Zack Snyder’s Justice League rebuilds most of the grand settings the director previously envisioned for his four-hour superhero epic in 2017, but there are also a few new additions. And the inclusion of Martian Manhunter in two key sequences could be the most laborious cameo ever committed in a movie.
In the comics, the Martian Manhunter, known to non-persecuted men as J’onn J’onzz, is a telepath, a shapeshifter, and the last survivor of an alien apocalypse. While he never integrates into human culture like Superman, J’onn is often on Earth splicing with humans while in disguise or with superhumans as he battles evildoers who threaten the galaxy.
Fans of the League of Justice animated series and the CW Supergirl I know him as a powerful ally and team member. People who just keep up with the movies … they wouldn’t have any benchmarks. When Martha left Lois Lane’s apartment, three-quarters of the way Zack Snyder’s Justice League And turned into a eight foot green alien, there were probably a few raised eyebrows, broken pause buttons, and questions for the nearest comic nerd.
Zack Snyder did not intend for Martian Manhunter to appear in the film; According to the director, he was hoping to include a cameo from a Green Lantern, specifically John Stewart, but Warner Bros. ‘plans to use the character in a separate film put the kibosh on fan service. So Snyder brought up the idea of using Martian Manhunter and casting Harry Lennix, who played Defense Secretary Calvin Swanwick in Iron Man and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on the paper. With some quick scenes in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a character that fans thought they knew from two previous movies turned into something completely different.
Visual effects team Scanline brought the character to life on a tight schedule; work on the Martian Manhunter only began in the fall of 2020. Scanline would go on to do more than 1,000 takes on 22 sequences in the film, from the Steppenwolf redesign to the tunnel, park, and underwater battle sequences. In addition to reviewing many of its original assets from the 2017 theatrical version, the company also had to adjust each entire effect for Snyder’s preferred 1.33 aspect ratio.
Creating the Martian Manhunter was a multi-step task that involved mixing Snyder’s notes with internal designs to land on something that could be true to the comics and Lennix’s performance. Placing the actor under the sensor-reading cameras was essential to achieve this.
“Facial performance, especially when it comes to dialogue, has many complexities that are difficult to achieve without any reference, especially for a real photo character,” Julius Lechner, visual effects supervisor at Scanline, tells Polygon. “To incorporate Harry’s personality and acting style into our CG character, it is incredibly beneficial to capture his performance. It’s still a labor-intensive process that requires creative manipulations to create a nuanced digital character. “
Snyder’s big note was to steer clear of any Martian Manhunter look that could appear as an actor with a prosthetic limb. “An important issue, for example, was the shape of his skull,” says Lechner. “Overall, we wanted to keep a good balance between human and alien aspects, as well as Harry’s unique facial features. If we stray too far from what the audience is used to seeing, such as human faces, the brain immediately questions it and takes it out of the movie. “
After capture, hundreds of hours are spent designing the final look, building a 3D model of the character, texturing, shading, matching face tracking, additional animation, and clothing simulations. If that sounds like a lot of work for a character who only appears for a minute or two, Lechner insists that is the norm, and that “much less screen time than Martian Manhunter” takes the same amount of time to run.
Could we see more of Martian Manhunter in the future? The assets exist, but so far there are no immediate demands for their use. At least from Warner Bros …