Wonder Woman’s ending: Can we be honest?

Replete with spoilers.

I saw this again with a friend who is an older professor who doesn’t see a great deal of movies, let alone big tentpoles or superhero films. As I watched it (for the third time, actually), I was impressed with how good it was… the slow buildup to her reveal as Wonder Woman, how each scene maintained an emotional center, how it had a great overall shape. But when I turned to him at the end and asked how he liked it, he said: “Eh. I just get sick of all those explosions and people blasting at each other.”

And it’s true; the ending of Wonder Woman kind of sucks. And in fact, it kind of sucks so bad it all but erases the memory of all the good, and great, stuff that came before it, as it did for my friend.

The ending of this film does have serious issues. Some of them are structural, like the weird contortions we have to go through in order to place Steve’s final words at the very end (So she heard it after all? She couldn’t hear it, but heard it… telepathically?). Some are thematic, such as that after a whole movie getting humor and irony out of the fact that Diana believes the war is caused by a single God of war that simply doesn’t exist, until it turns out he exists. And after a whole movie hinging on the reality that war is not caused by one person, turns out war is caused by one person. And… what about the wars that follow (like, say, World War II) if Diana killed the God of war? The movie brings up a lot of interesting issues about whether war is part of mankind… and then they all get confused and thrown out in the final minutes.

Another huge issue that sinks the ending on a visceral/enjoyment level is that the two main villains are battled in the same place, and just a few minutes apart in movie time, turning the whole ending into one long, shapeless blur. That’s kind of it—not much more to say—but it really sinks the ending. In retrospect, the movie keeps moving and visiting several interesting and different locations… until it hits the ending, and it seems like we never leave that tower. All momentum stops and the climax is one big splat.

And finally, as my friend (and others) have said… all of a sudden we’re back to the same old people zapping each other, second most boring behind people shooting each other with guns (which is getting to be SO. FUCKING. BORING). The question is: is this what the movie MUST do in order to please teenage boys?

Up til then, the movie was, gosh, kind of a quality movie. Sure, it’s fantasy, but it has exotic locations and interesting otherworldly secret civilizations and intriguing historical locations and actual scenes with emotional stakes and relatable—and clever—exchanges between actual characters. But within this is the challenge of selling a female hero to teenage boys—the primary audience of superhero films—and also pushing a feminist film on them. I read an interview with director Patty Jenkins in which she addressed that Wonder Woman will indeed kill people in the film, which I read as a way to assure audiences that she’s be “cool” and “badass” and not all vegan brownies and 12-grain bread. And for the most part, Jenkins succeeded gloriously in delivering a film that is strongly and awesomely feminist while also being a fun summer superhero movie. So the ending… was it considered necessary to start having huge explosions and people throwing each other through walls in order to claim those summer blockbuster bona fides?

Don’t know. Just asking.

Here’s the original review of Wonder Woman, should you wish to peruse it.

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8 thoughts on “Wonder Woman’s ending: Can we be honest?

  1. Pingback: Wonder Woman | Cinema de Merde II: Legend of the Thingy

  2. I’ve seen Wonder Woman now twice. The first time enjoyed it but was kind of confused and disappointed by the ending. The second time I still liked all the rest of the movie, but realized there was NOTHING about the ending I liked. It’s really quite phenomenal how wrong they got everything. It is a huge bummer at the end of a good movie.

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    • Haha, I’m dreading it, too, but OF COURSE will see it as well. I find it interesting creating sequels for decades-old classics because they have a high bar of quality expected, whereas the original just was what it was and FOUND its audience and classic status.

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  3. I have to say it was enjoyable but not exactly the reinvention of the cinema del arte. It is a superhero flick and gets a lot of mileage out of the stranger in a strange land trope but in a place where women can’t even vote yet. I liked that.
    The whole boom splat bang ending left me cold but then again I’m 48…

    I do worry however about a recent trend in which the hero has to sacrifice himself for the greater good just as in rogue one.
    This vehicle in storytelling was often corrupted in history and of course everybody believes that s/he is on the right side. Just look up Hitler youth werewolves at the end of the 2. World War…
    So the whole “you will die but everyone will look up to surely” leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Maybe it’s an American thing?

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  4. Hmmm, that’s interesting, I hadn’t noticed that as a “trend,” but now I can see many instances. It’s interesting, in this era of sequels, I think in the films that use this usually have a good reason why the sacrificing character can’t be around for the next one [although I bet they wished they’d saved Chris Pine now that WW has done so well…]. I’ll keep a lookout for it, thanks for pointing it out.

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  5. I wouldn’t say it’s a *trend* so much as a common storytelling device to get the audience in the headspace of “this character is Definitely One Of The Good Guys”. Like, it goes back to Horatius and probably further even than that.

    You’re right that it does seem to be in EVERY superhero movie now.

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