Listen, I loved Wonder Woman. Great movie, lots of fun, compelling heartfelt moments, and a lifelong standing into the list of unforgettable strong female leads, of which there should always be more.
But exactly 125 minutes into the movie, they missed a HUGE opportunity that would have transformed it from a great movie to an amazing one. After Steve Trevor sacrifices himself, Diana goes on a rampage that ends with her holding a tank over her head, deciding if she should kill Dr. Poison.
Ares encourages her: "Look at her, and tell me I'm wrong. She is the perfect example of these humans, and unworthy of your sympathy in every way. Destroy her, Diana. You know that she deserves it, they all do."
And what does Wonder Woman do?
Whelp, she suddenly recalls a moment two minutes earlier where Steve Trevor said he loves her, which mysteriously gives her the motivation to tap into her full power. Then we get a big over-the-top CGI bonanza of them shooting energy blasts at each other, yay! Because this is a super-hero movie, and in the end it always comes down to the good guy (gal) and bad guy throwing everything they have at each other in an overpowered slugfest in an endless CGI arena.
It is a sadly stereotypical superhero ending for a non-stereotypical superhero (And in some ways, a little offensive. Implying that our woman can only be her strongest when she’s loved by a man is maybe the opposite of the message we should be sending).
And the worst part is that she never answers the question: Is Dr. Poison worthy of sympathy? Diana answers by insisting that mankind is capable of love, thinking of Steve. But she's changing the subject.
It ignores a profound and powerful question that the movie has been flirting with for two hours. In the origin sequence at the top of the film, we learn that mankind was made by Zeus, but Ares poisoned them with suspicion and jealousy to make them turn on each other. Constantly the question is raised: is mankind inherently good? If it were not for Ares' influence, would there be such violence in the world?
In the origin sequence, we're also told that "the gods made the Amazons to influence men's hearts with love, and restore peace."
Diana describes her people as "the bridge to a greater understanding among all men."
And then this never happens.
So imagine—just imagine—how powerful this movie would have been if it ended this way instead:
Cut to that moment in the final scene when Wonder Woman is holding the tank over Dr. Poison, and Ares says that she is "unworthy of your sympathy in every way." He believes that Wonder Woman could never defeat him, because she’s not powerful enough. And he’s right, she’s not strong enough to take him out. No amount of "being in love" will make her stronger.
So instead she pulls out her lasso. He would laugh, of course, but it's not for him.
The lasso wraps around Dr. Poison. And Diana asks her a single question:
“Why do you hurt people?”
Pause. Think about the answer to this. I'm not going to fill it in for you. The lasso compels Dr. Poison to tell the absolute truth, and she has to answer for her crimes. She has murdered countless people, experimented on prisoners with cruelty, she is—as Ares states—the "perfect example" of the worst in mankind.
Why do you think she hurts people? The lasso would compel her to tell the most fundamental truth, the raw primal answer. And then, perhaps, Diana asks the follow-up questions.
"Does hurting other people make you feel better about yourself?"
And, "What could you do differently, to make the world a better place instead of a worse one?"
Think about where our society is right now. We're calling out abusers, we're calling out bullies, we’re calling out racists. We’re trying to understand how a person can go on a mass murder spree. What if this movie, which already meant so much for so many people, also took this moment to prove that everyone, even someone like Dr. Poison, is truly worthy of sympathy?
What would it be like to hear your abuser, or your bully, answer at a fundamental level for why they treated you the way they did? Not the bullshit reason they may use to justify their poor behavior to themselves (if they even bother), but the lasso of truth version. At their very core, why do they do that?
I’m willing to bet the answer has less to do with “I hate” and more to do with “I hurt.”
And I think this answer would turn most people around. I have to think that—because just like Wonder Woman, I think that people are inherently good. This movie had the opportunity to prove it. It could have been a devastating statement on violence, on empathy, on bullying, and the importance of seeing your enemies as "us" rather than "them."
We could have had a heroine that wins not because of how strong she is, but because of how compassionate she is.
She could have fulfilled the promise we got in the beginning of "influencing men's hearts with love, to restore peace." Wonder Woman could have taken away Ares' power, person by person, by using her lasso to show people the truth of their own terrible actions.
Instead, we got Wonder Woman using violence to defeat violence. By punching hardest. And we got this crap:
DAMN IT, it was so close to being the most important movie of our generation. All they needed to do was actually fulfill on the promises they set up in the first half.
Nathan Makaryk is an author and comedian, follow him on Twitter to hear him complain about other stupid things.
His debut historical fiction novel NOTTINGHAM retells the legend of Robin Hood from viewpoints of multiple people on both sides of the conflict. Published by Tor/Forge, available here.