DC’s 2017 film Wonder Woman introduced us to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in the era of World War I and left us wanting to see more of the Amazonian warrior. After much anticipation, the sequel Wonder Woman 1984 finally hit screens on Christmas 2020.
Wonder Woman 1984 gave us something super exciting to sink our teeth into—a feline, female villain for Wonder Woman a.k.a Diana Prince to go up against.
What made Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) such an exciting villain was that she didn’t start off as one, or as someone with any kind of special abilities. Cheetah started as a regular Jane named Barbara Ann Minerva, a mousy, reticent geologist and crypto-zoologist who was Diana’s colleague at the Smithsonian Institute.
So what shaped Barbara, a timid scientist and Diana’s friend, into a vicious, dangerous foe named Cheetah? How did Diana defeat her? Is she dead or alive at the end of Wonder Woman 1984? Let’s dig into what we know.
1. How Does Barbara Become Cheetah?
When we’re first introduced to Barbara, she fits the classic “before” trope—nerdy, meek, wears glasses, is unsure of herself, and is entirely unremarkable.
As Barbara becomes friends with Diana, she becomes envious of Diana’s confidence, attractiveness, and poise, and wishes she could be more like her.
The Dreamstone is an antique that finds its way to the Smithsonian for examination after the FBI recovers it from a robbery (which, of course, Diana helped foil). It bears a Latin inscription claiming that it can grant its holder one wish. The characters in the movie do not know that it takes something in return for the wish it grants, and therefore holds power to wreak great havoc. We later find out that the only way the consequences of the wish can be reversed is if the person rescinds their wish.
Barbara uses the stone to make a wish to be more like Diana, not knowing that she’s unknowingly wishing to become a superpowered being.
However, before this wish starts coming true, Barbara gets tricked by failing businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) into letting him use the stone. This leads to him becoming supremely powerful, and able to grant wishes like the stone itself—and to wreak havoc upon the world at a greatly magnified scale.
After getting a taste of her newfound powers while squaring off with Diana at the White House, Barbara decides that having Diana’s abilities isn’t enough. She asks Lord to make her the best—an apex predator. Barbara’s evolution into Cheetah is now complete, as she takes on the physical appearance and abilities of a supercharged jungle cat.
2. How Does Wonder Woman Defeat Cheetah?
Once Diana realizes that Cheetah is a formidable foe, she knows she needs reinforcements. She dons the golden, winged armor of the legendary Amazon warrior Asteria to aid her in her fight against Cheetah.
After a fierce battle in which Cheetah and Wonder Woman fight neck and neck, Wonder Woman finally manages to subdue her with the help of water and electricity.
However, this seems not to be the end of Cheetah, as we do not see her die.
3. Does Cheetah Die at the End of Wonder Woman 1984? What Happens to Her?
Diana knows that the only way to neutralize the situation is to make everyone who made wishes through Lord rescind their wish. After she successfully does so by using her Lasso of Truth, we see a montage of people around the world renouncing their wishes.
We then see Cheetah, who is alive, well, and back to her human form of Barbara, sitting on a rock overlooking the ocean. Since she is back to her human form, one might assume that she, too, renounced her wish like everyone else.
However, we do not know for sure whether Barbara renounced her wish. Director Patty Jenkins admits to having left Cheetah’s fate ambiguous on purpose.
“I have my reasons for making it ambiguous. And I think it’s not clear, her point of view on everything that just happened. There were multiple reasons for doing it that way. But the truth is, there may or may not be more to come, and reasons for that.[…]And if it leaves you wanting more answers, there’s nothing wrong with that.”Director Patty Jenkins
Another theory is that she only lost the effects of her second transformation and not her first. That would entail that the loss of humanity and Wonder Woman-esque abilities she gained initially from the Dreamstone itself (before her second wish from Lord) remained intact.
This would mean that Barbara is still in possession of abilities much like Wonder Woman’s—and is left with a massive grudge against Wonder Woman for stealing her status as an apex predator.
Barbara’s first transformation already made her a formidable opponent against Diana. With a new grudge to further fuel her, it’s likely that she would create havoc in the world in a host of fresh, new ways. Smells like sequel material to me!