WONDER WOMAN Missed A Huge Opportunity
While much of Wonder Woman was a success, the last ten minutes of the film became a lost opportunity for stronger and deeper meaning.
Wonder Woman was ten minutes too long.
Usually when people say something like “this movie was too long,” what they mean is that the plot needed to be tightened and unnecessary scenes needed to be trimmed. It’s kind of an abstract criticism that usually doesn’t directly address a movie’s problems.
But what I’m saying is much simpler: the last ten minutes from Wonder Woman should have been cut. They’re terrible, and they undermine so many other great things about the movie.
The Powerful, Gutsy Ending of Wonder Woman…
From the get-go, Wonder Woman establishes that Ares is (probably) real, but mostly leaves it up to the audience to decide whether he’s actually at the center of World War I. It’s a pretty good proxy for the philosophical dilemma driving the movie: is mankind inherently evil and violent, or does mankind just appear evil and violent because it is under Ares’ spell (possibly the most weighty question ever that ends with the words “under Ares’ spell”)?
Anyway, once we get to what we think is the final battle scene, most viewers are probably expecting Ludendorff (Danny Huston) to be Ares (which would have been a decent enough ending, if a little bit of a letdown). But when Diana (Gal Gadot) does kill Ludendorff… nothing happens. No one stops fighting, and we watch Diana slowly comes to terms with the fact that mankind actually just sucks.
This moment is so great, for so many reasons. It reaches a depth rarely accomplished by superhero movies, giving us a powerful message about the nature of man instead of a moral like “I just had to try harder!” or “we just had to work together!” or something else straight out of Aesop’s fables.
It also packs an emotional punch: we’ve been rooting for Diana and her unabashed optimism with increasing enthusiasm, so it’s crushing to watch her entire worldview come crumbling down in one moment. We desperately want Diana to be right; or at least we want her to hold on to her gung-ho, can-do eagerness and hopefulness.
Watching her lose all of that fits perfectly into the darker, grittierTM tone that DC and Co. have been going for for years. After two swings-and-misses, they finally nailed it! This ending would have been dark but not angsty; unsettling but not teenage-edgy.
… And The Tame Ending We Got Instead
Anyway, Wonder Woman just craps all over everything it accomplished here by tacking on an extra ten minutes. First of all – and this alone should have been enough to ax it from the final cut – the computer generated, drawn out battle with Morgan/Ares (David Thewlis) does not fit at all with the visual tone of the rest of the movie. It’s the exact opposite of what made the (more realistic, far more engaging) fight scenes from the rising action so good. It’s like they just tacked an absurd CGI battle on the end just because that’s what all the other superhero movies do.
But the jarring visuals are far from the worst part about the Ares battle. The fact of the matter is that it totally undermines all the great stuff I talked about above. Instead of a powerful, troubling message about the nature of man, we get a far less nuanced, less powerful resolution. We thought we finally had an ending to a superhero movie that: a) wasn’t all sunshine and butterflies, and b) was striking and powerful – then they pulled the rug out from under us, and it turns out neither of those things were really true anymore.
Moreover, tacking the Ares battle onto the end puts Wonder Woman in the running for having the least developed comic book villain ever. We spend plenty of time with Ludendorff and Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya), and their characters are written and executed fairly well. That’s yet another reason to focus on them as the primary bad guys.
But instead, they’re brushed aside during the climactic sequence in favor of a villain who was barely actually developed as a villain. Sure, the twist makes for a fun “oh!” moment, but it leaves us with an empty shell of a bad guy – who we only hate because we think we’re supposed to – instead of a more compelling duo of villains that we’ve gotten to know over the course of a couple hours.
Obviously, it’s stupid to be annoyed with a good movie for not being better… but it’s hard not to be disappointed. At the end of the day, Wonder Woman did a ton of things right, giving us a better overall product than most modern superhero movies. It just could have packed a much more powerful punch if its last scene didn’t work against so much of the great stuff in the rising action.
That’s enough from me – what did you think about the end of Wonder Woman? Would you rather they cut the Ares ending, or keep it as is? Let us know in the comments below!
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