“Star Trek: Picard” Season 1 – Good Characters That Needed a Further Developed World

STAR TREK: PICARD - REMEMBRANCE - PhantaNews

      Season 1 of “Star Trek: Picard” is flawed but has more that works than doesn’t in the end. This is a series that is willing to explore quite a few different factions that are at odds and still focus on the characters who drive the story. It doesn’t all work, I would not call this series great but it is good and has the potential to be great in future seasons. This is a review that will include SPOILERS so warning you now, I’m exploring what works and doesn’t work about this season for me so I will be in the details. Continue reading at your own risk. In the end, more worked for me than didn’t and I really hope we see characters and the world developed further in Season 2.

This is a season reflection so will contain SPOILERS as it covers what I liked and hated in the narrative.

The Pros:

Premise – The premise of the show is really strong. You have a Federation that has retreated from the world and outlawed the building of synthetics after synthetics destroy the shipyards on Mars. This in turn leads to a refugee crisis as Mars was building ships to help get Romulans out of the blastzone of the Hobas Supernova. Picard resigns in protest against Starfleet, which brings us to the present and Dahj, an android made from Data’s postaron seeking out Picard’s protection after an attempt is made to kindap her.

Soundtrack – Jeff Russo’s soundtrack is beautiful and reflective and has a hint of melancholy about it. This worked really well as what drives the show is Picard facing is own mortality and what he wants to make of the rest of his life as he comes out of retirement. The theme song reflects this well as well as the underlying mystery as Dahj and Soji discover they are androids slowly and the soundtrack captures that.

Cinematography – Picard is a good looking show. The cinematography is movie quality and the use of sets and green screens are blended together really well.

Star Trek: Picard's Best New Characters Are Laris and Zhaban

Laris and Zhaban – Laris and Zhaban are former Tal Shiar and Picard’s carekeepers at the winery. Laris is one of my favorite characters on the show and both of these characters bring a human face to the conflict. They believe in Picard and helping the refugees and are the ones who tell Picard about the Zhat Vash. I wish we had gotten more time with both of them as we saw they have given up their old ways but still use their training to protect.

Zhat Vash – The Zhat Vash are a secret order that seeks to destroy all synthetic lifeforms as due to a beacon left on a planet they saw that advanced synths will destroy all life. The members of the order we meet are Oh, Narissa and Narek. Oh is half-Vulcan while Narissa and Narek are adoptive siblings. All of them are damaged in different ways and see their desire to protect the universe from the synths above all else. I’m really curious to see if we will learn more about them in Season 2 as they do not succeed in destroying Soji’s people and the new Synths made from Data.

Seven of Nine – Seven of Nine has changed since the last time we saw her, and I appreciate the direction it took. She is part of the Rangers who are a group fighting criminals in the area that was once the Neutral Zone. Seven finds her story tied to Picard as she gets revenge against the woman who killed Icheb. After she is pulled back to Picard when Elnor uses Hugh’s emergency beacon and she and Elnor fight the Romulans with Seven even taking control of the Cube as a Queen at one point. After she and Elnor are taking care of the Ex-Borgs until they rejoin Picard. I’m curious to see her relationship with the Ex-Borgs explored further and her relationship to whatever form the Borg are now. Jeri Ryan did an amazing job.

Ex-Borg Hugh's Character Arc in 'Picard' Embodies the Best of ...

Hugh – Hugh was my favorite character besides Laris and Jonathan Del Arco returned to this character beautifully. He is the Director on “The Artifact” and is helping Ex-Borg also called xBs heal from the trauma of assimilation. The fact that the Romulans are good with him until he tries to get to the Queen’s room says a lot for Federation influence and the impression he left. He reminds Picard of how all xBs were victims of the Borg Collective and Picard doesn’t have to ask twice for him to help. He is only killed when is scene as breaking the treaty by helping Elnor and the Zhat Vash agent “Narissa” kills him. I hated this death initially and but on further reflection, him dying fighting to help another is fitting as that was his final act in “Descent” Part 2 which was his final appearance on “The Next Generation” and lead to him leading the free Borg who had been under Lore’s control. I do hope they bring him back in some capacity, flashbacks of how he knew Seven of Nine would be very fitting or if Seven gets a show have it be during the time when he was alive.

The Crew – I liked the crew though it is hard for me to really choose one who I like more than the characters mentioned above. Soji brings a curiosity and presence as Data’s daughter, Raffi brings empathy and cynicism, Caption Rios is broken with hidden idealism and Agnes, Elnor is the young innocent and ruthless bodyguard and Agnes is the torn over honest doctor. Each of them bring something reveals a part of Picard as his relationship to them also reveals aspects of them. It is a good crew and if I had to choose favorites it’d probably be Elnor and Captain Rios.

Riker and Troi – Riker and Troi offer relief for Soji and Picard from the Zhat Vash and Riker arrives with the Federation fleet to protect the Synths from the Zhat Vash. Seeing how much all of them had grown and their relationship to one another was powerful. Sirtis and Frakes truly inhabit their roles and they brought much needed wisdom that Picard needed. I hope this isn’t the last of them we see on the show.

Picard – This main story on the show is that of Picard and him facing his regrets, trauma and mortality. He faces his regrets in his going into retirement rather than seeking to change Starfleet, he faces his trauma in once more facing his history with the Borg and what was done to him and his mortality in his illness and death. In the end he is granted a chance to live without the illness, though it involves finally saying good-bye to Data and granting his last wish for death.

Data and his Legacy – Data’s legacy lives on the synthetics and the society they created when Maddox and Alton Soong used his positrons to make them. In the end it is one of his “children” Soji who saves his people and lives his idealism over the fear that is felt towards him and his people. We also see that he has been living in a holographic world since his psyche was saved out of B-4 after “Nemesis.” In the end he wants to die to complete his quest to become human and like a human his life lives on in the society made from him. It is beautifully done and Spiner finally gave Data the sendoff he deserved.

Brent Spiner And Patrick Stewart: Saying Goodbye To Data On 'Star ...

Confronting Fear and Persecution of “The Other” – Another theme of the series was fear of the other and facing it. Hugh had become the Director on “The Artifact” to protect and take of the xBs as he told Picard, they had no home and everyone feared them. Those same rules applied to synthetic from their outlaw by the Federation and the Zhat Vash quest to exterminate them. We see Soji’s people and herself fear and experience first hand. I hope this thread isn’t dropped as it as all the more important today.

The Cons:

Dropped Plot Threads – There are quite a few dropped plot threads that hurt the narrative. We have the xBs and them forming a civilization with Seven of Nine and Elnor and it is just forgotten as we see Seven and Elnor as member’s of Picard’s new crew in the final shot. We never learn why Maddox left the Synthetic homeworld, which given he would have been protected there made no sense why he’d leave. These are just a few of the dropped plot threads that could have easily been wrapped up with more dialogue at the very least.

Lack of Starfleet Perspective – Everyone in the crew and even Picard are all former Starfleet. This I think is a disservice as Starfleet comes to save the day at the end but no one within Starfleet is picked up as a part of Picard’s crew. This was a missed oppurtunity and would have been a great oppurtunity to have someone who contrasted with the rest of the crew. They wouldn’t even have to be “Next Generation” cast, just someone who still believed in Federation but also felt they had to help Picard and his mission.

Actual Political State of the Romulans – We learn about the Zhat Vash, meet a Romulan Refugee planet and that the Romulan Free State was in control of “The Artifact” which was the Borg Cube. Is the Romulan Star Empire gone? Is the Romulan Free State the only organized faction or are there others? The Romulan Star Empire was huge but I had no idea if they even had an Empire anymore as we only have the Free State who the Zhat Vash seem to control. This would have been such an easy fix and could have been solved in showing us a map of the region.

The Synthetic Threat – The Reaper like Synethic threat are a faction we get a glimpse of but are never taken on directly. We learn that they exterminate organic life and apparently come from another dimension and not much more than that. We even see one coming through the portal but that threat is never addressed. They are put away when at the very least I wish we could have learned more about this threat that caused the Zhat Vash to destroy the Romulan rescue fleet when they hacked the synths on Mars.

This was a flawed show but in the end it was good. I liked the moments the show slowed down and we got to know where Riker and Troi were. When we got to know the villains they became compelling and the characters who returned had lives that took fascinating directions. The show was flawed and as a whole I would consider it good but not reach great. It had a great ending and I loved how it explored the characters and themes, but too many unexplained plot and world elements held it back. Regardless, I can’t wait to see where the story is explored from here.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10

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Logan (2017): A Dystopic Western Masterpiece That Explores the Depths of Pain

    “Logan” is the greatest X-Men Films and one of my all time favorite films. This is a film that doesn’t hold back in any way and is powerful because of it. To give my non-spoiler thoughts…it is well worth your time. It is beautifully crafted, has a powerful emotional core that drives it and has a point in some of the overarching themes on both the personal and larger societal level (a theme of X-Men films I’ve always appreciated). I’ll get into the details of all these things later into the review.

     The film was directed by James Mangold who wrote the screenplay along with Scott Frank and Michael Green while being produced by Hutch Parker, Simon Kinberg and Lauren Shuler Donner.

    The story takes place in 2029 and all the X-Men are gone except for Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) who is taking care of a dying Professor X (Patrick Stewart) who is losing control of his powers and is only able to keep them in check with medication. Wolverine has become a drunk as well and it takes a mutant child called X-23 (Dafne Keen) coming into their lives as she escapes from the Transigen Corporation who created her and other children who she is trying to find to escape to safety in Canada.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is one where there are no more X-Men and we never get a full explanation (a virus is what is implied but never fully explained). Transigen has cyborg mercs who are hunting down mutants and the world is desolate with extreme poverty and wealth. The world is a reflection of ours, as the good X-Men films tend to do.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and captures the pain and isolation of our characters…from the stark contrasts of light and dark…and splotches of blood or shadow. This is a world that reflects our broken characters.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is very much western in theme, which is what I consider the film to be, more so than an X-Men film as the characters didn’t have to be the people they were for the story to work. This story stands strong on it’s own and the soundtrack reflects that. Marco Beltrami made a fantastic soundtrack.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest part of the film as it is their wrestling with their pain and choices they make from it that define them and the film.

Donald Pierce – Pierce is head of the Reavers and is a charming, brutal character. I wish he’d been the big bad as the Mad Scientist was pretty lame. Pierce just loved the joy of the hunt and being in control and respected power. This made him interesting and it takes a lot to take him down.

The Family – There is an African-American family that takes them in that the Reavers with the Wolverine clone destroy. It is the first bit of compassion our characters experience and it all ends with the father holding a gun at Wolverine even after Wolverine saves him from his clone…it is such a tragic course of events that leads to both the death of Professor X and Logan and Laura back on the road.

Caliban – Is an albino mutant who can track mutants and is taking care of Xavier. He is a kind and desperate mutant who ends up being used by the Reavers again (he was used by the corporation in the past) but sacrifices himself so that Logan and Laura can escape. I really liked his character. He is fearful and it is contrasted with Xavier’s sorrow and Logan’s rage.

Laura / X-23 – Dafne Keen is a great actress. She gives an intensity to her character where it is believable that she was created and experimented on in a lab. You can understand her rage and her killing Reavers and becoming a family with Professor X and Logan is beautiful…as is her losses she goes through. She is one of the clear leader among the New Mutants that Transigen created.

Charles Xavier / Professor X – Charles is going crazy and is suffering from brain degeneration that he has to take pills for, in order to control his powers. He is the external conscience for Logan though as he is the one who helps Laura find them and is the one always pushing Logan to help her. He is full of regrets for those he hurt when he lost control of his powers and his manipulative past…In the end he confesses all of this but no one hears as he is killed. It is tragic and fits the lonely, regret and despair that pervades and follows our heroes. Patrick Stewart once again is acting gold.

Logan / Wolverine – Hugh Jackman gives one of his best performances ever in this role. We get to see him drunk and desperate, sorrowful and in despair, rageful and moments of joy and empathy. He truly owns this character and I’m grateful he got this beautiful sendoff as his character has redemption and becomes an X-Men again.

The Ending – The ending is so sad. The New Mutants escape to Canada but Logan dies, killed by his clone as he finds his core as an X-Men again but at the expense of his life…Though he dies happy as he protects the girl who became family to him and was his daughter, and not just because she was made with his DNA. The scene is powerful and there aren’t many words at his funeral but it captures that even in desperation people can find the will to move forward.

Regret and Pain – Regret and pain are major themes of the film as both Logan and Xavier live with regrets of all those they hurt, killed or destroyed as this is a core motivation for what drives them to protect others, specifically Laura. They are broken from their mistakes and are surrounded by a world that reflects them.

Persecution of Immigrants and Refugees – From Transigen hunting the New Mutants across borders and trying to stop them from escaping to safety in Canada (the current refugees and immigrants doing the same with Trumps immoral new policies), this is a major theme of the story and is one that has always existed in X-Men as persecution and acceptance and compassion for the other is one of the greatest themes of the X-Men.

Pain, Healing and Getting Outside the Self – Healing and looking outside of the self is a major theme of Logan’s character and this film is him finding it again, even after all he has lost and all the pain he’s gone through. This arc ends with his powerful sacrifice for other New Mutants, as Logan once more becomes an X-Men (reflected in the cross at his grave being turned into an X by Laura).

The Cons: Zander Rice – This guy is Mad Scientist ^TM  and anyone could have played him. I wish the Reavers had been the main threat or a scientist who better reflected the world. This world felt like Mad Max and needed a Mad Max type villain. Someone to be Professor X or Logan’s foil. All this guy wanted was power and to create and control mutants and we never see him do anything outside of the lab and hunting our heroes. A better villain like Bane, Joker or Immorten Joe would have made this film perfect.

   This was a film that achieved everything it set out to do, with the only con I could really find being how forgettable the main villain was. Everyone else served a purpose that drove the story in narrative in a rewarding way and had payoff at the end. This is a film that reminds us how important it is to look outside of ourselves, no matter what the cost is and that the actions we do matter and can make a difference even in the worst of world circumstances. This film will probably make my Top 5 Films of 2017 as it is one of the best super hero and comic book films I have ever watched and is a beautiful, tragic film with an unforgettable story. What a sendoff for Patrick Stewart as Professor X and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2 “Earth,” Episode 14 – “City of Walls and Secrets” – City of Fear

Dai_Li_agents

   “City of Walls and Secrets” is a dark episode that shows that the Fire Nation isn’t the only foe to fear and sometimes the worst enemy is the enemy who claims the best good, which in this case is the name of culture and tradition. Ba Sing Se is a scary place and shows what life is under in a tyrannical state.

    The episode was directed by Lauren MacMullan and written by Tim Hedrick.

    The story involves Team Avatar’s time in Ba Sing Se and being kept from seeing the King by their tour guide Joo Dee. They soon learn that no one talks about the war as Ba Sing Se is seen as a paradise and that stability is more important than the truth. When Team Avatar attempts to meet the King, Joo Dee is killed and replaced and Minister Long Feng explains why the Dai Li keeps the peace and order as Jet is mind controlled by the Dai Li in one of their bases.

The Pros: Zuko and Iroh’s Life – Iroh works at a tea shop and becomes famous for how good he is at taking care of the customers and making great tea. Zuko still feels trapped but has a chance to fight again when Jet accuses them of being Firebenders and he has to best him in a sword fight. It’s a great scene that shows that Iroh and Zuko have found acceptance and want to stay hidden as much as all the other refugees.

Jet and Co. – Longshot and Smellerbee leave as they are done fighting and see that Jet is still living the war, which leads to the Dai Li arresting and mind controlling him so he won’t talk about the War anymore. His story is a tragedy as we see his pain lead to greater pain under the tyranny of the Nation he is a part of.

Team Avatar – Team Avatar has some great moments in this. From Katara and Toph sneaking in to the King’s party (where Aang and Sokka where as bus boys) and their running into Long Feng who immediately knew something was up. We see they aren’t all powerful in this too as Long Feng forces them to not talk to the King by threatening to kill Appa and much darker things to all of them. For the first time, their hands are tied in the war.

Minster Long Feng – Tom Clancy is wonderful as the leader of the Dai Li! He is all about ends justifying the means as he lives for order and peace within Ba Sing Se by any means necessary. He is also a character with no fear as he threatens the Avatar and is not afraid of any consequences from it. He is a true believer in harmony at any price and sees himself as the true leader of the Earth Kingdom as the King is more symbolic. In this way he is much scarier threat than Zhao ever was and much more closer to home for Team Avatar than Azula.

False Appearances and Fear – There is “peace” in Ba Sing Se but it is only through the tyranny of the Secret Police. Everyone has to be happy and because everyone has to be, there is so much fear that Team Avatar isn’t able to learn anything until they speak to the man who created the fear in the first place…and they succumb to it too as they have things to lose while the Dai Li has nothing to lose.

This is a great episode and one I’d highly recommend. It shows that fear is not just from the Fire Nation but from those closest to home as the Dai Li is a much scarier threat than the Fire Nation as they go about breaking people, while the Fire Nation just wants them dead. They are also scary in that the Dai Li are true believers and this true belief motivates their horrific acts in the name of peace and tranquility even if it means breaking or killing their own people.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2 “Earth,” Episode 12 – “The Serpent’s Pass” – Moving Through Grief

The Serpent's Pass

  “The Serpent’s Pass” is another great episode that gives us some great character exploration! Especially in regards to Jet, Suki, Sokka and Aang who are all dealing with meaning in a world thrown into chaos and in the case of Sokka and Aang recovering from the recent losses they’ve experienced. It’s a powerful episode and also has some great action too.

    The episode was directed by Ethan Spaulding and written by Joshua Hamilton and Michael Dante DiMartino.

     The story involves Zuko and Iroh’s and Team Avatar’s quest to reach Ba Sing Se. On their quest to get their Iroh and Zuko meet Jet and his gang who are also refugees seeking the shore and Team Avatar meets up with Suki who works with them to help some Refugees on the Serpent’s Pass after their lack of passports means they cannot take the lake to Ba Sing Se. From here the story unfolds as Zuko deals with his role as outcast and Aang and Sokka deal with their losses.

The Pros: The Refugees – The Refugees are from everywhere which really shows that the Earth Kingdom is losing the war. So many villages and people have lost their homes or left their homes because of the Fire Nation threat. This can’t be understated and we see that everyone outside of Ba Sing Se is a victim of the Fire Nation in the Earth Kingdom.

Jet and his Crew – Jet and his crew make an appearance and we see Jet make friends with Zuko seeing as they are both outcasts who no longer work alone and steal from the rich captain so that they and their friends can eat well. We also see friendship between the crew as Longshot sticks up for Smellerbee after she is mistaken for a by Iroh. There is a lot of coming together this episode.

Toph – Toph has a crush on Sokka! It is in this episode where we see how powerful the Beifong family is too as she is able to get them tickets even though it is against the rules since her family is so powerful. All that is lost though when Aang helps a ticketless family through the Serpent’s Pass. On the Serpent’s Pass she falls into the water and is saved by Suki and asks to be drowned when she kisses her thinking she was Sokka. This is a great Toph episode that shows she doesn’t put up with crap and also feels unthanked too when she saves them on the pass.

Suki – Suki is the idealist fighting for her people of the Earth Kingdom. It is here she joins to protect Sokka and also to see if he is interested in a relationship. After he deals with the loss of Yue in the episode he is and her action of kissing him at the beginning ends with him kissing her. It is really sweet and the romance is handled really well.

Zuko – Zuko is learning and where Jet is still raw, Zuko admits that he thought he should be alone but found that with Iroh he has found what was missing and that it is okay to count on others. It’s powerful and I like his friendship with Jet as they both have a vigilante streak.

Katara – Katara is the leader again and we see her use her Waterbending skills to protect the Refugees and fight the Serpent with Aang. She also is there for him and helps him deal with his loss of Appa and to focus on the mission.

Sokka – Sokka is facing the loss of Yue and though he doesn’t get into the details he shares some of it with Suki. When he talks about it and has time to face what he’s lost he’s ready for a relationship with Suki and returns the kiss she had given him twice. Once again, I love this relationship.

Aang – Aang is focused on the mission and just trying to be tough but he too opens up to Katara and shares what he is going through in regards to his grief. It is seeing the Refugee family having a baby that reminds him of what he is fighting for and gets him out of himself. It’s a powerful scene and he is again reminded of his mission when he sees The Drill heading to Ba Sing Se.

Facing Grief – This episode is all about dealing with grief and how important it is to talk but also to have space to heal and deal with on own. That process is different for everyone as everyone’s losses are different. It doesn’t make the losses any less valuable or any process better but it takes time and this episode shows how it is for two characters.

   This is a powerful episode with some great action that I’d highly recommend. The writers haven’t forgotten Yue and we see what her loss has meant to Sokka but also that he is healing as he and Suki initiate a relationship together. Aang also finally opens to Katara about what he is going through and how important it is for him to find Appa. These scenes are powerful.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Mobile Suit Gundam – Season 1, Episode 4 – “Escape from Luna II” – When the Government is the Enemy

Escape from Luna II

 

This was a fascinating episode and does more to cover the complexity of war, which “Mobile Suit Gundam” is quite adept at. The episode was written by Masaru Yamamoto and directed by Shinya Sadamitsu.

The story involves White Base 7 arrival at Luna Base II. It is here that the man in charge Wakkein has all conscripted personal from White Base arrested for seeing the secret Trojan Horse Cruiser and the Gundam. From here the story unfolds as Char leads a successful assault upon the base leading to dire consequences later.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The theme – The government during war time can help as much as hinder you as seen by Wekkein who arrests them because of military protocol. Protocol that the crew of White Base 7 has been ignoring because they’ve needed all people and weapons just to survive assaults on Zeon. This soon comes to a head as Wakkein must make a choice after Captain Paolo explains the situation.

Wakkein – This man is a soldier confined by the rules and the rules almost cost him the base, he understands this and makes the choice to support them all in the end in the final assault, even when it means destroying his cruiser The Magellan. He also holds off on alerting Earth as he’s learned empathy from the experience.

Amuro – Shows why he is the protagonist again as it is he and Bright who are plotting the escape and how to rescue all the refugees on the base during Char’s attack. He also holds his own against Char’s Red Comet and another Zeon Mobile Suit. He does a good job and at the end after Captain Paolo dies he wonders where his father is…showing the loss of war.

Mr. Bright – Bright is the one who convinces Wakkein to destroy his own ship and to help them in the fight against Char and Zeon forces. He proves himself as a leader once more and you can see why Captain Paolo put him in charge while he was sick and injured.

Fraw Bow – Looks over the refugees and brings them to the ship for the escape. She is pretty much functioning as the civilian leader at this point.

Char – Does anymore need to be said? He does a sneak attack on Luna Base II leading to the weapons and army of Luna Base II being incapacitated, the only reason he doesn’t win is the destruction of the Magellan destroys one of his mobile suits in the fight and the fact that Amuro’s mobile suit adapts and learns on it’s own. By default he is the underdog fighting an enemy that can adapt to any of his attacks. He still manages to reek havoc on the Base though before his retreat.

The Death of Captain Paolo – With Captain Paolo’s death the colony lost an advocate who could fight for them against Federation bureaucracy, they are the rag tag team of survivors and are fully on their own. His death is powerful and means something. I didn’t write about his character before because Bright took over his role, but what he means we learn in this episode…and he means a lot. R.I.P. Captain Paolo.

This was a solid episode that shows how those who mean to help and also the rules can hinder. Wakkein is a victim of circumstances who doesn’t learn how to bend the rules until he has too and until he experiences first hand what the refugees know for real. This is powerful and definitely one of my favorite episodes. Good guest character, consequences at the end of the battle (Paolo’s death) and the journey continues to the Federation’s headquarters at the Earth.

Final Score: 10 / 10. It accomplishes all it set out to do.

Casablanca (1942): An Amazing Story of Love in a Time of War

Casablanca

       “Casablanca,” is a film I always caught at the wrong time, every time it was on, so much was going on already so the movie was always in the background and usually remained unfinished by the time I would leave. “Casablanca,” is a fascinating film, considering it was completed when World War 2 was still going on. The Nazis still occupied a lot of Europe and it was unknown who would be victorious in the end. The screenplay itself is based off a play called “Everybody Comes to Rick’s,” by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. The fact that they were writing from a time where history remained unwritten gives the present of the story so much life. 

   “Casablanca,” was directed by Michael Curtiz and is the story of Rick (Humphrey Bogart) who owns a saloon in Nazi occupied Casablanca in the French Morocco. He is a pretty selfish guy whose perspective changes when a former lover named Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) re-enters his life with her fascist resisting husband Victor Laszlo…from here the story unfolds as politics between factions arise as the drama unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Music – God I love the music in this. From “As Time Goes By,” to the orchestra pieces and the jazz…you feel like you are in Casablanca and the music always fits what is going on. I could listen to this soundtrack for days and plan on using it to inspire my own writing. Max Steiner is fantastic.

The Cinematography – The cinematography captures the cramped feel of the bazaar, the open feel of Rick’s saloon and the noir feel of the ending in the escape sequence intermixed with the backstabbing and double dealing.

Rick Blaine – Humphrey Bogart owns this role and creates a compelling character who we never know if he is selfish and all about the money…or still the idealist at heart that brought him to Europe in the first place to fight the fascist governments as a mercenary. We see his complexity through his relationships, from Sam who is his piano player at the saloon to the French Captain Louis Renalt and Isla and her husband Laszlo (as well as smaller smuggler characters too), they  each reveal parts of his selfish and selfless side as the story goes on.

Isla Lund – What would you do if you believed your husband to be dead and fell in love with another? This is Isla’s dilemma as her romance with Rich in Paris occurs when she has believed for some time that Laszlo is dead. Also Laszlo loves the cause more than he loves her and Rick loves her. This is an interesting choice and she only gives up her agency to Rick at the end when he tells her he’ll need her to to help her and Laszlo escape. Ingrid Bergman is amazing in the role and gives us a complex character who makes her own path in a situation where it is difficult to do just that.

Sam – Dooley Wilson is the connection to Rick and Isla and is a character with a lot of awareness. He tries to talk Rick out of dredging up the past and tries to help him and Isla move on even as they use him as a tool to express their feelings of love lost in the song he plays, “As Time Goes By,” he is a great singer and the only downside is I wish he’d played more of a part after the First Act. After his attempts fail, he just kind of exists as the piano player.

Louis Renalt – I love this character. He is the kind of character I love watching in television shows…characters who are a shade of grey but when they sell themselves as truly selfish it is believable because of how charming they are and how they do what is asked of them…though with always an added twist. Claude Rains is my favorite minor character and I’d have watched the movie it was just about him and how the events of the story change him or force him to reveal where his true loyalties are.

The Dialogue – Reveals the distinct personalities of the characters and helps show events rather than tell events. The best example of this is when we see Isla and Rick’s time and Paris and how the romance happens. It is subtle and the lines show how each of them are hiding their past but want to be together with what they can give…as well as Isla’s leaving where you know there is more going on, but until Laszlo’s reveal…we don’t know what that thing is.

The Reveal – Renault sets up a Nazi officer being sent to the airplane where Isla and Laszlo will be escaping but the Nazi Officer is killed by Rick who is fighting for them. His choosing to fight for Isla and a higher cause of the resistance is the big reveal as well as Renault being sympathetic and joining with Rick to go and fight the Nazis.

The Message – Love is greater than romance, there are ideals greater than the individual and the theme of solidarity in resistance. Love is greater than romance in that Rick gets over his wish to be with Isla and lets her leave with her husband telling her “We’ll always have Paris.” He has finally gotten past himself and sees that if they were together it would involve hurting her (letting Laszlo get caught) in the process. The other part is when he kills the Nazi officer and re-devotes himself to fighting the fascists. Renault joins him in this and they decide to join the French Resistance. There are also the themes of solidarity in the singing of “Viva la France,” against the Nazi’s nationalist anthem and Rick helping a Bulgarian couple escape by letting the husband win in his gambling so they’ll have the funds to travel to America. There are others as well, but this theme is pervasive and makes the film even stronger.

Okay: The Nazi Officers – They are just kind of there, but exist mostly as a threat. I never felt like they were fully fleshed out in regards to their motivations. Sure they get lines, but there aren’t any characters like the S.S. Officer in “Inglorious Bastards.” They serve their role, but are pretty replaceable.

Victor Laszlo – I really wanted to like this character. He is a resistance fighter with a compelling backstory (fought for the Czech and other resistances in Europe against the Nazis) is put in a concentration camp and escapes, and he forgives Isla for cheating on him. The actor just doesn’t make his character greater than his role though. He is there to be the face of the resistance and love of a cause (he’d leave if he got the chance and leave Isla if it meant continuing the fight), but he just isn’t as compelling as Isla and Rick. I wish we’d heard more about what he went through, we can really only guess based off what we know.

The Length – This movie at times feels long. This is good for building tension, but sometimes can drag. This isn’t a con though since I love all the time with the characters…it just needs to be addressed since it isn’t a pro. It would have been a pro if it didn’t feel long.

     This is one of my all time favorite films after tonight and one I intend to watch again in the future. There is a reason it won 3 Academy Awards and why it is recognized as one of the classics. It’s themes are timeless, it’s characters are great and the music is some of the best from any movie. It is a near perfect film and reminds us of the things worth living and dying for. I can’t recommend this film enough.

My final Score for the film is 9.8 / 10.