After impressing critics and audiences with her exciting solo movie back in 2017, Wonder Woman returns this summer in Wonder Woman 1984. Director Patty Jenkins is back behind the camera and Gal Gadot reprises her role as the noble Diana Prince.
The sequel swaps the trenches of World War I for MTV-era America, with Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, and (somehow) Chris Pine all returning. Pine reprises his role as Steve Trevor, the fighter pilot who appeared to die at the end of the first movie; how he returns in this film is a mystery at this stage.
The recent trailer gave us our first look at Kristen Wiig as antagonist Barbara Minerva/Cheetah, but comic fans may have recognised another familiar face: business tycoon Maxwell Lord (The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal). Who is this charismatic personality, and how could he impact the film? Here’s everything you need to know…
Created by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatties and Kevin Maguire, Maxwell Lord IV – to give him his full title – first appeared on the comic book scene in 1987’s Justice League #1. Max is the son of successful businessman Maxwell Lord III, and at the age of 16, he returns home one day to discover that his father has committed suicide.
It later emerges that the guilt-ridden Maxwell Snr took his own life after discovering his company – Chimtech Consortium – was producing carcinogenic products. Spurred on by her late husband’s philosophies, Max’s mother teaches him that powerful people aren’t to be trusted, and he should always stay one step ahead of them. This later affects his outlook on, and relationship with, superheroes.
He formed the Justice League International
Although he doesn’t trust superheroes, Max becomes instrumental in forming the Justice League International. Not to be confused with the Justice League, this superhero team is more comedic in tone and features a collection of heroes from around the globe, including Black Canary (who’ll appear in forthcoming DC movie Birds of Prey), Blue Beetle, Guy Gardener, Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle.
However, in a strange twist, it transpires that Lord is under the control of DC villain Metroid (who, in a double twist, was being controlled by another villain, Killgore). Metroid plans on using the League to take over the world. In a further twist, 2011’s Justice League: Generation Lost #20 reveals that Lord planned to use his Justice League International team for nefarious reasons, even before he was brainwashed.
Could the creation of Justice League International play a role in Wonder Woman 1984's storyline? If so, it may help establish the future of Wonder Woman as a character, not to mention the ongoing structure of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).
Max's mind-control powers
When he first appeared in the comics, Max was a regular, non-powered human. But this didn’t last long – like most comic book characters, his abilities were granted in a suitably over-the-top fashion.
During the Invasion! story arc in the late-80s, Lord is given mind-control powers when alien invaders explode a ‘Gene Bomb’, which activates dormant powers in some humans. In the process, Lord becomes a ‘metahuman’ himself; however, still motivated by his father’s death, he decides to use his powers to fight superheroes.
Consequently, Lord uses his newfound abilities to acquire information on, and manipulate, various heroes he deems to be a threat to humanity, killing Blue Beetle in the process. Not long after, he assumes the alias of Black King in the covert group ‘Checkmate’, where he continues to use his powers to take down yet more superheroes.
It’s unclear whether or not Lord will have powers in Wonder Woman 1984. In the trailer, it's implied that Lord reaches out via that most eighties of symbols, the television set, apparently extending his mind control abilities in the process. If this is true, could he be the one who nudges Barbara Minerva into the path of villainy?
Also in the trailer, he appears to be promising that people's wildest dreams will come true, which, as far as Diana is concerned, manifests in the form of Steve's return. What does this tell us about Lord's machiavellian personality?
Wonder Woman killed him in the comics
With time and practice, Lord’s powers grew exponentially until he was strong enough to manipulate none other than Superman himself. Lord tricked the Man of Steel into attacking his closest friends, making Superman believe they were his greatest enemies.
This is exactly what happened in the 2005 one-shot issue Crisis on Infinite Earth. After coaxing Superman to attack Batman, Lord turned the mind-controlled hero on Wonder Woman, by making him believe she was the villain Doomsday. It quickly became evident the only way Wonder Woman could break Lord’s control was to kill him, which she did by snapping his neck.
Although the day was saved, footage of Lord’s death was subsequently broadcast worldwide, destroying her reputation. So will the antagonism between Lord and Diana Prince reach a suitably dramatic end in Wonder Woman 1984? And will she be battling to repair her superhero image in a future Wonder Woman movie?
This isn’t the first time we’ve met Max
Although Wonder Woman 1984 will mark the character’s big-screen debut, you may also recognise him from comic book outings on the small screen. In Superman series Smallville, Lord appeared in his Black King persona (played by Gil Bellows). More recently, he featured in hit DC show Supergirl, portrayed by Peter Facinelli.
Perhaps more interestingly, the character was slated to appear in the cancelled film Justice League: Mortal. A project for Mad Max’s George Miller, Lord was set to be played by How to Train Your Dragon’s Jay Baruchel, alongside Arnie Hammer as Batman, Adam Brody as The Flash, and Megan Gale as Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, as detailed in Den of Geek back in 2015, the project was scrapped at the last minute – despite everything being ready for shooting.
We may not have got that version of Maxwell Lord on the big screen, but we can’t wait to see Pedro Pascal’s version this summer. Wonder Woman 1984 is released in Cineworld cinemas on the 2nd of October 2020.
Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team. Follow him on Twitter.