Wonder Woman (2017)

[spoiler warning]

I have always been a big fan of strong female characters, in both books and film. And I have to say that Wonder Woman completely met my demands for a movie that depicted a powerful female lead, as well as a powerful female cast. Here, the knight is a woman, sending a message to the world: that we can be heroes just as well as men can be.

In the present day, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) receives an email from fellow secret hero Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) that contains an image of her in her Wonder Woman garb, standing among friends.

Born of clay, young Diana spent her days with her fellow Amazonians, women warriors created by Zeus to protect the world from Ares. Here we can already see the movie’s casting of female heroes, while the main villain is a man. Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) believes that Ares will not return (after his first defeat by Zeus a long time ago) and does not allow Diana to be trained. However, Diana, stubborn from even a young age, learns in secret from Hippolyta’s sister General Antiope (Robin Wright).

Soon Diana grows to become a young adult and has properly mastered the fighting skills of the Amazons. One day, a man washes up on shore, swimming from a crash landing. He reveals himself to be Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), but before they can know each other well Germans come onto the island as well, in pursuit of Steve, who is actually a World War I spy for the British.

A fight ensues between the Amazonians and the Germans, in which Antiope is killed. Steve is taken by the women and is interrogated, forced to spit out the truth when bound by the Lasso of Hestia. He details the ongoings of World War I in the world, and how he stole a valuable notebook from the brilliant German scientist Isabel Maru (Elena Anaya), also known as Doctor Poison, who was attempting to engineer a deadly mustard gas. Diana believes that Ares is responsible for the war and arms herself, preparing to venture into the world with Steve to stop him.

The duo arrive in London, and Diana has trouble fitting in, with her outrageous costume and ridiculous weapons. They successfully deliver the notebook to Steve’s superiors. Among them is Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis), who is currently trying to negotiate diplomatically with Germany. Upon delivery, the Allies discover that the Germans, lead by the evil General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston), are preparing to release the gas at the warfront. Supported by Sir Patrick, Steve and Diana, along with a couple of friends, head to the front, in Belgium, to stop the Germans.

Naive and ignorant about the true darkness of warfare, Diana is shocked to see the poverty and the hurt the people are suffering from as a result of the fighting. She is outraged, as one should be, and demands to go into battle without a plan. Steve tries to hold her back, but Diana charges out and pushes along the German lines, inspiring the Allied soldiers to move out from the trench and fight behind her. They end up saving the village and celebrate.

wonder-woman-trailer-2.jpg
A photo taken during the celebration, which was later resent to Diana by Bruce Wayne.

The group learns about a gala that is taking place in the German High Command. Steve infiltrates it, aiming to find and destroy the gas, while the rest of the group wait in the woods. Fed up with having to stay without being able to help, Diana steals a woman’s dress and goes to the party herself. She attempts to follow Ludendorff and kill him, believing that he is Ares. Steve stops her, and the General manages to get away, ordering a release of mustard gas upon the village, killing all its inhabitants.

Furious at Steve, Diana leaves by herself to follow Ludendorff to a military base with all the gas. She manages to kill him, but strangely this does not stop the war. Confused, Diana feels defeated and does not leave with Steve to help with the rest of the war. However, Sir Patrick Morgan appears suddenly and reveals himself to be Ares, and tells her that although he whispered suggestions and inspirations within peoples’ ears, it was ultimately mankind that caused the fighting amongst themselves. He also reveals that Diana is the proclaimed Godkiller, as she is a deity herself (the youngest child of Zeus), and thus capable of slaughtering another god.

Meanwhile, Steve sacrifices himself by blowing up the plane containing the mustard gas while in the air. Enraged, Diana fights Ares. Ares tries to channel Diana’s anger by getting her to kill Dr. Maru, but Steve’s heroic act reminds Diana that humans still have goodness within them. She allows Dr. Maru to escape and manages to kill Ares, and the war stops.

Presently, Diana has taken residence amongst humankind and keeps a low profile. However, upon Bruce’s email, she decides to continue her duty as Wonder Woman, implying a future with the Justice League.

wonder-woman-movie-cast-slice.jpg
Women can be warriors just as well as men.

Wonder Woman shows how women can be just as strong as men. They have the same capabilities to be heroic or evil, just like men; Wonder Woman a hero, while Dr. Maru is evil, and Steve is a hero, while General Ludendorff is evil. It does not serve to show the superiority of a gender, but instead advocates for equality between both. For anyone looking for an inspirational, powerful film, Wonder Woman is a must-watch.

Macbeth: A Relatable Tragedy

Perhaps one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Macbeth tells the tragic tale of King Macbeth, who falls from his heroic status after hearing a prophecy about his golden future.

Macbeth, a noble general of Scotland, is visited by three meddling witches, who prophesize that he will become Thane of Cawdor, and then King of Scotland. Currently, he is the Thane of Glamis, but after winning a war King Duncan awards him the title of Thane of Cawdor, and the first part of the prophecy comes true. This leads to Macbeth and his wife believing that the second part, therefore, must be true as well. In an impulsive act, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (his wife) murder Duncan. After the king’s two sons flee in terror, Macbeth is crowned the new King of Scotland.

However, Macbeth is fearful of what he has done, and attempts to keep his status as king and prevent any possibilities of his own demise. Drowned in his own ambition, Macbeth’s morality begins to burn away as he commits crime after crime in an attempt to maintain his status as king and prevent anyone else from taking the throne. Eventually, his humanity and morality crumbles as he succumbs to his underlying guilt and burning ambition, and ultimately causes his own downfall.

In his play, Shakespeare warns us of the dangers of ambition, and how we must not submit to tantalizing offers and allow them to destroy us. We must not abandon our principles and our morals just to pursue something– nothing in the world is worth throwing away our souls. Macbeth isn’t omnipotent– armed with the prophecy and foresight, he thinks he is, and therefore he tries to control his fate, control what will happen– and all that results in is chaos. In murdering Duncan, he has essentially committed suicide. Perhaps he acted too fast– as natural was his ascension to the position of Thane of Cawdor, he seized the crown by himself; he did not permit it to happen in due time, which, if it did, may have prevented all this mayhem. 

As Stephen Fry recently said, “the enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.” We cannot believe that we know everything that’s going to happen, and hammer and twist the universe to fit our vision of the future. Shakespeare reminds us here that Macbeth, like the rest of us, is not God– and that we cannot try to control what we are not supposed to control.

 

 

Forrest Gump (1994)

[spoiler warning]

Forrest Gump is my all-time favorite movie, and one that I’ve watched countless times. It has brought me to tears and has made me laugh over and over again, and it never gets old with each reviewing.

In the present, Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) is waiting at the bus stop to ride to a particular destination. While sitting, various people join him, and he recounts his life story as they listen.

Unintelligent, and born needing leg braces, Forrest’s childhood is constantly hindered by people’s judgment. His mother goes to great lengths to give him a good education, and his only friend is a girl whom he meets on his first day of school and falls in love with, Jenny Curan (Robin Wright). One miraculous day, Forrest and Jenny are walking in the woods when three bullies give chase to Forrest; Jenny tells him to run and he does, resulting in his leg braces breaking, which allows him to sprint away.

quotes-from-forrest-gump-7-638.jpg

Forrest and Jenny stick together all throughout high school. Forrest is constantly badgered by the boys who pick on him, who now chase him in a truck. While running to evade the bullies, Forrest’s running skills catches the attention of a college football coach who happens to be nearby, scouting for players. Forrest then receives a football scholarship to the University of Alabama.

Meanwhile, Jenny also attends college at an all-girls university. She is eventually expelled for her troubles and Forrest goes on to graduate, and subsequently enlists in the military. There, he meets Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue. Shortly after their training, both are sent to fight in the Vietnam War. Forrest agrees to join Bubba and his family in the shrimping business after the war is over. However, in the midst of a fight, Bubba is killed. Forrest saves many men in his platoon, including Lieutenant Dan, who, afterwards, was furious at him for doing so; it was his destiny, he claimed, to die on the battlefield. Dan’s legs are amputated, and Forrest is awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

While in recovery, Forrest discovers his talent in ping-pong and begins to play competitively, eventually becoming a celebrity and going on to play against the Chinese team.

At a Vietnam War-protest in D.C., Forrest reunites with Jenny, who has begun living life as a hippie, and has been doing her own travels. She then boards a bus, leaving Forrest behind once more. They continue their lives separately: Forrest enters into the shrimping business with Lieutenant Dan, while Jenny embraces the counterculture life.

It is revealed that Forrest is waiting for the bus to see Jenny. Once they reunite again, he meets her son, Forrest Jr., who is named after his father. Jenny proposes to Forrest and they marry, and she passes away a while later.

fb8e247446d627d0fc99a7594eb20e8c

My favorite scene from the movie was the hug between Forrest and Jenny in front of the Washington Monument– cheesy as it sounds, it brings me to tears every time. An inspirational, deeply moving and deeply thoughtful picture, Forrest Gump examines the aspects of love, hope, friendship, and warfare in life. Forrest encourages all of us to make the best out of life, and to each enjoy our own box of chocolates.You may not know what you’re going to get– but in the end, they’re all sweet.

 

 

Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Futuristic Present

What makes George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 so chilling is the fact that its futuristic setting is extremely close to our present. Orwell imagines a dystopian society with a totalitarian government, the Party, in which the people are woefully trapped under the hand of its notorious leader, Big Brother (who is, apparently, always watching), a mysterious figure only seen on posters.

1984_by_alcook-d4z39dh.jpg

Winston Smith’s homeland Oceania is in a state of constant war with the other two reigning lands, East Asia and Eurasia (who both have similar governments). This forces all supplies to be channeled in supporting the war, and thus the rest of Oceania remains poor. Winston Smith is a member of the lower tier of the government, and works for the Ministry of Truth, rewriting past articles so that history always supports the Party. There is to be nothing in the past showing that the Party has made mistakes; the Party must always be right. The Party is always in rule.  The Party maintains a strict rule over the Proletariats (the lower-class citizens) by four main operations, located in four vast pyramid-like governmental structures overlooking the land: the Ministry of Truth (Winston’s workplace), which alters history (and consequently, reality), the Ministry of Love, which dealts out torturous punishments to criminals, the Ministry of Peace, which ensures constant warfare, and the Ministry of Plenty, which deals with economic affairs and checks that Oceania is in a state of endless starvation. We can see the irony in the buildings’ names.

Besides editing the past, the Ministry of Truth works hard each day to condense the language of Oceania (called newspeak) more and more, until it is it to be something that is merely a simple form of communication. This way, with less and less words to work with, the human mind shrinks and becomes less complex; this is one of the twisted ways the Party manipulates its people to become more and more ignorant, until they are nothing more than an animal.

The Party’s three slogans are: Slavery is Freedom, War is Peace, and Ignorance is Strength. These statements reflect the philosophy of doublethink, in which a person holds two contradictory beliefs as simultaneously correct; in doing so, we can see that the person lacks the ability to conscious awareness that these two ideals conflict, that the person lacks the ability to think. With their intelligence gone, the Proletariats are helplessly subject to any action of the Party.

Winston is one of the few people who are still fighting against the Party, desperately trying to hold onto his soul, waiting until the day the Party comes to take it away. And each day, the Party takes a small chuck of humanity away from the Proletariats. He eventually meets Julia, a young, lively woman with free will like him. Together, they team up and think of ways to take down the government.

But in a world so twisted, such a happiness can never last. Winston and Julia will fall, back into the dark, embracing arms of the government, welcoming them into a comfortable life of true sanity, where the only things that matter are the Party and Big Brother…

Although the society of 1984 sounds too scary to be true, our community today bears some striking similarities. The government is slowly taking over our privacy; with surveillance cameras in unknown places and with the Internet being tracked constantly, we can no longer trust that our backs aren’t being watched. And when will the government stop, if it is willing to? The Fourth Amendment, our right to privacy, is already being invaded; will a time come when it is completely abolished? And what about the First Amendment, our right to free speech? Will a time come where the government will begin to reduce our language, our ability to think? Alter our history, our reality as we know it?

1984 Camera

1984 is a must-read for all those who loved Hunger GamesUnwound, or any science fiction book. It contains a strong political message cleverly woven in a dystopian novel, and scarily accurate predictions about our world’s future. Orwell wrote this book during the times of World War II, and shows us the bitter consequences of totalitarian government. Although democracy still stands in America, we can already begin to see the effects of a too-strong government. Orwell calls out to all of us, to remain strong and to persevere. We must keep fighting for what is right, for what is ours. We must not let the future fall into the wrong hands.

 

‘Salem’s Lot: The Fantastical Apocalypse of a Small Town

Quick review on an old favorite.

51S5TovouBL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot is sure to give you thrills and chills as you read. The name of the novel is based on the setting, a small, sleepy town in Maine called Jerusalem’s Lot, protagonist Ben Mears’s hometown.

Ben returns to Jerusalem’s Lot to get inspiration for his writing career– particularly, to get inspiration for the infamous, decrepit Marsten House, where he himself suffered a bad experience as a child. However, upon arriving, Ben discovers that, amazingly, the Marsten House has been purchased, by two furniture sellers: Richard Straker, whom the town meets, and Kurt Barlow, who is on an “extended buying trip.”

Things start to get troublesome when two young boys disappear. Ben Mears begins to investigate himself and finds that his town has been invaded by dark forces. In the end, the entire town is overtaken by the evil that has arrived.

This was the first Stephen King book I read– and the first horror book as well; I’ve always shied away from horror novels, afraid of their graphic and twisted content. I decided to give it a shot, though, and tried to pick a lighter-looking book off from the bookshelf to ease myself into the genre.

‘Salem’s Lot is not “light.” It is intense and complex, with a myriad of brilliant characters who are all interconnected, and, consequently, in the end, all kill one another off. King did an amazing job of making me flip the pages– I was always wondering who the next victim was, and when they would be killed.

However, it does not run too deep thematically– yes, there are horror themes, but mostly this is just a fun chiller for anyone to enjoy. If you’re looking to pick up a good scary story to enjoy on the road or at night with no one home, ‘Salem’s Lot is for you. Guaranteed to keep you on your feet, Stephen King’s 1975 horror novel is not one to miss out on.

Mesozoic Murder: A Mystery Rooted in Stone

A book that I read recently that is, admittedly, a bit on the “shallow” side. Still, a mystery book is always fun to read!

1852109.jpg

Mesozoic Murder by Christine Gendry is the first book of a mystery chronicles, starring Ansel Phoenix as the paleoartist-turned-detective. Ansel is a half Native America half-Caucasian woman who draws dinosaurs for a living. However, on a trip with her paleontology class, she discovers the corpse of her former lover, Nick Capos.

The mystery of Nick’s death draws Ansel’s interest, despite the fact that she and Nick haven’t been together for a long time. Ansel soon finds out that Nick was working on a project worth killing for, and becomes wrapped up in trying to save what he has discovered.

Though I do enjoy mysteries, I’d have to rate this book on the lower side. The plot was all right, but did not live up to my expectations of a good mystery book; instead, it focused more on science, and the paleontology facts that Ansel uses to deduce the murderer and to figure out what Nick was hiding. Throughout the series, Ansel also struggles with her identity, and how others view her as a “half-breed.”

My favorite books are those that dig deep into a theme. While Gendry’s novel had Ansel’s ethnicity issue, it only skimmed the surface of it, and did not provide a deeper message. If you’re into geology and paleontology, and would love to see science with a little mystery, Mesozoic Murder would be a quick and fun read.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Failed, Premature Coming-of-Age

A book I read a while ago in AP Lang, but still worthy of recognition. A truly marvelous read.

[spoiler warning]

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is perhaps one of the most controversial, if not the most controversial, novel of American literature. Narrated from the very unreliable, very skewed first-person point-of-view of young Huckleberry Finn, it is the story of Huck and Jim, an escaped slave, as they float down the Mississippi River into the deep, dark heart of the Antebellum South.

Before his adventures, Huck spent his days playing with the romantic-minded Tom Sawyer and under the tutelage of a widow and her sister Miss Watson, both of whom try to teach Huck manners and try to quell his “uncivilized” behavior. However, his alcoholic father Pap comes back and takes his son back to his cabin, where he is forced to stay for a couple days before escaping. During his escape, Huck meets Jim and the two set out on the river on a raft.

51N9m0VC0IL._SX303_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Huck first has qualms with himself about letting Jim onto the raft. Jim is, after all, a slave, and Huck’s been strictly told that slaves aren’t exactly the same as humans. What’s more, Jim is the slave of Miss Watson– someone who, despite her strict disciplinarian care, genuinely cares about Huck’s well-being– and thus, helping Jim escape is, for Huck, morally wrong (though we can clearly see that this is the very opposite of that). As Huck grows closer to Jim, however, he is forced to question the status quo that he has been taught. Huck and Jim aim for the Ohio River, where they can then begin to travel north and, for Jim (and Huck as well), towards freedom.

Eventually, however, they miss their destination, and continue to float down the Mississippi, where they are separated multiple times. Later, they pick up two con artists, on the run. The con artists take over the raft and begin to treat Jim badly, exploiting his status and shaming him– while Huck watches helplessly.

After a series of mishaps, Huck finally escapes from the con artists, only to find that they have sold Jim to a nearby farmer. Longing for his friend, Huck finally pushes free of his social barriers and resolves to free Jim once and for all. He heads to the farm to look for him, but finds that the man and woman living there are actually his friend Tom Sawyer’s uncle and aunt. Coincidentally, Tom comes for a visit, and even offers to help Huck, which seems like a marvelous idea at first– until Tom begins to scheme ridiculous, humiliating plans for freeing Jim that fit with his storybook fantasies of a daring escapade. And despite his learning on his adventures on the raft with Jim, Huck goes along with it all.

What makes this book so bad, so sad, so terribly, terribly marvelous is the ending. Tom’s aunt and uncle find Tom hurt and Huck stumbling for help. Huck finally tells them of their little attempts at an “adventure,” and how they’d managed to plot under the adults’ noses, but receives a startling surprise himself: that Jim is actually free– Miss Watson had declared it in her will. Tom knew it all along, but had apparently decided not tell Huck and that this actually gave him the chance to try out his delightful, embarrassing plots on someone. Jim becomes nothing more than a plaything for the boys.

A picaresque, the novel is supposed to “depict the adventures of a roguish hero/heroine of low class society who lives by his or her wits in a corrupt society.” While most of this fits into the content of ‘Huck Finn, there is one key component missing– the hero. We can see that, in the end, it is not Huck who is the hero. In fact, is there even a hero in the novel? Are all novels supposed to have a hero? Why didn’t Twain have Huck grow? Why didn’t Twain have Huck save Jim? Why did Huck succumb to society’s racist views again?

These are questions that literary critics have debated over for decades, and still continue to debate. The ending of ‘Huck Finn is unexpected and depressing, and there are views over why Twain wrote it that way. Some think that he simply failed to convey a message he was trying to write in ‘Huck Finn, while others (and I am inclined to think so as well) believe that this outrageous ending was, in fact, his aim. Read critically, ‘Huck Finn is a satire. It is not a racist novel, for all its filtered narration and derogatory language. In fact, Twain depicts Huck’s racist thoughts as simply ridiculous– as if anyone would even dare to think that any human is below the rest! Yet, this was the reality back in the Antebellum South (believe it or not, in parts of the United States, and the world as well, it still is the reality). People did indeed believe, quite strongly and adamantly (yes, it even lead to a war), that African Americans were simply not as human as the rest of us.

If you haven’t picked up ‘Huck Finn yet, it’s about time to! Mark Twain’s satirical novel criticizing society and its many problems is a must-read, and, despite its less-than-appealing, grammatically-wrong, vernacular English language, it stands alongside other classic novels like The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird as an iconic component of American literature. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of being with Huck and Jim on their raft, on the run from society’s grasping arms. It is definitely not the innocent, just-a-boy-having-fun book that people first perceive it to be (Huck’s adventures are more than just pure mischief), but at the same time is it not the serious, racist novel that others think it is.

Satire is sometimes hard to read; it takes skill and finesse to craft a novel that depicts such a dark and delicate topic through the lightness and joviality of a humorous boy’s adventure. Mark Twain’s talent is not to be ignored or chastised; it is to be appreciated, and considered. Anyone who reads ‘Huck Finn will surely enjoy floating along the Mississippi, listening to Jim’s stories and applauding Huck’s wit.

Twain lambastes the racist views of the Antebellum South, commenting how absurd, even comical those ideas are– and, unfortunately, reminding us that these views are still present in our society today. We must think about how we are treating others. Unlike Huck Finn, we are to be heroes.

But don’t worry, Twain reassures us. It’s okay– you won’t go to hell for treating people nicely.