Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for “Wonder Woman.”
Like so many other superhero movies, I thought I would go into “Wonder Woman” knowing how most of the film would turn out based on what the marketing had revealed.
Boy was I wrong.
“Wonder Woman” managed to avoid a trap a lot of other movies fall into: giving away all of your big reveals in the trailers.
The entire time you’re watching the movie you’re under the impression there are two villains: Dr. Maru (aka Doctor Poison) and Erich Ludendorff.
They’re featured prominently in marketing. Chris Pine’s character Steve Trevor even goes so far as to introduce Poison as a villain of the movie in one of the trailers.
They look like your typical bad guys.
The trailers even show Wonder Woman fighting Ludendorff in several scenes. There’s one where he manages to steal Diana’s sword.
It turns out neither of them are even the real big bad.
The real villain is the most unsuspecting character in the film, a man named Sir Patrick. You may recognize him as Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) from Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter” franchise.
Let me emphasize why this is a big deal.
A lot of summer blockbusters and big superhero movies like to give away the majority of their plots, twists, and villains in teasers and trailers. “Spider-Man 3” teasers not only spoiled a twist about Spidey going dark but also showed off Harry (James Franco) as the new Green Goblin. “Batman v Superman” teasers pointlessly gave away Doomsday as a villain instead of keeping him a surprise. The list goes on and it can be incredibly frustrating.
Warner Bros. could have given away that Ares was in the film, but it didn’t, and “Wonder Woman” was all the better for it.
If you go back and look at the trailers and TV spots, you don’t get a sense that there’s any other antagonist in the film. From every teaser I’ve watched from before the film’s June 2 release, Ares can’t be spotted in any trailer.
His appearance was a genuine surprise even while watching the film because you’re under the assumption that Ludendorff is filling the role of Ares in some way.
Sure, you can watch “Wonder Woman” a second time and pinpoint the moment Sir Patrick and Diana meet and claim that’s a hint at his true identity, but I’d argue against that. Though Patrick asks who Diana is in relation to Trevor, that’s a normal reaction any superior would have to one of their Captains after a woman barges into a men’s only meeting. Patrick didn’t appear to have ulterior motives or an added interest in Diana. The camera never lingered on him for too long nor did he ever create suspicion in Diana or anyone else.
If anything, you’re led to believe throughout the film that Ludendorff, who is given drugs to increase his strength from Doc Poison, may turn into some sort of monster a la Doomsday in “Batman v Superman.” That never winds up being the case, but, from the trailers, it’s assumed Diana may be fighting him or Dr. Poison in some giant action sequences.
The villain reveal is even more satisfying because throughout the movie,Diana constantly insists World War I must be a result of the God of War, Ares. It sounds naive, not only to Steve Trevor, but to older audience members watching the film. It’s simply dismissed as something she heard in a story growing up when young. Since Diana reacts to everything around her with a childlike innocence, you assume, as a viewer, war is one more thing she just doesn’t completely understand. So when it’s finally proven that Diana was in fact right all along, it comes at you unexpectedly and remarkably satisfyingly.
“Wonder Woman” isn’t the only recent movie to cleverly misdirect viewers from a film’s big reveal. M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller “Split” also surprised viewers in January when Bruce Willis showed up at the film’s end to reveal it was connected to the 2000 movie “Unbreakable.” A third film in the series is currently moving forward.
Still, it feels rare these days to head to a theater and see a movie that doesn’t give away some of its big twists in the trailers or marketing. When it occurs, it’s refreshing. It’s something more movies should take note of, especially now when fans and directors are criticizing trailers for ruining movies before they’re in theaters.
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