This post will have Wonder Woman spoilers, read accordingly.
Wonder Woman might singlehandedly be able to save the DCEU from itself. The Warner Bros. cinematic universe has been struggling to find consistent footing to this point, to keep pace with Marvel’s own CU, and define itself as a coherent vision; but Patty Jenkins’ turn with the franchise, and her excellent film might be able to course correct the universe all by itself. It’s a solid entry into the genre, a great deal of fun, Gal Gadot is absolutely perfect and her and Chris Pine have wonderful chemistry. This is highly entertaining for two solid hours.
The only problem is, Wonder Woman‘s runtime is two hours and twenty minutes. Once again, another superhero film manages to make its way admirably through the bulk of its story before throwing up its hands and just tossing all the CGI they can at the finale to get us to the end credits; this time around it’s David Thewlis’s character being thrown in as the “real” bad guy, complete with awful Greek-myth armor (Greek, I guess?) and electrified fingertips (y’know, like Nuclear Man from Superman IV) once Danny Huston’s evil General Ludendorff is disposed of.
Marvel has their own issues with mind-numbing aerial battle climaxes that become indiscernible; DC’s version of this conundrum appears to be whiz-bang fireball destruction porn in the dark of night that is as weightless as it is ultimately meaningless to the story surrounding it. Not to mention hard to see and monotonous. Three of the four DCEU films to this point have suffered that same fate (even the outlier, Man of Steel, which had its climax set during the day, was so over-the-top with its complete and total city destruction and bleary-eyed kinetics that it turned into the whole reason for Batman v Superman to exist).
Wonder Woman isn’t the worst offender in this department, not by a long shot, and that’s because it’s easily the best film of the quartet. BvS had the forgettable Doomsday showdown amid a sea of fake fire, and Suicide Squad had… something. I don’t even remember how that one ended to be honest, but I am 100% certain it was at night, and it involved awful CGI. There’s a moment right before the “Final Battle” where Wonder Woman could have ended, when she kills Ludendorff. After this, Diana comes to realize her ideals of singular evil are no match for how terrible humans really are, and then we get the whole Thewlis diversion for a good fifteen to twenty minutes.
Why not have Diana and Steve simply end the threat at the airport and Diana could continue saving the day into perpetuity, etc. etc? They could even have Steve die still, if they really wanted. It would have been a slick, lean climax, it would have set up Wonder Woman for the future of the DCEU, and it wouldn’t be CGI for the sake of CGI. Instead we have to have this #epic showdown between Diana and a villain that feels conjured out of thin air from a character in the film we’d all but forgotten about by this point.
Nobody really knows how to end these superhero movies. There’s some sort of incessant need for the powers that be in these franchises to tie everything up with a nice, untidy, messy bow of mind-numbing explosions and fire and people floating and their actions having no real consequence. Diana saves the day, obviously, but she does it in a way that sure seems like she could have done it before we had to sit through all of this ugly noise.
The amazing thing here is how this final misstep doesn’t ruin Wonder Woman. Not at all, really, because everything leading up to that point had been terrifically entertaining and balanced. By the time the big noisy BvS showdown happened I was thinking about what to get for dinner, and by the time the Suicide Squad finale went down I was thinking about where I had gone wrong in my life to wind up in my current position. At least with Wonder Woman, the quality beforehand was enough to forgive what felt like obvious pandering to… I don’t know. Whoever likes these calamitous CGI climaxes.