WW84 shows that villains can be human.
[SPOILER ALERT FOR WW84: AVOID IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM]
To be a hero is to be bold and to do the right thing. However, to be a villain is to rule the world, isn’t it? Not always. Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84) shows villainy doesn’t always include, “I want power! Fear me”.
Instead, the film shows Maxwell Lord and Barbara Minerva as sympathetic.
Before all you Snyder Cut stans roast us by saying that Cheetah is a poorly portrayed character, she isn’t. We’re going to explain why she and Lord are not like your average villains.
For so long, we’ve seen villains fall down the same route; they want the power to shape the world. But, what if Barbara and Max are the beginning of a new type of adversary?
We’re going to break down the motivations of the antagonists of WW84 and see what makes them screen-worthy.
Barbara Minerva: Desperate To Stand Out
When we meet Doctor Barbara Minerva, people avoid her like she has the plague. However, her life begins to change when she meets Diana. Seeing the Amazon-demigoddess’ confidence and how people admire her, the future Cheetah begins to obsess.
Diana, meanwhile, is hesitant to allow Barbara into her life. As time wears on, they become friends. Unfortunately, Minerva’s morals collapse into delusion.
Barbara’s desire to have everything Diana does makes her blind to reality. Little does Doctor Minerva realise, the subject of her obsession isn’t what she thinks. She also develops powers that mirror her target’s abilities.
Over time, Barbara gets super strength, speed, agility, and every other power that makes her Cheetah. Her final betrayal comes when she wishes to become an apex predator.
Barbara’s greed and jealousy of Diana decline rapidly. Especially when she learns Steve Trevor is her target’s, lost love. Also, Max’s manipulations and the transformation which makes her Cheetah reveals how desperate she is.
Getting her mitts on the Dreamstone is what she thinks will end her problems. However, it is nothing more than a tool that brings an end to any civilisation.
Maxwell Lord: A Last Ditch Effort To Give His Son A Better Life
Most portrayals of comic book supervillains come across as power-hungry for no reason or downright annoying. Look at Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor in Batman v. Superman as one example. He’s egotistical and thinks he knows absolutely everything. Ultimately, this is what annoys Diana when he begins talking about her father, Zeus.
In WW84, we get Maxwell Lord as well as Cheetah. We’ve already spoken about Cheetah and how her jealousy of Diana fuels her. However, Max is a different story that intertwines with both women while desiring to save his oil company from collapse.
Max’s desire to give his son a fulfilled life is the beginning of his bad decisions. His need for power scares Alistair, who only wants to spend time with him.
We learn at a later point in the film that Max was abused by his father. Ultimately, this drives him to not want his son to suffer the same fate.
Max, Barbara, And How Their Stories Tie To Diana
The heart of WW84 is Wonder Woman herself, Diana Prince.
During the events of the film, sixty-six years since Steve’s death during World War One. She lives alone and focuses solely on her work. Diana’s lonely apartment is littered with photos of her mortal friends, including Etta Candy.
When the Dreamstone is recovered during a jewellery store heist, Diana silent wishes for Steve to return. She gets her wish, but it comes with a price; her powers. The more time Trevor’s spirit remains, the weaker she becomes.
Diana meets Barbara Minerva before this and is somewhat wary of her. They slowly become friends, but little does she realise, the gemologist is obsessed with her.
When the Dreamstone suddenly goes missing, Diana suspects Barbara. Minerva tells her that Max stole it when they hooked up.
As time goes on, Minerva’s confidence starts to waive. Later, when it becomes realised that for the world to be restored, everyone who has been granted a wish by Lord, needs to give it up.
Like Max and Barbara, Diana refuses to lose Steve a second time and believes there is another way to save the world. Trevor makes her realise that she needs to let him go as he will always be a part of her.
Barbara’s refusal to give up her newfound ‘gifts’ stems from her unwillingness to go back to being a “loser”. Max is the same as he wants the world for his son but doesn’t see that this is not what Alistair wants.
Max and Cheetah might not be the most logical choice to appear together in a film at the same time, but to have them not wanting power is refreshing. Moreover, this wouldn’t have been possible without the input of Geoff Johns, who co-wrote the story with Patty Jenkins.
Having Max and Barbara’s motives tie in with Diana’s was unexpected and ballsy. In saying this, more films should follow a similar method. Having these elements allows the audience to see that heroes and villains are not so different.
Wonder Woman (WW84) is now available to stream and is currently playing in cinemas.