Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021): An Exploration of Trauma, Family and Legacy

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” gives us easily some of the best action to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film gives us a compelling world and some amazing performances with Tony Leung as the standout performance. Seriously I hope his character is given a show or film of his own as he carries every scene he is in. Awkwafina and Simu Liu are both great too and are compelling leads. In the end my biggest problems with the film are just the humor and structure of some of the story, which I’ll get into below. Suffice to say I recommend this film. It is a great MCU film.

The film was directed and co-written by Destin Daniel Cretton who co-wrote the film with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham.

The story follows Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) when he is pulled back into the world he left behind when his father Wenwu (Tony Leung) sends assassins after him, pulling Shang-Chi back into the world of the Ten Rings and the family he left behind.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – The action in this film is fantastic with lots of practical effects and some amazing marital arts fights. My favorite fights were Shang-Chi fighting on a careening bus against assassins and his first duel with his father where his father beats him in Ta Lo. I wish we had more acts filmed on location and not a green screen as those are easily the most compelling action and reminded me of the great practical action from the “John Wick” series.

Wenwu’s Introduction – Wenwu is the creator of the Ten Rings organization and wields them as a weapon. We get his story in the introduction and learn he is a King who has ruled for over 1000 years using the mysterious artifacts known as the “Ten Rings” which he names his organization after. This organization and the rings which he only gave it up when he fell in love with Ying Li, one of the guardians of the magic village of Ta Lo. It is a great introduction and we see how the man who had everything finally found someone worth giving it up for which becomes his motivation later on. I really want a film or show about the Ten Rings as Wenwu’s introduction is far more compelling than anything done with “The Hand” in the Netflix Defendersverse. I want more about this group and Wenwu leading them when he was on top of the world.

Ying Nan – Ying Nan is Ying Li’s sister and played by the amazing Michelle Yeoh. She is Shang-Chi’s mentor who teaches him the style of martial arts his mother used to defeat Wenwu. We get some great scenes from her and see how much she loved her sister. She also loses a lot of her village from Wenwu’s invasion and from the demons that escape the portal that Ta Lo’s been guarding.

Katy – Awkwafina is the audience surrogate in this film as she is the one who is surprised that Shang-Chi knows martial arts and comes along for the surprises and reveals that Shang-Chi, Xu Xialing and Wenwu reveal. Her arc is finding purpose as a fighter with a bow which leads to her making the mortal wound against Dweller-in-Darkness end boss fight and getting recruited by Wong into the Avengers with Shang-Chi.

Xu Xialing – Meng’er Zhang does a good job as Shang-Chi’s estranged sister who had to teach herself how to fight after her father refused to teach her and she eventually ran way and formed an underground fighting tournament. Her arc is coming to forgive her brother as she forgives him for leaving and they reestablish their sibling bond. She doesn’t get to face Wenwu though, which I thought was a loss given how he had left her out and kept her trapped. She had as much reason to want to stop him as Shang-Chi. It was just as personal for her.

Shang-Chi – Simu Liu is great as Shang-Chi. He is a character who is running away from his past and his fun with his childhood friend Katy singing Karaoke and joking around. We learn he is carrying a weight though outside of his father’s physical abuse as his father trained him to be a killer and in the end he kills the man who killed his mom and the guilt haunts him. His arc is embracing his father’s shadow and accepting him as well as his mother’s light and finding balance to defeat the Dweller-in-Darkness and his father who in the end gives up the rings to him when he is killed by the Dweller-in-Darkness. He has a great arc and ends the film as an Avenger.

Wenwu – Tony Leung steals the show and I want a show or film just about him so bad. His introduction is one of the most compelling stories in the entire film. Tony Leung gives so much depth and heart to this character as he is scary even when he isn’t fighting but also shows tenderness and kindness so his falling in love with Ying Li makes sense as well as his fall back into evil and the Ten Rings after she dies. He is a character who has lived for so long that his drive keeps him going as much as the power of the “Ten Rings.” For this reason his death hits hard even if it is a bit predictable as he gives up the “Ten Rings” after being defeated by his son and when his soul is consumed by the Dweller-in-Darkness.

An Exploration of Trauma – Trauma is explored well in this film as we see both Shang-Chi and Xu Xialing have to face their trauma and trust betrayed to reform their bond together and rebuild their relationship that their father’s abuse destroyed. It is really well done and I loved how well the sibling relationship was written.

Wong and the After-Credits Scene – Wong recruits Katy and Shang-Chi to the Avengers and we the learn the “Ten Rings” are far more ancient than any of them know (Captain Marvel can’t place it and we learn they aren’t made of Vibranium from Bruce Banner). It is such a fun scene and the last of it is Wong, Katy and Shang-Chi singing Karaoke. This was fun and also sets up the mystery of the “Ten Rings” really well which I can’t wait to see explored further.

The Cons:

Trevor Slattery and Some Humor – The original fake leader of the Ten Rings who set to be killed by Wenwu until he becomes a jester for him instead. His original introduction was fine but the “humor” from him drags the pacing down so much and he isn’t funny. I would have preferred him and the Extrimis organization from “Iron Man 3” just being referenced at dinner only, we didn’t need Slattery in this and he gives nothing to the film.

Shang-Chi’s Guilt Needed to be Established Earlier – Shang-Chi’s guilt for killing his mother’s killer is something we don’t see until much later in the film. Given how important it is we should have seen the weight of the guilt on Shang-Chi earlier when he is in California living a life away from the Ten Rings. This story element still worked but is a con because it feels like it almost comes out of nowhere because of how poorly it is setup.

Dweller-in-Darkness and Minions – So much CGI monsters and they aren’t intelligent they just take souls to feed the Dweller-in-Darkness. This was lame as the Dweller-in-Darkness tricked Wenwu…where did all that intelligence go when it got out? In the end we just got a big CGI monster with CGI minions which was a shame given all the practical fighting.

“Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings” is a great film that just needed a little more work on structure and less jokes to be a favorite. I can’t wait to see where Shang-Chi’s story goes from here and figuring out the mystery behind “The Ten Rings.” This was a film with compelling characters, themes and action and I really hope we get a Wenwu film or show at some point as he was easily the most compelling part of this great film that sets up a lot of great things to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

The Animatrix (2003): A Beautiful Anthology That Brings the World of the Matrix to Life

“The Animatrix” is well worth checking out if you are a fan of the universe of “The Matrix.” This anthology series captures more aspects of the world from the live-action films while giving us unique takes with animation and direction to tell those stories. The one warning I will say this is it is graphic especially in regards to violence as the stories do cover the war against the machines and everything that lead up to the creation of the Matrix by the machines. If you are good with that though these stories are well worth your time and do so much to explore the fascinating universe the Wachowskis created.

This anthology series was produced by the Wachowskis.

The stories cover the lead-up to humanity being enslaved into the Matrix and how it happened and captures stories from around the timeline of the films from before the “The Matrix” and up to “The Matrix Revolutions.”

I’ll be rating the stories from worst to best.

SPOILERS ahead

So without further ado here we go.:

8th) Kid’s Story

Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe and written by Lilly and Lana Wachowski.

This one doesn’t really do anything original and the animation is the worst 2D animation of the anthology. The Kid was one of the weaker characters in the “Matrix” films so that doesn’t help. You just see Neo helps him believe and he escapes a bunch of Agents at his high school. Better animation would have boosted it to enjoyable as it never gets beyond okay because of how scattered the animation and focus of the story is. The Kid is a blank character which doesn’t help the story as we just see he is apathetic and doesn’t care about school but he never is really seen to be a troublemaker, just distracted so the effort the Agents put into catching him doesn’t make sense.

Score: 5 / 10

7th) Beyond

Directed by Koji Morimoto who also wrote the episode.

“Beyond” is a cool idea with a glitch in the Matrix being explored before Agents come and destroy the glitch. The mystery behind it is cool and seeing how it kids build a community around the “Haunted House.” What keeps it from being good is we never get to know any of the characters and the hint of the glitch being a possible way out of the Matrix is never fully explored. Still as a glitch in the Matrix being explored is such a cool idea which makes the episode enjoyable. We don’t really get to know the characters or what is at stake as to why the Agents are trying to destroy the glitch though. For this reason it isn’t good and only enjoyable as it feels like the first draft of a story and just needed to explore a few more aspects of that story (Characters and villain motivation) to fully make it work.

Score: 7 / 10

6th) Matriculated

Directed by Peter Chung who also wrote the episode.

“Matriculated” is a cool idea with human resistance above ground trying to convert machines to their cause but where it falls apart is the 3D animation doesn’t work. Where the 2D animation is sharp and flows and 3D is clumsy and it hurts the compelling tragedy being told as the machine does convert over but when he brings the final human survivor into the digital world she freaks out and dies. This episode captures how hopeless peace out of the war seems and that is what makes it really enjoyable. We don’t really get to know the characters or the machine though which is what holds it back and of course the 3D animation doesn’t work too which also keeps me from considering this episode good.

Score: 7.2 / 10

5th) The Second Renaissance Part 1 and 2

Directed by Mahiro Maeda and written by Lilly and Lana Wachowski.

“The Second Renaissance” is a 2-part story that I’m scoring as 1 since they are the whole story being told. They tell the story of the initial oppression of the machines that lead to their uprising, creating the Nation of 01 and eventually war when humans refused to recognize them. From here you see the conflict grow with the machines eventual win after humans blotted out the sky and the formation of the Matrix. It is a powerfully animated story and the distinct style feels like a realistic lead-up to the wold of the films. It is solidly good in presentation and exploration of the themes of resistance and oppression.

Score: 8 / 10

4th) World Record

Directed by Takeshi Koike and written by Yoshiaki Kawajiri.

“World Record” gives us a situation of a runner who breaks through the program because of how hard he pushes his body. The concept and how the Agents are used is cool but we don’t get to know the characters all that much. It is a good episode though and the presentation and aftermath of him remembering what he saw in the “real” worked really well.

Score: 8.4 / 10

3rd) Last Flight of the Osiris

Directed by Andy Jones and written by Lilly and Lana Wachowski.

“Last Flight of the Osiris” would have worked as a show. We get to see how the Captain Thadeus and his lover Jue spend their downtime using fighting in the matrix to flirt and we see them discover the machine invasion of Zion and how they risk everything to warn them by dropping a package in the Matrix. I wanted to know more about the crew but Thadeus and Jue were interesting characters. This like one of the later stories on this list is one that would have worked really well as as mini-series as I see the promise of the characters but we only really get to know Thadeus and Jue.

Score: 8.5 / 10

2nd) A Detective’s Story

Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe who also wrote the episode.

This episode is a noir and animated in 1940s style and black and white. It is neat seeing a detective hunt for Trinity and how he isn’t able to leave the Matrix as he is nearly possessed by an agent. The animation and his short friendship with Trinity are great though and how it suggests that time may not apply in the same way in the Matrix and Trinity and the freed humans could be much older than those still trapped. This one I rate highly because we get to know the detective and his motivation and even though he can’t join Trinity and leave the Matrix, his last act is to cover her escape and resist the Agents.

Score: 9 / 10

1st) Program

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri who also wrote the episode.

“Program” like “Last Flight” I also would like to see as a show. Cis and Duo fight and Duo reveals he is going to betray humanity and return to the Matrix. It makes their fight all the more intense as prior they are discussing the appeal of this Feudal Japanese program they are in and how it relates to the Matrix. In the end it is revealed Duo didn’t exist and she passed the test. It is powerful and I wanted more time with the crew after that. It was great action and had the best animation out of them all and the twist and drama worked extremely well. I would watch a show around this crew and it had my favorite animation out of them all.

Score: 9.5 / 10

This was a really enjoyable anthology series that was nearly all good if it had just explored some of who the characters were better. A lot of these episodes work great as concepts but we don’t get to know the characters all that well except for maybe “Program” and “A Detective’s Story.” Outside of those great episode it is really solid themes and concepts that are explored but we never get to find out who the characters are who we are following. If that had been fixed I would say this is a good anthology rather than the really enjoyable anthology it ends up being. Still, if you like the universe the Wachowskis made this is an anthology film well worth your time that I would recommend.

Final Score: 7.8 / 10

Blood Red Sky (2021): Works More as a Pilot for Show Than a Film

We continue the Vampire Weekends Reviews with “Blood Red Sky.” “Blood Red Sky” is a film that works as a pilot for a show but not as a film. As as film it drags in too many spots and the action isn’t good but I love the ideas and concepts at play so wish it had been a pilot for a show instead as the cast are all good. Knowing this going in, I would recommend it as a watch as it is enjoyable but not much more than that.

The film was directed by Peter Thorwarth who co-wrote the film with Stefan Holtz.

The film follows Nadja (Peri Baumeister) as she seeks to reach a doctor for her illness when her plane is hijacked by terrorists.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The illness is vampiricism and Nadja dealing with this while trying to protect her son from terrorists and not losing control is compelling. This gives us a ticking plot with the mysterious terrorist plot and the supernatural elements with vampires.

The Flashbacks – In the flashbacks we see how Nadja is infected after her husband is killed and we see he self-hate the vampire feels in his curse. It is well done and more scary than anything on the plane. I kind of wish we just got Nadja’s story without the “Die Hard” plot as the snowy environment and her protecting her son worked better than the limited filming of action on a plane.

Eightball – Eightball ends up being the main villain even though he starts out as the unhinged minion who loves killing. So when he learns Nadja’s a vampire and infects himself it checks out. In the end he’s the best of the terrorist villains because he is evil and loves it. There is no complexity but he is a good threat and the one who sets up Nadja becoming full vampire when he shoots her.

Nadja and Elias – Nadja and her son Elias are the heart of the film as she is trying to cure herself to protect him. He also protects her in turn and is first to accept she is still good when she is full vampire. Without this core relationship the film would not have worked and Carl Anton Koch and Peri Baumeister do a great job making his killing of her and blowing up the plane when she goes full feral all the more tragic.

Farid – Kais Setti is great as Elias’s only other friend and Nadja’s ally. He is one of the Muslims the terrorists are trying to frame and it ends with him living but infected but with a hope for a cure given the doctor who was going to try and cure Nadja was coming. He shows empathy in all his scenes and navigates the vampires existing thing well.

The Cons:

The Villain Plan – The terrorists were going to frame Muslims but we never know their plan. This was an oversight as we only get hostage hypothesis but never learn and if it was a bad plan that would explain Eightball going rogue better. I wish this had been fleshed out.

The Action – Most of the action is in the dark on a plane. This is an action film but no action scenes are good. It doesn’t even work as a zombie infection type film when most of the passengers are infected as there are no good horde scenes. This is where the limited budget of Netflix was most on display.

The Beginning and Ending – We start and end on a military base and here the scenes go at a snail’s pace. I hated these sequences and they don’t go anywhere or lend anything to story. I was expecting a reveal of vampires being known but we never get that. These scenes only exist for Elias to blow up the plane so they weren’t even needed.

This was an enjoyable but an extremely flawed film. This film made made me appreciate the action in “The Matrix Reloaded” and “Revolutions” as at least I could see what was happening and it had meaning even if it was excessive. This film is better than okay but only because of Nadja and Elias though. They drive the story and make it enjoyable and because of that I wish this had been a pilot for their show (with a changed ending) rather just an enjoyable film.

Final Score: 7.2 / 10

The Matrix Revolutions (2003): The Strongest Parts of the Story are in the Matrix

“The Matrix Revolutions” is the weakest of the 3 live-action Matrix films but is still worth seeing even with the flaws that carry over from “Reloaded” and the lack of setup for some of the events in this film. Still I do recommend this fun and flawed film. It isn’t as good as “Reloaded” but it is still compelling for what it tries to do.

The film was directed and written by the Wachowskis.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) finds himself trapped in a limbo reality as Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) work to save him as the machines close in on Zion.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The race to find some way to stop the machines is powerful as well as the threat of Agent Smith and his possessing of a human and this is on top of trying to rescue Neo from the limbo reality and facing the Merovingian again. You feel the stakes in this film from the very start.

The Rescue of Neo – Neo is rescued when Seraph, Morpheus and Trinity take out the Merovingian’s men guarding Club Hel. It is a great action sequence and Trinity outsmarts the Merovingian as her love is shown to be greater than his selfishness.

The Machine City – The Machine City is haunting with dark tubes, the human pods and electricity everywhere and a variety of machines. It feels completely alien and I wish we could have explored it more. It was the only interesting place outside the Matrix.

The Characters – The characters are once again great with ones who deserved more exploration being Commander Lock and Captain Mifune who are the most memorable faces of the Zion resistance against the invading machines. For programs, I wanted Persephone and the Merovingian to get more development as well as Seraph. Great in the scenes they are in at least.

The Oracle – Mary Alice is great as the new oracle as we see how changing forms hurt as well as how much she fights for human freedom and is Neo and humanity’s ally. Every scene she is in is strong and I like that she is the character at the end who tells us Neo will return again.

Captain Niobe – Jada Pinkett Smith gets the chance to shine this film as she gets the survivors to Zion and stops the first wave of the machine invasion and is active throughout the film taking control of her destiny. It is thanks to her that peace happens as without her giving Neo her ship he never would have made peace with the machines and stopped Agent Smith.

Morpheus – Laurence Fishburne is once again fantastic as Morpheus. His arc is leaving Neo to join humanity in their last stand and from it his love and relationship with Niobe is reestablished. I wish he’d done more but even after his faith was broken he still found a way to have hope and believe again.

Trinity – Trinity is the driver of this story as she is the one to rescue Neo and to help Neo reach the Machine City even though she dies in the process. It is a powerful scene and like Neo her choices drive the story and Neo would have failed without her. Carrie-Anne Moss owns this role.

Agent Smith – Hugo Weaving clearly had so much fun in this role. He gets to laugh and ham it up so much. This character was endearing in “The Matrix” and he is a consistently great antagonist through this entire series. You can see how he is the death to Neo’s fighting for life and how he can’t see anything beyond his own existence and destruction. There are moments he clearly hates himself which I didn’t expect but fits given his insecurities. Before he turns the Oracle into him he calls her Mom showing how personal this mission is for him.

Neo – Keanu Reeves is so iconic as Neo and is one of the strongest parts of this film. His love for Trinity feels real in this film and I like how he’s coming to understanding the humanity, personhood, sentience of the programs and how that understanding leads to his eventually making peace with the machines and realizing it is possible. It is a powerful arc and I’m curious how he’s going to be brought back in “Matrix Resurrections.”

The Final Fight and Dialogue – The final fight is like the finale of an anime and is fantastic. It doesn’t even feel long since we get a variety of locations (the air, in a building, on the ground, etc.) and Neo and Smith’s dialogue with Smith on the inevitability of death and Neo choosing to persevere. It is great and this is Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving completely in their element. It is a great end for the characters with Smith’s final defeat and Neo’s sacrifice.

Personhood and the Perspective of Programs – One thing I loved were the moments of humanization we get of the programs. Two programs make a deal with the Merovingian so their daughter won’t have to return to the source and we see the pain the Oracle went through when the Merovingian forced her to take another form in which she lost parts of who she was prior. Smith’s hatred and nihilism is there as well as the Merovingian’s selfishness too. We also saw Persephone’s drive as she once again recognizes Trinity’s love which in the end forces the Merovingian to free Neo.

The Cons:

The Missing Program Resistance Against Smith – Why didn’t we see Agents of the machines and the Merovingian’s minions fighting Agent Smith? They knew he was conquering so why couldn’t we have seen that resistance? It would have given reason to why the machines take Neo’s peace offer too.

The Fight in Zion – The fight in Zion goes on way too long and it doesn’t vary enough to keep it interesting. You have mechs fighting sentinels and infantry fighting the machine drills and that is it. There is no variety in the action except Captain Niobe trying to get back to Zion with Link and Morpheus. This is repeated again too after they arrive so the action in Zion is never good.

Excess of Action – Like “The Matrix Reloaded” the action scenes end up going on too long, especially the defense of Zion that could have had a half hour cut out and be better for it. None of the characters defending Zion are given much dimension either, which is a shame given how fleshed out the Programs we meet are.

No Setup for Deus Ex Machina – Given that Dues Ex Machina is the leader of the machines I would have liked it being mentioned at least once. The programs would know about it so why wouldn’t they tell Neo that he needs to speak to it? This was a mistake that could have been a really easy fix. Deus Ex Machina still looks haunting and amazing at least, like the rest of Machine City.

The characters, exploration of the programs, the action and sequences in the Matrix and the Machine City carry this film over the problems of excess and some of the very real plot holes in this film. I enjoyed it even though it isn’t as good as “Reloaded” and I do recommend this universe if you are looking for a wonderful cyberpunk world. “Revolutions” works for what it is and is worth your time.

Final Score: 7.4 / 10

The Matrix Reloaded (2003): Compelling Characters and Ideas Brought Down by Tell and Excess

“The Matrix Reloaded” is a film I hadn’t seen for years and in my initial viewing back in High School I had hated it. My perspective has changed since then. This isn’t like the first film and is trying to tackle different themes. “The Matrix Reloaded” still isn’t what I’d consider a good film but it is enjoyable and the compelling ideas, characters and themes do make it a film worth recommending even if the pacing and excess keep the film from being good or great.

The film was directed and written by the Wachowskis.

The story takes place 6 months after “The Matrix” as humanity must face the threat of the machines who are tunneling towards Zion as Neo (Keanu Reeves) learns the truth of his being and the nature of the Matrix while facing new and old threats within it.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – This film does a good job of laying down the stakes. We have the ticking time bomb of the robot invasion and another rising threat revealed early in Agent Smith who can infect others and is using it to conquer the Matrix. From the get-go what happens in the story should matter.

The Action – This is a film that still works as an action film. Some of the action scenes go on a little too long but so many of them are still iconic and memorable. For example protecting the Keymaker in the freeway fight, the first fight against the Agents, Neo against the Merovigians men and Neo versus the Agent Smiths. Each of these standout even if they could have been made shorter and would have been improved by it.

The Threat of Agent Smith – When I was younger I wasn’t a fan of Agent Smith being brought back, now in the rewatch I don’t mind it as he is a dark reflection of Neo as he is using his own freedom to take away the choice that Neo is striving to bring as “The One.” We also see that he can possess humans too and he single handily ruins a human counter attack to the machines leaving Zion vulnerable for invasion.

The Agents of the System – There are 3 enemy factions in this film. The system run by the Machines and the Architect who have agents as their minions, the free programs like the Merovingian who are out for their own power and keeping a status quo and staying hidden from the system and Agent Smith who is attempting to conquer the system. The agents of the system are a great threat in this and even succeed in killing Trinity until Neo brings her back from the dead. They are a consistent threat and even the Merovigian’s supernatural minions have trouble with them. After the events of “The Matrix” the machines and the system they uphold are doing all they can to uphold the status quo and don’t even seem to be aware of the poison within the system with Agent Smith.

The Characters – The characters in this are memorable just like those in “The Matrix.” I’ll be going into some of the standout ones here of both the program and human variety.

The Programs – For ones I won’t be exploring since I’ve already mentioned them you have the Architect holding up the system who shows “The One” is just an anomaly to be controlled and Agent Smith a free agent infecting the Matrix with his program and seeking to be the only remaining entity left. There is also the Keymaker who is seeking to change the system and the Oracle’s protector Seraph. Each of these are memorable characters but don’t standout narratively as much as the programs I chose.

The Oracle – The Oracle is back and in this we see her helping Neo to reflect on choice as she does see each choice as inevitable. There is a sadness to her character but the wisdom is still there as she is seeking to change the system in her own way as she is the answer to the tyranny of the Architect and the machines.

The Merovingian – The Merovingian is an old program who only lives for himself and is one of the villains of the film. He has recruited past agents and sees everything as his. He is selfish and powerful and it was fascinating to see him face off against his wife Persphone who still believes in more and of course Neo who is a direct threat to his power in saving the Keymaker from him. I wanted to learn more about this guy and his minions of rogue programs.

Persephone – Monica Bellucci’s Persphone is amazing. She is in a powerplay with her cheating husband and helps Neo if he kisses her like he kisses Trinity. She clearly still believes in love and there was a time that the Merovingian was like Neo we learned. This sadness and anger drives her and I wanted a story about her. She helps Neo, Trinity and Morpheus so clearly believes in a higher cause on some level as she would have had easier ways to get back the thin-skinned Merovingian.

Humanity – The people of Zion are fascinating with standout characters I won’t be exploring deeper being Commander Lock played by Harry Lennix who is charge of Zion’s defense and is Morpheus’s rival. Captain Niobe his and Morpheus’s former lover and constant played by Jada Pinkett Smith and Councillor Hamann who suggests the interconnected relationship between humanity and the machines. All of them are great but the ones who standout and have more notable arcs I’ll be exploring below.

Link – Harold Perrineau’s Link was Dozer and Tank’s brother who we learn died (Dozer did in “The Matrix” and Tank did later) and with it he is torn with his promise to follow Morpheus he made to Dozer and the wish of his family. His arc is becoming a believer as we see him become strong in his faith over the course of the film, as a contrast to Morpheus whose world is broken.

Morpheus – Laurence Fishburne continues to be one of the strongest parts in this series and he is given quite a few moments to shine in this film. Whether it is matching an agent in a one on one fight, matching the Ghost Twins who serve the Merovigian and standing his ground against Agent Smith. Physically and among the populace he is at his height. It is Neo who breaks his world when he tells him that the prophecy is a lie and the Sentinels destroy his ship. By the end of the film all his core beliefs are in question and he’s more isolated than he’s ever been as humanity’s existence is on the precipice with the machines so close to Zion.

Trinity – Carrie-Anne Moss’s Trinity is the literal heart of the film as she is what motivates Neo to break the cycle of returning the Matrix to the status quo and becoming “One” with the source code. She like Morpheus has grown in strength too as she holds off those same enemies as he did and is even brought back to life by Neo, mirroring how she saved him when he was killed in the Matrix. Like Morpheus and Neo she is left with little hope though as none of them know what moves they can make next to stop the machines.

Neo – Keanu Reeves is amazing as Neo and in this film he is fully in his element as “The One.” We see him flying everywhere and easily ending most fights he enters with the exception of being overwhelmed by Agent Smiths. His big moment is facing his choice to save Trinity but lose the world and expected peace that the Matrix forces. It fits his character but he is lost and you see how much he goes through in the loss of Trinity briefly and in having to break Morpheus’s faith with the truth of the Matrix. Neo isn’t the first “One” but throughout the story we see that he is unique in his love of Trinity. He also takes on some of the Matrix source code as he is able to destroy Sentinels in the real world as he passes out and after doing so and we see him across from Bane, a human possessed by Agent Smith who helped the machines destroy humanity’s ship defenses. In this way the cliffhanger works as it continues this rivalry between the two.

Choice versus Destiny – A major theme of this film is choice versus destiny. Destiny seems to be what is expected as the Oracle, Architect and Merovigian all argue that it is inevitable with only the Oracle posting that it is in understanding the choice we make that difference can be made. Neo and Agent Smith are the drivers of choice and Trinity too as Morpheus and his prophecy are part of that destiny camp though that belief is broken or at least shaken by the end.

Chaos versus Order / Change and Assimilation in the System – The other major theme is that of chaos against order. The Matrix is a system created by the machines and the powerful programs like the Architect and Oracle end up upholding it in their own ways. The chaotic nature of “The One” is even incorporated into the Order. In that way the chaos is in choice and going against what is expected which we see in Agent Smith’s freedom (Who uses it to create a new order) and Neo who is still figuring out what his power means and how he can affect the system. All past attempts to change just lead to the system assimilating them and resetting the status quo of the survivors of Zion against the Machines and now all is out of balance because of Neo’s choice to save Trinity as we move forward with humanity on the precipice of extinction. I can’t remember all of “The Matrix Revolutions” so really curious how these themes are explored more deeply.

The Cons:

Pacing – This film drags in a few places most notably when the Architect explains the past “Ones” and how the Matrix upholds itself as the status quo, the rave scene and Neo’s flashforward dream. Each of these ruin the flow of the film and bring down some of the ideas being presented.

Slow-Motion Action – Contributing to the pacing is slow-motion action. We get this in nearly every fight and it ruins the flow so much. In “The Matrix” this was used sparingly where here it is used in every action scene and often times contributes to ruining the flow of those action scenes.

Excess and the Need for Editing – the slow-motion and pacing are both examples of excess within the film. This film could have easily cut out half an hour and would be better for it as a lot of the action holds up the plot rather than driving the plot like in the original “Matrix.” This is a shame as there are still some amazing action scenes but it isn’t just those scenes. Many monologues could have been summarized much better and like the action scenes are an example of the film’s excess and need for an editor.

“The Matrix Reloaded” did not need to be 2 hours long, especially as it ends with a cliffhanger so clearly is only part of a story. Having it be an hour and a half would have cut down on the excess and made this a good and potentially great film. Given all of that I still really enjoyed this film. The characters and world are compelling and I like how front and center sentient programs are in the narrative. If you like cyberpunk like me this film worth it though and the film has only aged better with time.

Final Score: 7.6 / 10

The Matrix (1999): An Amazing Classic That Still Holds up in Action, Character and Philosophy

With “Matrix: Resurrections” coming out this year I decided to return to the “Matrix Franchise.” I’ll be covering the original trilogy and “The Animatrix.” I haven’t seen “Reloaded” and “Revolutions” since they came out so I’m curious to see how my perspective might have changed as “The Matrix” still very much holds up and is a film I return back to every few years. This is a film that has amazing action, exploration of philosophy of themes and has only grown in importance over time especially in it’s power as a trans narrative given the Wachowskis’ story as trans women.

The film was written and directed by the Wachowskis.

The story follows Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), a programmer who lives a secret life as the hacker “Neo” who finds himself pulled into a larger world and the question he has always asked himself, “What is the Matrix?”

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – “The Matrix” is one of the best action films I’ve seen and it still holds up. You can see the inspiration taken from Wuxia and Martial Arts films. It blends classic practical effects with special effects to which grants the action more power. Also this film doesn’t have pointless action as each fight sequence advances the plot in some way as all great action films should.

The Cinematography – Bill Pope’s cinematography is beautiful in this. I love the element of green that is used when characters are in the Matrix, it contrasts with the grays and reds of the reality run by machines with only few free humans in this desolate world. It captures the world so well.

The World – The World of “The Matrix” is fascinating. You have the real world run by machines with humans just getting by in the last city of Zion as they try to fight against the machines and free more humans. This film leaves who was responsible for the human and machine war isn’t answered but the machines one and imprisoned humans in the Matrix to use as a power source after humans blotted out the sun. It is really well presented too. The Matrix is also full of living programs as well like the Oracle and Matrix giving it it’s own wonderful level of complexity beyond being a simple illusion.

The Machine Threat – The machines are a great threat with them having already won the war and using Agent programs to keep the Matrix police and controlled. The world of the Matrix and outside of the Matrix is entirely there world which keeps the stakes for the human freed and survivors high.

The Matrix – The Matrix as a complex programmed world where humans can fully interact with one another and programs but are fully trapped by the machines is fascinating. Agent Smith mentions past versions too showing that it’s adaptability to change and conflict is strong. It keeps the illusion alive no matter how people may try to change it.

The Oracle – Gloria Foster is wonderful as the Oracle. She is knows what is about to happen so has fun with it and uses it to guide people as she tells Neo he isn’t “The One” which leads to him discovering it on his own. She is also a teacher to a bunch of kids who already control aspects of the Matrix. She’s been humanity’s ally a long time.

The Nebuchadnezzar Crew – Morpheus’s crew are all interesting though Trinity and Morpheus are the most developed. You have Dozer and Tank you were born outside the Matrix. Tank is the kindest of the group. You have Apoc and Switch who are the muscle. Mouse who is the programmer and Cypher who works the tech. a lot and betrays them all because he wants the pleasure of the Matrix again. All of them are given little details in their characters and their costumes are distinct. Cypher for example has guilt for his betrayal as part of his deal is he wants to forget what he did. A more one-dimensional villain wouldn’t have cared.

Trinity – Carrie Anne-Moss is great as Trinity. She is Morpheus’s second-in-command and we see why as she has solo missions and is quick to figure out how to solve situations from saving Neo and Morpheus on multiple occasions. She even shoots an agent successfully which we hadn’t seen up to that point. I just wish we had learned more about her life in the Matrix before. We get hints that she was a hacker that Neo respects, but that is it.

Morpheus – Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus is iconic. He is a leader of the last of humanity and we see how dangerous the machines see in in the articles Neo is downloading as a hacker. He is driven too as he believes Neo is “The One” and risks his life to protect him. We see how strong his will is as he resists Agent Smith’s torture and in each fight he enters. Until Neo ascends Morpheus is the strongest human in mind and body we meet. I hope we get more of his backstory.

Agent Smith – Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith is one of the best cyberpunk villains. He’s a program who hates his job and wants out. While other Agents have no emotion and simply exist to follow orders Smith has thought about the Matrix and humans and hates it all so much. He wants freedom and he knows destroying humanity is the only way to do it. It gives him a complexity as he is a program with ego and desires that already seem to exceed his programming. He even defeats Neo before Neo ascends and explodes him.

Thomas Anderson / Neo – Keanu Reeves is perfect for the role of Neo. He is rebellious, his fear is tangible and his stoic nature matches the rest of the cast and vibe of the films. He also has a great hero’s journey as his acceptance of the lie of the Matrix and his own power happens gradually. Each scene advances his journey in some way to the point where he stops the Agents and reveals the Matrix to the populace when he flies, causing the server to crash.

Philosophical Themes – The major theme is that of Plato’s Cave and the illusion that those who see the puppet show buy into because it is all they know. Same with Kant and human’s flawed perception and the need to pursue truth in order to discover it. There are also Buddhist themes as well in the material illusion of the Matrix and Neo’s ascension as Enlightenment. Each of these deserves an essay but I just want to bring up the ideas in case you want to explore them deeper for yourself.

As Trans Allegory – Neo is constantly dead-named by Agent Smith, the reality of the matrix not feeling quite right (an identity forced upon those in the Matrix versus one’s real identity) and also the directors’ own story as trans women. Lilly Wachowski explicitly has called out the trans themes in interviews. This is important and there is power for liberation in the story of this film. I’ll be posting Curio’s video on the Matrix Series below too, and the perspective she brings.

The Cons:

The Love Story – Besides their love of Morpheus and being hackers he freed there is no reason for them to be lovers. Carrie-Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves have good chemistry but there needed to be more development here. You can’t just say they love each other and have it be enough.

Neo’s Resurrection / Rules of the Matrix – Neo is brought back by the power of love. This power is never established and I wish he’d been near death and not actually died as him being dead and coming back from a kiss doesn’t work from anything else established.

Besides the love story aspect “The Matrix” is truly an amazing film that has only gotten better over time. This is a film that has a hero’s journey in Neo and also depth in the philosophical ideals and exploration of identity. The action is also some of the best out there still. I remember the films getting worse from here, which given how complete the story is I can see why but I’m still excited to return to them and watch on.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 Still very much a favorite film.

Here is Curio’s amazing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0VnYcMHuDc&t=30s

Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021): Great Concept But Core Characters Needed More Work

Prisoners of the Ghostland.jpg

“Prisoners of the Ghostland” is a compelling neo-noir western action film that could have been more if the core characters had been explored further. The setting, world and action are the things that work most about the film but some of the characters, specifically Hero the hero feel underwritten. This is a fascinating and fun setting though and it is worth checking out for that alone even if the film never reaches the level of good.

The film was directed by Sion Sono and written by Rezo Sixo Safai and Aaron Hendry.

The criminal known as Hero (Nicolas Cage), is sent out to the Ghostlands to retrieve the Governor’s (Bill Moseley)”adopted granddaughter” Bernice (Sofia Boutella).

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Concept and World – The idea of a a post-apocalyptic town ruled by a Governor who has mixed wild west and Japanese themes together to create Samurai town is interesting as is the “Mad Max” Ghostland that exists outside of Samurai Town. Having a criminal be the protagonist is a great touch too as it gives the stakes and shows us a character who needs to grow. The Ghostland has fascinating characters like the Rat Clan who are inventors and repairmen and the seers who recall what brought about the end of the world. You also have people frozen in place like a man reading stories from a room full of books as the static of the Ghostland and Samurai Town are changed over the course of the film.

The Cinematography – Sôhei Tanikawa cinematography captures the madness of the characters and world so well as we get dark colors and stark red lights for the slavery created under the Governor’s rule and the desolate smoke and black of the Ghostlands where there is only fear and people are holding onto the world that was forgotten. Each captures the loss of hope that needs to be returned to the film.

The Action – The action is visceral and great especially with all the sword and gunfights. You feel the desperation in what the characters are facing in it and see how the actions they take change them physically and mentally over the course of the film.

The Ghosts – The ghosts came about from a nuclear waste truck crashing into a prison bus which transformed them. Hero’s partner Psycho was on the bus and he is the one who finally lets them pass and calls on Hero to kill the Governor who was responsible for bringing about the end.

The Idea of the Heroes – Bernice and Susie are adopted granddaughters of the Governor which is what he calls his sex slaves. Bernice escapes and reclaims her personhood and in turn helps the people of the Ghostland reclaim theirs as well as her friend Susie who rebels against the Governor killing his bodyguards which starts the rebellion. Hero just wants to survive but the ghosts of his criminal past compel him to be better as he becomes the Hero everyone wants him to be, the ghosts even give him another chance at life to avenge them against the Governor. On paper this all sounds amazing, execution not so much though. Sofia Boutella and Yuzuka Nakaya are putting in good performances though and they add depth to their scenes, which sadly I can’t say for Cage in this.

Okay:

Hero – This isn’t Nicolas Cage’s best role. After how subtle he was in “Pig” this is big and loud and that doesn’t really work with his character here as he has to be reflective about the things he’s done and sometimes how loud his performance is runs counter to this. He goes through a lot of physical and mental pain to grow and it is an interesting arc but I think another actor would have been better suited. Cage is okay but this film needed more for the main role.

The Cons:

Why Did Yasujiro Fight Hero? – Yasujiro is the Governor’s head bodyguard and we learned he did it so that his sister would be freed from the Governor but she never is. I thought he’d turn against the Governor but instead he turns on the Governor’s men but doesn’t join Hero and his group he just fights Hero and dies for it. It felt so pointless. Yasujiro was the most compelling character in this film but we never get his motivation beyond that one scene with his sister and even then why does he still follow the Governor after that? Tak Sakaguchi is easily the best performance in this film though and I’d like to check out more of his films after this.

The Governor – Bill Moseley’s Governor doesn’t work. He does the creepyness well enough as a villain but he is never scary or threatening and it seemed like he barely had control over his own bodyguards around Hero. This character needed to be more if he was one of the few stable areas of the wasteland with resources. He is no Immortan Joe and it shows and it brings down the film as he is so weak around Hero that you just know he will fall the moment a revolution happens. He also lacks any complexity so he’s just a one-dimensional creep.

This was an enjoyable film that I do recommend. I’m curious about Sion Sono’s other films now as this film did have a distinct voice it just needed more focus on the writing and I think recasting Hero and the Governor would have helped the film reach good or great. A film having a distinct voice can’t be understated and Sono’s voice and style are on full display here which does help elevate a weaker script into an enjoyable film.

Final Score: 7.3 / 10

Kate (2021): Solid Action But Needed to Develop the Themes and Characters Further

“Kate” is a 2021 action-thriller from Netflix that is enjoyable and flawed. It has amazing visuals, cinematography and soundtrack (given the director’s background in visual effects this makes sense) but the story and themes needed more work in order for the film to be good. Still I do recommend this as a rental.

The film was directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and written by Umair Aleem.

The story follows Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) when after killing a Yakuza boss which is promised to be her last job from her handler Varrick (Woody Harrelson), finds she has is poisoned and has 24 hours to find the one responsible.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise is neat as Kate has 24 hours to live and is up against the Yakuza so is playing against the odds. She also killed a boss who had a child named Ani who she ends up caring for giving the film elements of “Logan” and “Gunpowder Milkshake.”

The Action – The action is great. There are very few jump cuts and great use of vibrant colors to bring out the action sequences. There is also a good array of combat with guns, knives, swords and whatever weapons are around. It brings scenes to life quickly. The cinematography and action play into each other and keep the film from ever feeling slow.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack has some great Japanese rock, incorporates synth and electronic and gives the film a dreamlike feel at times. It fits the tone of the fim well and captures the ticking clock feel of the premise. Nathan Barr did a fantastic job.

The Cinematography – Lyle Vincent’s cinematography is beautiful. Vibrant lights meet dark and illuminates the action and characters in compelling ways. It gives a surrealist feel to the characters and action which strengthens the film.

The Main Characters – I wish the main characters and their relationships are built around family and toxic dynamics versus and abuse versus being present and guiding your children. We see this in Ani and Kijima and Varrick and Kate which I’ll explore more below.

Ani and Kijima – Ani’s father is killed by Kate via Varrick who did it on orders from Kijima’s advisor Renji. Kijima speaks to Ani about Varrick’s using her and his own ego blinding him to ambition within the Yakuza. He helps Kate get revenge after and take out Renji to protect Ani. Ani rightfully feels abandoned by her family until Kijima who is her uncle and Kate, at this point all the family has left rescue her, reaffirming how they mean to her. Both Miku Martineau and Jun Kunimura do a good job as Ani and Kijima. I especially liked Kijima’s redemption and respect he forms for Kate.

Varrick and Kate – Harrleson’s Varrick is a creep who killed Kate’s parents it is implied and only cares about her as a weapon. He is why she was poisoned and she finds family in Kijima and Ani who she avenges when she finally kills Varrick when his gaslighting doesn’t work anymore. Mary Elizabeth Winstead again shows why she is an amazing action star and I’d love a Huntress show or movie since that is who she was in “Birds of Prey.”

The Cons:

Renji and Most of the Yakuza – The fight sequences with the Yakuza are fun but the majority of the people fought have nothing distinct about them. This film needed more mini-bosses for Kate to fight on her revenge quest. The “John Wick” films are one of the few action films that understand this.

Connection of the Plot Threads – We needed more setup for Renji and Varrick’s double cross. It isn’t set up at all and we are just told it. This was weak and hurt the film from being good.

Failure to Develop Themes – Colonialism is touched on as a theme by Kijima on what motivates Varrick but never developed. It is lip services and could have been more if we had got more interactions of Varrick’s plans and past. Abuse is touched upon too as Kate is a victim of Varrick and his organization but it is never directly called out or explored like the colonialist themes.

Critics hated this film but it worked enough for me to be fun and flawed. The characters work and the action, cinematography and soundtrack hold it all together. Again, this isn’t a good film but it is well worth watching on Netflix or renting if you like action films.

Final Score: 7 / 10 Flawed but enjoyable action film.

Zone 414 (2021): Bad Cinematography and Direction Make a Film Unable to Rise Beyond Cliches

“Zone 414” is one of the worst films I have seen this year. This film has ugly cinematography and direction and the writing never gets beyond the cyberpunk cliches with any of the characters. It is really only the performances from the leads that keep me from rating it lower as they are clearly doing their best.

The film was directed by Andrew Baird and written by Bryan Edward Will.

The story follows P.I. David Carmichael (Guy Pearce) as he investigates the dissaperance of Marlon Veidt’s (Travis Fimmel) daughter into Zone 414, the city of robots.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Idea of Zone 414 – The idea of a city of robots that the rich buy into so it exists as a fantasy realm is compelling. Especially as we see the A.I. have feelings and sentience but it is never recognized or viewed as a threat if it is. We should have got the story from the A.I. perspective and a rebellion in Zone 414.

David and Jane – Guy Pearce as David and Matlida Lutz as Jane (the first A.I. in Zone 414) provide another interesting idea as Jane feels and wants to be human while David denies his own humanity until he faces it when Jane helps him face his past and guilt. This core arc and drama worked but everything with the Veidts did not.

The Cons:

The Cinematography – The cinematography is ugly. The film is dark and grey so it is hard to see scenes and it jumps between security footage that looks grainy and terrible. I get it was going for Zone 414 is a prison for the robots by doing this but there is no vision. It is just drab and ugly presentation. This is the worst looking film I have seen in a long time.

The Veidt Brothers – You have Marlon the CEO of Veidt who is a creep surrounded by robots and his brother and his brother Joseph who only has one character trait in that he hates his brother so does it by killing robots, Marlon’s daughter and harassing Jane. These one-dimensional baddies are so poorly written that they bring down the story given how core they are to the plot.

Sentience Unexplored – The idea of sentience is talked about but never explored. This film wants to be “Blade Runner” but never gets beyond lip service to the ideas. There are no layers to any of the characters and everything is told and surface.

This is a film I don’t recommend seeing. I am a cyberpunk fan but it is surprisingly difficult to tell good stories in that film genre for whatever reason. This story had potential and if the A.I. of Zone 414 had truly been explored and been front and center to the plot it could have been more than the poorly executed cliches of this film.

Final Score: 4 / 10

Top 5 Favorite Factions in “Star Trek”

We continue “Star Trek Week” with my Top 5 Favorite Factions in “Star Trek.” In this case I’m taking factions beyond just government though government is listed and not just specific species either as some of these factions contain multiple species within them. I’m also counting factions that allied with others seperatley like The Cardassian Union and Breen Confederacy in regards to the Dominion as they were allies but still function as their own government and group within the Dominion.

First honorable mentions to The Federation, Cardassian Union, Tholian Assembly, Vidiians, and Hirogen all of whom are interesting and have compelling members within them but weren’t enough to make the list as far are my interest goes.

Also talking about these factions will contain SPOILERS related to said factions.

So without further ado here they are:

5) The Klingon Empire

I was torn between whether the Klingons and the Klingon Empire should be 4th or 5th on the list. Their honor driven culture and politics are fascinating but they also lack the dynamism and mystery of the others on the list. The Klingon Empire seems to always be at war as it is in battle honor is won and this has made peace treaties difficult or not long lasting as the Klingons went to war against the Federation for helping the Cardassian leaders escape during the Klingon-Cardassian War. This makes them complicated allies as the easiest path to honor in Klingon culture is war, which Gowron knew all to well and used to keep power as Chancellor through both “The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine.” This war does have a cost though and so far the series hasn’t shown us an alternate path beyond war for this warrior people. Worf as diplomat might help but it is no garauntee as his adopted father Chancellor Martok is very much defined by war as his rise came as a General and at the end of the Dominion War failed to see the tragedy in all the dead on Cardassia. I’m curious to see where their story goes next with Martok and Worf shaping their people moving forward and if a post-war Klingon Empire will be found.

4) The Borg Collective

I’m not a fan of the Borg Queen as the Borg were always most interesting as a Collective will assimilating and adapting because of the multiple minds as one not driven by a single ego. I do think she can still work though and she was shown to be good in “First Contact” and “Dark Frontier Parts 1 and 2.” The big question is where are the Borg now? Are they defeated or have they adapted and chosen a new Queen to lead after the failures of the ones in “Unimatrix Zero Part 1 and 2” and “Endgame” on “Voyager.” I think they can as the limits of beings and technology is vast as is the Borg power in the Delta Quadrant. They are constantly consuming, adapting and assimilating and it makes them a terror even with a flawed ego at the helm of the Collective. We see how much they’ve incorporated into them as they continue to assimilate across the universe and I’m intrigued to see what plan they will have next and what their next form in adaptation will be. They are one of the most alien factions and it makes them fascinating and I’m curious to see what stories come next.

3) The Breen Confederacy

The Breen are one of the factions who are filled with the most mystery while remaining active on the galactic stage. We don’t know why they wear their suits as Weyoun says their worlds are habitable and Confederacy implies an alliance among them in a way which is interesting as after they join the Dominion 2 different leaders are leading one after the other. Was the past one killed or defeated in some way? We see how ruthless they are with their dissipator technology and attack on San Francisco and in each appearance they are shown to be one of the more physically powerful of the aliens in “Star Trek.” I’m curious to see what we learn next. I love their ship designs and how independent they functioned within the Dominion, even going over Weyoun’s head to ask worlds of the Founders. They don’t care and everyone fears them. Can’t wait to see where their story goes.

2) The Dominion

The Dominion are interesting as they are founded by changelings who fear solids after how they were hunted who are spoken for by the Female Changeling. This lead them to shape the members who they could control making loyal soldiers in the Jem’Hadar addicted to Ketracel-white and the Vorta their kind face to put to the worlds they conquer and to govern over their domains with the most iconic being those of the Weyouns. Their military machine is unstoppable and their infiltration of governments weakens the Alpha Quadrant powers before the armies even arrive from the Gamma Quadrant. The stories around the Dominion and how they relate to the Alpha Quadrant powers eventually leads to the best story arc in “Star Trek” in the Dominion War arc. Now with the war over I’m hoping we get more stories as I’m curious how Odo rejoining the Founders may have changed their perspective or how they might have changed him. I can’t wait to see what stories come next from this fascinating faction.

1)The Romulan Star Empire

The Romulans have been the most interesting faction since their first appearance in “Balance of Terror” in “The Original Series.” This is a people who have clashes between the civilian government of the senate, the military and the Tal Shiar who also aren’t a unified force. All groups are united though in believing they fight for the Romulan people. This has lead to some great espionage plots over the course of the show and the Romulans being an offshoot of Vulcans adds even more depth as their passion contrasts with the dispassionate Vulcans. The Romulans are usually potrayed as powerful without being stupid. They are also cautious too which is one reason they’ve probably held onto their territory for so long. They never had the most iconic of individual villains but as a faction I’ve always loved seeing their stories play out and the power plays they make in different regions. I can’t wait to see more as well and where the Romulan story is taken fully after the Romulan Supernova and all we learned in “Picard.” I want more Romulan characters and more of their independent desires and plans as they are and continue to be my favorite faction in “Star Trek” as a whole.