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.

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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.

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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.

AHS Season Three: Coven of Secrets

[spoiler warning]

While Asylum may be the best season of American Horror StoryCoven comes to a close second. Season Three features an assembly of witches in modern New Orleans, descended from their notorious ancestors during the Salem Witch Trials.

Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) finds out about her lineage after she accidentally kills her boyfriend with her powers. She is then sent to a haven (under the name Miss Robichaux’s Academy) for girls like her, the only “safe place” for witches, who are still facing persecution in the modern world. While many women (and men) were condemned and burned at the stake back in the 1690’s, according to headmistress Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson), but they weren’t actual witches, just innocent people– the real ones acted quickly and fled South, and eventually enough congregated there and New Orleans turned into the new place for witches.

At the academy, Zoe meets child actress Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), a telekenetic, stuck-up, arrogant witch; African-American “human voodoo doll” Queenie (Gabourey Sibdibe); and clairvoyant witch Nan (Jamie Brewer). Cordelia, their headmistress, does not seem to exhibit impressive powers and constantly spends her days as an alchemist in the greenhouse, depressed and under the shadow of her mother Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), the current reigning Supreme (one witch in a generation who embodies all the powers).

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From left to right: Fiona, Madison, Nan, Zoe, and Queenie.

Things get messy when Fiona shows up at the coven again, treading on Cordelia and taking her role back as leader of the witches. She takes the girls to a museum, which is a house that belonged to a wealthy white lady, Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates), who was famous for torturing her slaves. Nan uses her clairvoyant powers to find where Delphine was buried, and Fiona discovers that she is still alive, rendered immortal by the voodoo tribe queen Marie Laveau.

Fiona, obsessed with avoiding death, pays Marie a visit and demands that she tell her how she stayed alive. Marie refuses because Fiona blatantly disrespects her, and this sparks a renewed animosity between the white witches and the black voodoo witches, which was tempered for a while after Marie and the previous Supreme Anna Leigh Leighton signed a peace treaty– Fiona’s trespassing on the voodoo side of town as well as her crude remarks broke this truce.

Fiona returns to Miss Robichaux’s for one reason– she has cancer. A Supreme is supposed to be in stellar health for as long as she reigns. Once a new Supreme is on the rise, the current one will begin to deteriorate in well-being, until she dies and the spirit takes place in her successor. Fiona tries to eliminate possible candidates and carefully watches the girls over the next few days. Each one of them begins to grow, exhibiting new powers or strengthening their current ones.

After the girls find out the news, however, rivalry begins to spark amongst them. Zoe and Madison’s friendship begins to crumble after they fight over a boy they killed and subsequently resurrected at a frat party. Zoe is focused on trying to maintain the unity amongst the women of the coven, while Madison only wants to become Supreme. Meanwhile, Queenie feels that she is no longer part of the group and leaves to join the voodoo tribe.

Later, the coven gains another new member: Misty Day (Lily Rabe), who resurrected herself with her powers after being burned at the stake. The Council of Witchcraft strongly believe that she is destined to be Supreme, as her power of resurrection is more extraordinary than any of the Seven Wonders.

Fiona continues to neglect her duties as head witch, and refuses to name her successor. Then, the coven stumbles upon a new but old enemy: witch hunters. At first, Marie rejects Fiona’s offer to ally against their shared foe, but after the witch hunters massacre her tribemates she joins the Academy, and teams up with Fiona to begin eliminating Supreme candidates (after first bankrupting the witch hunters’ corporation). While doing so, Fiona discovers Marie’s secret to immortality: her soul. Papa Legba, the ruler of hell, has traded Marie’s soul in exchange for a yearly offering of an innocent baby. When Fiona offers her own deal to Papa Legba he rejects her; she has nothing to give.

The Council decides to hold a competition for the four surviving witches– Misty, Madison, Zoe, and Queenie– to chose the next Supreme. They must pass the test of the Seven Wonders, seven extraordinary magical powers that must all be mastered in order to rise to the throne. They are:

  • Telekinesis, the ability to move objects with one’s mind.
  • Concilium, the ability to impose one’s will onto another (also known as mind control).
  • Pyrokinesis, the ability to summon and control fire at one’s will.
  • Divination, the ability to obtain knowledge about an object, person, event, or location through means other than the user’s physical senses.
  • Transmutation, the ability to move from one place to another at will (also known as teleportation).
  • Vitalum Vitalis, the ability to balance the scales between one life force and another.
  • Descensum, the ability to descend into one’s own personal hell (through an incantation) and return.

Unfortunately, each of the girls begin to fail. Misty is the first, unable to come back during the Descensum test; Zoe loses focus and impales herself on a gate while playing Transmutation tag; and Queenie is disqualified after being unable to revive Zoe through Vitalum Vitalis. The Council and Cordelia watch helplessly as Madison is the only one left; knowing her, they refuse to allow her to ascend to the throne. Cordelia then joins the competition, emerging victorious after Madison fails in Divination. She also manages to bring Zoe back to life through Vitalum Vitalis, thus completing her test and winning the title.

As the new Supreme, Cordelia chooses to reveal the coven to the world. As a result, the academy gains several hundred new girls, and Cordelia, Zoe, Queenie, and Kyle open the doors for a new beginning.

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The Coven welcomes several girls into its numbers.

The central theme of this season’s American Horror Story is oppression; we can see from the very start that the witches are oppressed by society, and the slaves (as well as the present-day blacks) are oppressed by white people. Though Coven could not compete with Asylum, and it had a fair amount of plot holes, it certainly offers its own brand of fun and twists.

My favorite character is, once again, played by Sarah Paulson. Cordelia has a lot of potential, but is constantly kept in the shadows by Fiona. She herself is tyrannized, firstly by her mother as her daughter, then by her husband as a woman, and then finally by society as a witch. After her rise as the Supreme, we can see, albeit shortly, her beginning to take charge and become the strong leader she is destined to be. Murphy makes an empowering point by having Cordelia go public about witchcraft: that in order to break free from oppression, you have stop hiding and let yourself be seen, and prove to others that you are worthy of being accepted as an equal. Cordelia’s new mannerisms have yet to be fully seen and evaluated, and hopefully we can see that in a future season with the Murder House and Coven crossover; but the small bits that are shown in Coven portray Cordelia as an inspirational leader with a lot to give.

What I also love about the show is the fact that it casts almost all females; while Asylum portrayed strong female characters, Coven does so even more. The fact that the girls have gone so far and have had the strength to keep going show that women can be just as strong as men. I have always been a fan of powerful female characters, and season three has given me a healthy dose of them. For all girls looking for inspiration and strength, you’ll find kindred spirits with the witches in the academy, who all sport unique powers and personalities.

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For those who have enjoyed watching CluelessCoven offers a new twist on teen life in a clique. For those who have enjoyed watching Vampire Diaries, Coven offers the same fantastical excitement. And finally, if you enjoy watching AHS, season three is essential to your repertoire. Enjoy the many antics of the young witches, and be ready some shocking twists, turns, and of course, horrors.