoa even confirming to have seen it earlier this year. Zack Snyder himself, meanwhile, has also fueled the demand by regularly dropping still images and storyboards from his version of Justice League on social media.
While most of Snyder's teases have revealed cut characters and plot points to display the contrast between his cut and the one released into theaters, the news of General Swanwick's true identity as Martian Manhunter has far-reaching ramifications for the DCEU as conceived by Snyder. Not only does it demonstrate that one of the original members of the Justice League had been hiding right under the audience's nose the whole time, it also makes it clear Snyder had far bigger plans for the DCEU than what had previously been thought to be the case.
Superman Isn't The First Modern Super-being
The World War One era setting of Wonder Woman had already established that the presence of metahumans in the DCEU predated Superman's arrival on Earth in Man of Steel. However, with Martian Manhunter having been hiding in plain sight the entire time, it is now evident that the world had a significant metahuman population long before Kal-El's ship crash-landed in Smallville. With J'onn J'onzz taking on the form of General Swanwick, it immediately points to Snyder having laid the foundation for other core members of the Justice League to gradually begin emerging one by one. The significance of Kal-El publicly revealing himself is that it marks a definitive moment in the DCEU where the world discovers the existence of super-powered being, but Martian Manhunter continuing to conceal himself as General Swanwick also solidifies the trend established by Snyder. Specifically, that powerful forces are making a clear effort to remain hidden from the humans around them.
We see further indications of this when Diana views Lex Luthor's metahuman files in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which show Aquaman destroying an underwater camera viewing him inside of the wreck of the Titanic. Even the theatrical cut of Justice League presents Cyborg as going out of his way to stay out of public view, while The Flash has also made noticeable efforts to fly under the radar. Additionally, Clark's discovery of the scout ship itself clearly points to Kryptonians, including his cousin Kara Zor-El, visiting Earth before his arrival, with Snyder himself confirming the open pod seen in Man of Steel as an Easter Egg for "something more". With Martian Manhunter also one of the DCEU's hidden superheroes, it is now clear that not only was Superman not the first one to arrive on Earth, but he could very well have been among the last.
What Was Martian Manhunter's Mission?
While Snyder's reveal confirms that Martian Manhunter had been present in the DCEU long before the formation of the Justice League, what isn't as clear is what J'onn J'onzz is doing on Earth. The long-running series Smallville previously portrayed J'onzz as an ally of Jor-El's placed on Earth to watch over Kal-El as he becomes Superman, but there's little to suggest the DCEU's Martian Manhunter is on any such mission. Indeed, Man of Steel goes very much in the opposite direction, with Swanwick distrustful of Superman even when he surrenders to the U.S. military, though his attitude noticeably softens in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, to the point where Swanwick is visibly distraught by Superman's death.
Clark's act of disappearing any time he publicly uses his powers to save people could point to a similar approach to saving lives on the part of J'onn J'onzz. Indeed, Martian Manhunter even has the added benefit of being able to not only shape-shift, but also become invisible, making it far easier for him to use his abilities in a clandestine way. (The interrogation scene in Man of Steel, in which Kal-El clearly uses his X-ray vision to see the contents of Dr. Emil Hamilton's jacket pocket, also opens up the possibility that Superman may have known Swanwick's secret the whole time.) Furthermore, the presence of the Mother Boxes on Earth could serve as an indicator of J'onn J'onzz taking on the identity of Swanwick in order to protect them from falling into Darkseid's hands, while Snyder's reveal showing J'onzz as consoling a grieving Lois Lane in the form of Martha Kent also hints at him making an effort to be a peacemaker among humans. However, without seeing the Snyder Cut itself, it can only be speculated as to what Martian Manhunter's true mission on Earth entailed.
The DCEU Is Even More Cosmic Than We Realized
It was already evident early on that Snyder intended for Justice League to mark the point where the franchise would begin to really delve into the cosmic side of the DC Universe. However, the presence of Martian Manhunter solidifies that his aim in doing so was far more expansive than expected. Even with the removal of Darkseid and other characters, DC's cosmic elements are still very much incorporated into the theatrical cut of Justice League, as evidenced by the inclusion of Steppenwolf, Parademons, and Mother Boxes. However, Martian Manhunter's appearance in the Snyder Cut indicates there's even more cosmic forces at play than we realized. Manhunter is typically presented as the Last Son of Mars, so it may not mean he's on Earth on behalf of a larger cosmic organization, but he clearly has a purpose on Earth, meaning many cosmic forces were zeroing in on the third rock from the sun for unknown reasons (although the Mother Boxes are a big possibility).
The movie's history lesson also offers further indications of the foundation being laid for the DCEU to begin to go full cosmic in Snyder's version of Justice League with the presence of the Green Lantern Yalan Gur, who is killed in battle by Steppenwolf. The line in the trailer released for the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con "No protectors here. No Lanterns. No Kryptonian. This world will fall, like all the others" offers further evidence that the Green Lanterns are a known and establish force in the universe. The dialogue also indicates Steppenwolf and Darkseid have invaded many other worlds, and from Man of Steel, we also know the Kryptonians explored numerous worlds and set up outposts throughout the stars.
With Zack Snyder's intention to reveal Swanwick as Martian Manhunter in the film now known, it only further raises the question of just how much more cosmic his cut of Justice League really was than the theatrical version. Given J'onn J'onzz, Darkseid, the Anti-Life Equation, and numerous other deleted characters and plot elements pertaining to Apokolips and the Fourth World (including Darkseid's servant Desaad), the answer is quite clearly "A lot".
Zack Snyder's Justice League 2 Team Would Have Been Way Bigger Than Expected
Swanwick's hidden Martian origins also point to Snyder planning a major expansion of both the scope of the franchise and the roster of heroes with Justice League 2. Although his team affiliations in the comics have changed over time, Martian Manhunter is well known as one of the original core members of the Justice League. To be sure, Swanwick's role in the Snyder Cut was likely a minor appearance principally serving to facilitate his reveal as Martian Manhunter. However, it would also have set him up to join the League itself in the sequel, especially with Swanwick being familiarized to the audience with his significant supporting roles in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Snyder had also previously revealed that Ryan Choi had appeared in his cut of the movie, meaning The Atom was also a potential Justice League 2 addition. Likewise, the history lesson establishes the Green Lantern Corps within the DCEU, effectively opening the door for Hal Jordan or John Stewart to join the League down the road (which has already been teased since Carrie Ferris's appearance in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman - also creating the possibility of a Star Sapphire introduction). Additionally, supplemental marketing materials from Batman v Superman and Bruce asking Clark "Do I own this one, or is that the other guy?" regarding the Daily Planet in may well have been a hat tip to Oliver Queen eventually making his DCEU debut as Green Arrow. Furthermore, Swanwick being unmasked as Martian Manhunter in Snyder's cut of the film means the team for Justice League 2 had the potential to draw from a roster of not just the six Justice League heroes, but at least another five heroes waiting in the wings - and that's not even accounting for Shazam!, who was set to have his own solo introduction before the arrival of Snyder's Justice League 2.
With Martian Manhunter now confirmed as appearing in the Snyder Cut, the push for its release is sure to continue, and many indifferent to or critical of Snyder's past DC films are now beginning to support it. Even without seeing Snyder's original cut of the film, it's become more than clear that it's a vastly different movie from the theatrical cut.
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