The Last Wish’s Secret Ingredients Are These Key Characters

One of the many reasons why Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was one of 2022’s best movies was due to its sensational cast of characters, most notably the three primary antagonists that cause problems for Puss (Antonio Banderas) and his friends throughout the film. Many films have issues juggling multiple villains, as they can occasionally make a film feel overstuffed and crowded. That’s not the case for the enemies of Puss in Boots in his second feature film, as every single one of them brings something unique and interesting to the table.

Over the course of just an hour and forty minutes, the sympathetic Goldilocks (Florence Pugh), the repugnant Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney), and even the baneful Death (Wagner Moura) himself etch their names into animation’s hall of infamy.

RELATED: The 10 Most Underrated Villains From Modern Animated Movies

Goldilocks & Her Bear Family Are Lovable Anti-Heroes in ‘Puss and Boots: The Last Wish’

Goldilocks showing a Wanted poster with Puss' face in it in Puss in Boots The Last Wish
Image via DreamWorks

While Goldilocks and the Three Bears Crime Family primarily take up an antagonistic role for most of the film, they’re not so much villains as they are anti-heroes, doing bad things for good reasons. Well, maybe not great reasons, as they do want to become a respected crime family, but they’re primarily motivated by making their adopted daughter, Goldi, happy. Though the film introduces the bears as intimidating minions of Goldilocks, we quickly see that the Three Bears are a lot more human than they seem. Papa Bear (Ray Winstone) is a polite softy, Mama Bear (Olivia Colman) is a protective mother figure, and Baby Bear (Samson Kayo) is a cocky rascal.

As with pretty much every main character in the film, Goldilocks and the Three Bears are looking to obtain the power of the Wishing Star, which as the name implies, can great anyone any wish they desire. The Three Bears primarily follow Goldi’s lead but are blissfully unaware that she wants to use the Wishing Star to find her real, human family. When the Bears discover this, they’re understandably hurt that the young woman they’ve raised as their own wants to replace them. Yet, they still decide to help her get the Wish anyway, which leads to a change of heart in the once selfish anti-hero.

In the end, instead of using the Last Wish, Goldilocks helps Puss destroy it, so truly evil people like Big Jack Horner can’t abuse its immense power. On this journey through the Dark Forest, Goldi realized she never needed a wish to begin with, because she already has a real loving family who would be willing to do anything for her. They leave the forest with a new sense of family as they go to claim the base and empire of Jack Horner since he won’t be needing it anymore.

‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’s Big Jack Horner Is “an Irredeemable Monster”

The ethical bug perched on Jack Horner's shoulder while giving him advice in 'Puss in Boots: The Last Wish'
Image via DreamWorks

Big Jack Horner isn’t just the complete polar opposite of Goldilocks, being a selfish and nefarious sociopath with no friends or familial connections of any kind, he’s almost something like an anti-Shrek (Mike Myers). The argument could be made that Big Jack Horner is a version of Shrek who never went through a hero’s journey, and became so vile and vindictive to the point where he resents all magical creatures and wants nothing more than to see them all vanish. Though he is irredeemable in every sense of the word, we do get a brief explanation for why Jack Horner is so evil, with a brief flashback showing the nursery rhyme character being upstaged by Pinocchio (Cody Cameron)

Since that point, Horner built himself a criminal empire with plum pie baking as a front. Though his real pass time is collecting all manner of magical artifacts and creatures, such as the mighty sword Excalibur, the noble fire-breathing phoenix, and even a self-proclaimed conscience Ethical Bug (Kevin McCann). The cricket consistently tries to have Jack see the error of his ways, but when Big Jack Horner reveals his plans to use the Wishing Star to take over the world while he disregards the lives and sacrifices of his minions, it becomes abundantly clear that there’s no helping this reprehensible monster.

Big Jack Horner learns the hard way that karma isn’t kind to those who live life as if everything is in service to him, as he faces a brutal demise along with the Wishing Star.

Death Is a Flawless, Fearsome Foe

Death, a scary wolf with a black hood and red eyes, smiling in 'Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.'
Image via Universal Pictures

The aforementioned villains are sensational characters, though admittedly, Goldilocks is a bit too soft while Big Jack Horner is a bit too hard. The Big Bad Wolf in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is the living definition of just right. However, perhaps “living” is a poor word to use, as this Wolf is not what he appears to be. When Puss has his first encounter with the Wolf in a masterfully executed villain introduction, Puss and the audience think he’s just a skilled and charismatic bounty hunter, becoming the only one who has been able to scratch Puss.

With Puss down to the last of his nine lives, the threat that this cruel canine pose is the scariest thing he’s ever encountered. The terrifying wolf spends the movie stalking Puss everywhere he goes, though he consistently seems able to miraculously appear out of thin air and, unlike everyone else in the film, doesn’t appear on the Wishing Star map. A second confrontation reveals why this is, as this Big Bad Wolf is no mere bounty hunter. In actuality, he is the sentient embodiment of Death, and he has developed a personal grudge against Puss for his callous disregard for his past eight lives. He’s relishing the opportunity to take the last life for himself, putting an end to Puss’ mockery of him once and for all.

What makes Death such a fascinating character is that he’s not unforgivably evil like Jack Horner, but isn’t a good-hearted soul like Goldilocks either. On the one hand, ushering souls to their demise is Death’s job, but on the other hand, he is clearly enjoying torturing Puss and is finding great entertainment in chasing him across the land. In the end, the most surprising thing that Death experiences is being wrong, when he sees that Puss selflessly accepts his fate and defends himself. Death finally decides to give Puss one last fair chance at life but also points out that they will meet again… someday.

‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’s Strong Villains Make a Good Movie Great

Puss in Boots
Image via Dreamworks

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish pushes back against a common trend in movies, particularly animated ones. For whatever reason, compelling antagonists have become an afterthought, often being presented as bad guys who are bad for the sake of being bad. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish proves that they can become the secret ingredient to a long-lasting and memorable storyline with just a few drops of backstory and motivation. The hit Dreamworks sequel also shows just three fundamentally different methods of incorporating interesting villains, be they anti-heroes with justified motivations, reprehensible monsters with a touch of humor, or deadly pursuers shrouded in mystery.

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