There was a great deal of surprise among fans when it was first announced that star comedian Kristen Wiig will be taking on the role of Wonder Woman’s arch-enemy Cheetah in Wonder Woman 1984. In an interview during DC FanDome, Wiig weighed in on her character’s importance to the movie’s storyline:
“The connection between Diana and Cheetah, they work together and they’re friends at the beginning of the movie. Barbara Minerva, who becomes Cheetah, she really looks up to Diana and wants to be her. Diana really loves being around Barbara. it makes the relationship a bit more complicated and interesting as Barbara starts to change…The rest, you’ll have to see.”
The marketing for Wonder Woman 1984 had previously kept a tight lid on the character of Cheetah. Early trailers showed Wiig in her human alter ego Barbara being friendly with Diana. It was only in the last trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 released during the previous month’s DC FanDome that Wiig’s full transformation into the animalistic Cheetah was revealed. In the past, director Patty Jenkins had explained whey Wiig was the perfect actor to embody the duality of Barbara and Cheetah:
“In the lore, Cheetah is often someone who’s friends with Diana but jealous of her. And I feel like Kristen’s playing a character who’s both ends of the spectrum – she’s your warm, funny friend who’s kind and interesting and then can transform into something completely different. Yes, she happens to be a woman, but she’s straight out of the Gene Hackman Superman school of great, funny, tremendous actors. I don’t think of her being a female villain, although she is. I feel that way about Wonder Woman, too. The female component of it is huge, but she’s also just a hero, a universal hero.”
The trailers have presented the character of Barbara as a woman with a great deal of self-doubt, who desires to become an “alpha predator” in her own words. This leads to Barbara discovering the power of the Cheetah, which allows her to run faster, jump higher, and even go toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman.
But there is a price for all that power, and the end of the DC FanDome trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 showed a Barbara who had fully transformed into the Cheetah, with little evidence left of her previous humanity. Fans have lauded the look of the supervillainess while expressing surprise at the physicality that Wiig manages to bring to the role.
As Jenkins mentioned, the Cheetah in the comics is often portrayed in a sympathetic light, and Wonder Woman has many times attempted to reach out to her with love instead of physically subduing her. Perhaps a similar relationship will be shown in the movie, with the two women teaming up against the actual main villain, Maxwell Lord.
Directed and co-written by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman 1984 features a lead cast of Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal and Natasha Rothwell. The film arrives in theaters Dec. 25.