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Characters In Wonder Woman 1984 With More Meaning Than You Realize

After helping humanity during World War I in 2017's Wonder WomanDiana of Themyscira (Gal Gadot) couldn't go back to her idyllic island home. So she's been living among us ever since. Wonder Woman 1984 catches up with the radiant and regal Amazon princess who, in addition to curating antiquities at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., takes on threats large and small. News reports in the film call her "a mysterious female savior" who drops in wherever she's needed. 

The real-world events of 1984, including a typhoon in the Philippines that killed 3,000 people and widespread famine in Ethiopia, would have kept Diana busy. But Wonder Woman 1984 instead taps into the era's ethos of excess with a magical stone that grants people's dearest wishes... for a price. As director Patty Jenkins said, "The feeling that the world was this cornucopia that would never stop giving was so enormous."

Regardless of whether she's facing off against a god of war, trickery, greed, or lower-level mischief, Diana handles everyone with compassion, athletics, her golden lasso, and grace. "We won't be doing that today," she says to one gun-wielding jewel thief at a mall.

Being an immortal superhero, Diana encounters all sorts of people, some with strong ties to her past in the comics or pop culture at large. Here are several characters in Wonder Woman 1984 with more meaning than viewers might realize. And of course, spoilers follow!

Etta Candy, a Wonder Woman's best friend

Early in Wonder Woman 1984, audiences visit Diana's metropolitan DC apartment filled with books on archaeology and cultural anthropology, plus some mementos nodding at the previous film. One black-and-white photo looks like a wedding celebration that reunited the ragtag commandos who helped her during World War I: Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock). But a separate photo shows Diana circa the 1940s in front of a city skyline alongside Etta Candy, a female friend from those early days. Etta wears glasses and looks grayer compared to Diana, who as an immortal superhero looks unchanged. But the actor credited as Etta in Wonder Woman 1984, even in this brief moment, is Lucy Davis (Shaun of the Dead), who played her in the 2017 film. 

In the comics, Etta was Wonder Woman's closest friend, a career Air Force officer who later becomes a government agent. The 2017 film made her Steve Trevor's secretary, who awkwardly carried Diana's sword and shield and liked Diana's feistiness instantly. Etta preferred using her principles to fight, "although I am not opposed to engaging in a bit of fisticuffs, should the occasion arise," as she put it. Considering Etta was among those who met Diana when she entered our world and knew her history, it's no wonder that the women stayed close.

Antiope, an aunt with wisdom

Antiope, the military leader of the Amazons of Themyscira and considered their greatest warrior, died in 2017's Wonder Woman, but a flashback in Wonder Woman 1984 brings her to life again — once more portrayed by Robin Wright. Wright loved playing Antiope the first time around, telling ScreenRant"What is the message [of Wonder Woman] that is so timely? We need to hear more of this because it's just about love and equality and justice."

In Wonder Woman 1984, Antiope teaches Diana a lesson about honesty. The sister of Diana's mother Queen Hippolyta (a returning Connie Nielsen), Antiope introduces a young Diana (Lilly Aspell, also returning) to an athletic contest featuring gymnastics, swimming, equestrian skills, and archery. "Just do your best," Antiope coaches. "Greatness is not what you think." 

The scrappy Diana is ahead of the game for a while until a branch knocks her off her horse. She scrambles down a hill to catch up with her mount but misses an archery target on the way, so Antiope stops her short of the finish line. "You're not ready to win, and there is no shame in that," Antiope says. "No true hero is born from lies." Her aunt's wise words stay with Diana years later, as does her tiara, which Hippolyta gave to Diana before she left home in the 2017 film.

Barbara Minerva, a Cheetah in animal prints

Barbara Minerva, better known as Cheetah, is one of Wonder Woman's longtime foes. In the comics, Barbara is an archaeologist and professor interested in the Amazons' civilization. She meets Diana soon after Diana arrives in the United States, thanks to Etta Candy, who contacts Barbara to act as a translator for Diana's unique dialect. Diana and Barbara become friends, but their friendship turns sour after Barbara goes on an expedition to investigate the ancient god Urzkartaga. Urzkartaga captures Barbara, who agrees by the promise of immortality to be his tribe's new guardian. She drinks a potion that turns her into a feline human complete with orange skin, black spots, claws, and a tail.

Although Wonder Woman 1984 revamps this origin story considerably, it keeps certain elements, notably the spark of friendship between the two. This time around, Barbara (Kristen Wiig) is a gawky geologist (among other specialties) who is in awe of Diana's beauty, strength, and ability to walk in cheetah-print heels. After the FBI asks the Smithsonian to identify certain relics, one of which turns out to be a wish-granting stone, Barbara wishes she could be just like Diana, inadvertently gaining super speed, strength, and agility. Like the short story "The Monkey's Paw," the wishes involve consequences, but Barbara won't renounce her wish, determined never to be an awkward doormat again.

Max Lord, Pedro Pascal's second time in the Wonder Woman universe

Wealthy businessman and entrepreneur Maxwell Lord has been knocking around the DC Universe since the 1980s, at one point in the comics organizing the Justice League International. During the late 1980s crossover event "Invasion!," readers learned that Lord was actually a metahuman with mind control abilities. But this character's extensive backstory includes other affiliations, including the Black Lantern Corps, the Illuminati, and the Extremists.

That said, Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins told People that their version of Lord is more inspired by business mavericks like Bernie Madoff and Donald Trump. Pedro Pascal, currently the "Dadalorian" to the Child on The Mandalorian, plays Lord as a would-be oil tycoon with a blond combover but also the intense desperation of a guy out to prove he's not a loser. Meanwhile, the character has a young son (Lucian Perez), who loves him just fine the way he is.

"Life is good, but it can be better," Lord effuses on TV, finding in the wishing stone a way to finally get more: more power, more money, and anything else to fill his neediness. Pascal, who memorably played Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones, incidentally has another tie to Wonder Woman. He appeared as the indelicately named Ed Indelicato in the 2011 unreleased Wonder Woman TV pilot starring Adrianne Palicki (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as Diana.

Steve Trevor, a man out of time

U.S. Air Force pilot Steve Trevor has been Wonder Woman's love interest since the 1940s, so it was natural to introduce the romance between Steve and Diana in the 2017 film. As Steve, Chris Pine had such natural chemistry with Gadot that even though his character died, Jenkins wanted to bring him back in some capacity. Pine and Gadot didn't mind, either. "There's parity in the relationship and they support one another. They bring out the best parts of one another," Pine told Entertainment Weekly.

Diana doesn't mean to bring Steve back from the dead in Wonder Woman 1984 — she just wishes around that magical stone that she could see him again. But she hasn't been in love since their time together during World War I and still misses him dearly. (Pine gets to be the fish out of water this time, eating Pop-Tarts and marveling at '80s fashion, which "was a fun change," Gadot says.) 

Trying to stop the chaos and consequences that various wishes uncork gives Diana a personal dilemma. "I give everything, all that I have, every day, and I'm happy to," she tells Steve at one point. "But this one thing... You're all that I've wanted for so long. The only joy I've had or even asked for." We won't spoil how things turn out for this couple that Gadot calls "timeless," except to say that Steve again makes Diana's heart soar.

A familiar face behind the 'Handsome Man'

When Steve Trevor comes back from the dead, his spirit actually inhabits the body of another guy, billed only in the credits as "Handsome Man," something we'll bet amuses actor Kristoffer Polaha to no end. When Steve and Diana first reunite, the Handsome Man at a gala gives her a watch and says his parting words from the 2017 film ("I wish we had more time"), transforming in Diana's eyes to the Steve she loves. But the cinematography and an occasional mirror make clear that while she and the audience see Pine as Steve, the other characters see the unnamed man, similar to how Warren Beatty's quarterback returns to life in a slain millionaire's body in the 1978 comedy Heaven Can Wait.

Wonder Woman 1984 doesn't provide any backstory for the mysterious guy. (All Steve remembers is being someplace good that he can't describe and awakening on a futon in the man's apartment.) But Polaha is a familiar face in his own right. The veteran TV actor has appeared on Mad Men, Ringer, Castle, Get Shorty, Ballers, and Condor. He also appears in the third entry in the Jurassic World series, Jurassic World: Dominion.

From Ramy's dad to an Egyptian prince

In one action sequence, Diana and Steve chase after a military convoy protecting Maxwell Lord, who through the power of the wishing stone has acquired both the oil and the bodyguards of Emir Said Bin Abydos (Amr Waked). Lord had been jealous of the Emir, who was featured on a magazine cover around the same time that Lord's wells seemed to be a Ponzi scheme for not striking oil. The Emir at first scoffs at the idea that Lord could offer him anything he might want, then looks over the city of Cairo in Egypt and wishes that his ancestral lands could be returned. The film doesn't explain the politics behind the Emir's wish, but it's granted in a snap, causing chaos for people in the region. 

Although his role is brief, viewers might recognize Waked, a native of Cairo, as comedian Ramy Youssef's father on the Hulu comedy series Ramy. Waked has also appeared in Syriana, Lucy, Geostorm, and TV's Marco Polo and Odysseus.

A Smithsonian co-worker who's a writer, too

Diana has several co-workers at the Smithsonian Institution, but one in particular stands out for having a link to Kristen Wiig's real-life past. Natasha Rothwell plays Carol, who looks right past the clumsy Barbara Minerva, even though Barbara reminds her that Carol hired her in the first place. Carol appears briefly, introducing Barbara and Diana and giving them a heads-up about the FBI wanting the Smithsonian's assistance in identifying several recovered artifacts, including the mysterious stone.

Rothwell is a veteran both in front of and behind the camera. She has appeared in TV and films such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Love, Simon, Insecure, and the current iteration of DuckTales. (She's the voice of Zan Owlson, an owl businesswoman and mayor of St. Canard.) She's also an executive story editor on the HBO comedy Insecure and was a writer on Saturday Night Live from 2014 to 2015 during Wiig's heyday. Smithsonian Carol might not recognize Barbara Minerva at first sight, but it's likely that Rothwell and Wiig shared some SNL stories between takes.

A president with some practice

Wonder Woman 1984 includes several character actors, some of whom have other pop culture appearances. One of those is Stuart Milligan, who plays the President of the United States. 

The real president in 1984 was Ronald Reagan, at the time the oldest person ever to be nominated by a major party for the office. Milligan doesn't try to imitate Reagan, but plays the role straight. His president finds his appointment calendar suddenly cleared for a meeting with Maxwell Lord, thanks to Lord wishing his way to the top of the list. (Milligan's character also gets a wish befitting the nuclear arms race at the time, which would dismay the "No Nukes" protesters in the film.) Diana tries to intercept Lord at the White House, leading to a fight sequence against both an empowered Barbara in animal prints and the Secret Service, with Steve providing backup. 

If Milligan looks familiar, perhaps it's because he previously played real-life President Richard Nixon during a 2011 story arc on Doctor Who. He also voiced Colonel Stark in the 2009 animated miniseries Doctor Who: Dreamland and appeared in other sci-fi films such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Outland.

Amazon warriors who fly high

When casting 2017's Wonder Woman, director Patty Jenkins selected real-life athletes, trainers, and Olympians to play some of the Amazons of Themyscira. Some of those Amazons who also appeared in or did stunts for 2017's Justice League return in the same roles for Wonder Woman 1984, notably Hayley Warnes as Aella, Hari James as the herald Trigona, and Doutzen Kroes as Venelia.

But Wonder Woman 1984 adds some new athletes to the Amazons' ranks, notably Jessie Graff as a competitor in the athletic contest that a young Diana loses in the flashback with Antiope. Graff regularly works as a stunt double, but she's also familiar as a competitor from 2013 to 2018 on American Ninja Warrior. In 2016, she was the first female contestant on the show to successfully complete a Stage 1 course in the national finals, ranking with the fourth-fastest time. Graff also has appeared in the TV worlds of DC and Marvel with roles on Supergirl and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

A wonderful post-credits cameo

Wonder Woman 1984 gives Diana both her iconic costume and gold armor with wings, a reference to the ceremonial battle armor that Amazon artisan Pallas created for her as extra protection whenever facing an extremely powerful villain. In the film, the armor has a different origin story. Queen Hippolyta tells a young Diana about a brave Amazon named Asteria, who wore the golden armor to protect her sisters' retreat to Themyscira when they left the regular world. Diana later relates this legend to Steve, explaining how she's recovered the golden armor of Asteria over her years of working with antiquities. Diana later wears the armor as extra protection during the film's climax.

Yet a post-credits scene reveals that Asteria didn't die while protecting that ancient retreat. She's been living among us, too, played by Lynda Carter, TV's original live-action Wonder Woman from the 1970s. It's a cameo that's an homage to the beloved Carter, who at DC Fandome in 2020 thanked Jenkins and Gadot for their treatment of the iconic character. In the scene, a dark-haired woman seen from behind walks through a street fair, then with one hand reflexively stops a pole from toppling onto bystanders. A grateful but stunned woman thanks her, wondering how she did that. The woman turns around, revealing Carter with a coy smile. It's just a simple shift of weight, she says. "It takes practice. But I've been doing this for a long time."