WW84 has finally arrived and it gave us an unexpected look at villainy…
[SPOILER ALERT FOR WW84: AVOID IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM]
To be hero is to be bold and to do the right thing. However, to be a villain is to rule the world… right? Not always. Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84) shows that there is more to villainy that your typical ‘I want power! Fear me’ situation. Instead, the film shows the antagonists, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) as sympathetic.
Before all you Snyder Cut stans roast us by saying that Cheetah is a poorly portrayed character, she actually isn’t. We’re going to explain why she and Lord are not like your average villains. For so long, we’ve seen the same route for a lot of our favourite baddies, but what if Barbara and Max are just the start of a new type of adversary?
We’re going to break down the antagonists of WW84 and explain how different these villains are to what has been seen before on screen. We will also dive into how these two not-so-baddies are tied to Diana (Gal Gadot) and her story.
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 over her new friend.
Diana, meanwhile, is somewhat hesitant to allow Barbara into her life given how long she has been alone. As time wears on, the two become friends and end up helping each other out during the situation with Maxwell Lord. However, it is also during this time that we see her ultimate struggle; her morals collapsing into delusion.
Doctor Minerva’s desire to have everything Diana does makes her blind to reality and how she is hurting those around her. Little does Barbara know is that the subject of her obsession is not what she thinks and this comes at a price. She develops powers that mirrors her target’s abilities that were given to her because of her heritage as a daughter of Zeus.
Over time, Barbara gets super strength, speed, agility, and basically every other power that allows her to become Cheetah. Her final betrayal comes when she goes to a delusional Max and wishes to become an ‘apex predator’ which was hinted at earlier in the film with Diana’s cheetah print heels and Minerva’s powerful growl.
Barbara’s greed and jealousy of Diana declines rapidly when she learns that Steve Trevor is her target’s long lost love. Also, Max’s manipulations of her as well the transformation she goes through to become Cheetah reveals how desperate she was to get everything she ever wanted.
Getting her unintentional mitts on the Dreamstone is what she thinks ends all her problems of being socially awkward. 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 super villains comes across as power-hungry for no reason or just 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 which is what annoys Diana when he begins talking about her father, Zeus in a negative light.
In WW84, we get Maxwell Lord as well as Cheetah. We’ve already spoken about Cheetah and how her jealousy of Diana is what fuels her. However, Max is a totally different story that happens to intertwine with both women. He also desires to save his oil company from collapse.
We learn early on that Maxwell Lord isn’t who he claims to be. He isn’t as rich as he portrays. Max is a single father to son Alistair whom he he wants to give a better life. While this is fair, it is the way he goes about it that is morally wrong.
Max’s desire to have it all is what drives him to make the terrible decisions he does, thinking it will impress Alistair. All the little boy wants is to be with his dad. He doesn’t need all the luxuries of having a famous parent. He is a child who needs to have a stable parent and Lord believes he is giving him that when he isn’t.
We learn at a later point in the film that Max was abused by his father and that he doesn’t want his own son to fall to the same fate. The Dreamstone has been the key to Maxwell’s desire for a long time, even prior to the events of the film. However, when he finds it, it is too good to be true. It grants him power but all it does is scare Alistair.
Max, Barbara, And How Their Stories Tie To Diana
The heart of WW84 is Diana, Wonder Woman herself. Sixty-six years have passed since World War I and she basically lives in solitude. Focused on her work and living alone, the Amazon-demigoddess still grieves her lost love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). She has lost all of her mortal friends as Etta Candy (Etta Candy) has since passed on.
When the Dreamstone is recovered during a jewellery store heist, Diana silent wishes for Steve to return to her. She gets her wish, but it come with a price; her powers. The more time Trevor’s spirit remains on the mortal plane, the weaker she becomes.
Diana meets Barbara Minerva before this and is somewhat weary of her, but they slowly becomes friends. Little does she realise, the gemologist is obsessed with her given how beautiful and confident she is.
When the Dreamstone suddenly goes missing, Diana suspects Barbara who tells her that Max took it when they hooked up. As time goes on, Minerva’s confidence starts to waive when it becomes realised that for the world to be restore, everyone who has been granted a wish by Lord, needs to give it up.
Like Max and Barbara with their wishes, Diana refuses to give up losing Steve a second time and thinks there has to be 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 the ‘loser everyone ignores’. Max is the same as he wants the world for his son but doesn’t see it – for a time – 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 want power the way most other villains do is really refreshing to see. This would not 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 to Diana’s was unexpected and really 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.