Character Analysis: Qui-Gon Jinn

Obi-Wan Kenobi is a boss. No denying that. He is probably my favorite character overall. He killed Darth Maul as an apprentice. Raised, trained, and defeated Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One — the strongest force user the Jedi had ever seen. The novelization of Episode III, by Mathew Stover, describes him thus:

 This is Obi-Wan Kenobi: A phenomenal pilot who doesn’t like to fly. A devastating warrior who’d rather ot fight. A negotiator whithout peer who frankly prefers to sit alone in a quiet cave and meditate. Jedi Master. General in the Grand Army of the Republic. Member of the Jedi Council… Greatness was never his ambition. He wants only to perform whatever task he is given to the best of his ability. He is respected throughout the Jedi Order for his insight as well as his warrior skill. He has become the hero of the next generation of Padawans; he is the Jedi their Masters hold up as a model. he is the being that the Council assigns to their most important missions. He is modest, centered, and always kind. He is the ultimate Jedi.

All of this is beautifully poetic and completely true of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The problem is, he was considered the ultimate Jedi by the Jedi Order. And the Jedi Order was fallen.

Obi-Wan may have been the perfect Jedi. But Qui-Gon was the last true Jedi.

My favorite question, and the most important question to ask, is WHY?

WHY did an author ad that line? Why did a screenwriter put one scene before another? Why did the actor hesitate? Why did the direct have the camera cut to someone without dialogue just to see their reaction?
In the best stories, there will always be a BECAUSE. I definitely believe there are very clear WHYs and BECAUSEs for Qui-Gon. I will ask those whys and give those becauses.

The easiest thing to see, the first thing any casual movie-goer will see, is that Qui-Gon is always at odds with everyone. Thinking on it, he argues with literally everyone but maybe the Skywalkers (oh come on. We all felt that connection between him and Shmi). Let’s list them just for kicks-

  1. The first exchange between Master and Apprentice.
  2. Various arguments with Obi-Wan over collecting Jar Jar.
  3. Various arguments with Jar Jar, Boss Nass, Various Naboo importantes, and Watto. Have you noticed he never asks for anything? He makes demands.
  4. Arguments with Padme and Obi-Wan about his plan to bet their ship on a 9 year old who has never finished a race before.
  5. Argument with Obi-Wan over bringing Anakin along.
  6. Argument with the Council over the Sith
  7. Argument with the Council… And Obi-Wan… And the Council… And Obi-Wan over whether Anakin should become a Jedi/Chosen one.
  8. Getting the Last Word in: Dying request is binding Obi-Wan to train Anakin, with or without the approval of the council.

For someone known as one of the best diplomats, dude argues with EVERYONE. And never takes no as an answer. In fact… He never actually asks. He makes demands. Or straight up lies. Anything to get the mission done. Well, not so much the mission, but the will of the Force. Perfect Obi-Wan is sitting there trying to convince the Gunguns they need to do the right thing and help The Naboo. Qui-Gon just uses Jedi Mind Trick on the leader of a nation. He tries to do it again to make a merchant accept useless money. He bets the Queen’s Ship on a kid, and doesn’t even think to ask her first. Such tactics hardly seem worthy of the moral Jedi.

Why? There is a reason. But let’s start with Qui-Gon’s behavior from the very beginning in the first important exchange (and argument) of Episode I:
Kenobi – “I have a bad feeling about this”
Jinn – “Really? I don’t sense anything.
K- “It’s not about the mission, Master. Something elsewhere… elusive.
J- “Don’t center on your anxieties, Obi-Wan. Keep your concentration here and now, where it belongs”
K- “But Master Yoda says I should be mindful of the future.”
J – “Be mindful of the Living Force, young padawan”

Looking at this from a first time perspective: In the first important exchange of the movie, Qui-Gon disagrees not only with a young (handsome) Obi-Wan, but also Yoda himself! The only two Jedi we knew of from the Original Trilogy. This is how Episode 1 and this character are introduced to us and the world of Star Wars. Who is this upstart Master that would dare to say the two greatest Jedi (granted, the only Jedi we know) are wrong? Clearly he has no idea who Obi-Wan will become

Looking at this knowing how everything unfolds: The perfect Jedi knew what was going to happen from the beginning! This “diplomatic mission” eventually brought about the Clone Wars, the Fall of the Jedi, and the Rise of the Empire. Maybe if Qui-Gon had let Obi-Wan concentrate on the future a bit more, Obi-Wan could have seen a way to avoid it, right?
Actually…
Some of the most terrible things that happens in the prequels can either be traced back to Qui-Gon winning an argument or Palpatine’s careful scheming.

Let’s take a look at that:

Jar Jar: He’s obnoxious. Even Qui-Gon says he’s brainless. Qui-Gon just Mind Controlled his way out of Gungan punishment. The Trade Federation is attacking the Naboo. Obi-Wan reminds Qui-Gon “Master, we’re short on time.” Yet after a moment of thought he decides they need to take Jar Jar along.
Why?
He might help navigating through the core. Except for the fact that Obi-Wan is driving the Bongo and Qui-Gon knocks Jar Jar out partway in. Was that a mistake on the filmmakers’ part? Well, if you read this post, I’m going off of the assumption that there are no mistakes. So. I’m going to say that Qui-Gon again felt that taking Jar Jar was the Will of the Force. And in Episode I that turned out to be a good thing, because if Padme had never met him, she wouldn’t have thought, or had the connections, to enlist the Gungan Army. So that actually turned out good. But…
Episode II? Well, the only significant thing that Jar Jar does in II is to propose the bill that gives Palpatine Emergency powers. Powers he uses to grip the Senate and Jedi by the throat. Powers he uses to legislate the Clone Army. Which seems like a good thing. Except, oh yeah, the Clones were actually Palpatine’s plan to begin with. A ready made army to ensure that the Republic goes to war, effectively killing all hope of negotiation and a peaceful resolution. A Clone Army just waiting to enact Order 66.
Jeez, Qui-Gon. Shouldn’t have saved Jar Jar’s life back on Naboo.

Anakin. Far and away Qui-Gon’s biggest mistake.
He insisted on using the boy to podrace. Sorry, WHAT?! A 9-year-old boy who has never actually finished a podrace before. They make it out like it’s the only way, but come on. It’s a big planet. Just because Shmii (a slave) doesn’t know anyone friendly to the Republic does not mean that there aren’t pilots and traders around that probably do lots of business with the Republic. And would exchange their money for them. Obi-Wan tries to caution Qui-Gon against it. Padme (really wishing she had her Queen costume) tries to stop Qui-Gon as well. But eh… He knew there was “Something about this boy”. And that was good enough for him.

Didn’t occur to him that the “something” about Anakin was that he might destroy the entire Jedi Order and Republic.
Shoot, the Council knew it. Obi-Wan knew it. “The boy is dangerous, Master. They all sense it, why can’t you?”
Well, according to Qui-Gon, finding Anakin was “The Will of the Force.” Nuff said. Who cares what Obi-Wan thinks. Who cares what the Council thinks. Who cares that the Jedi Code forbids it. He was going to make sure Anakin “The Chosen One” Skywalker became a Jedi if it was the last thing did. Even if it meant tossing aside his current padawan like yesterday’s trash. Even if it meant defying the Council agian. Even if it meant breaking the Jedi Code, which he swore his life to. And in fact, binding Obi-Wan to Anakin was the last thing he did, with his dying breath.
Whoops, Qui-Gon. Shouldn’t have been so bull-headed. Right?

And that argument with the Jedi Council is apparently just another in a long line, according to Obi-Wan:
“Do not defy the council, Master, not again.”
“I shall do what I must, Obi-Wan”
“If you just followed the Code, you would be on the Council”
“You still have much to learn, my young apprentice.”

So what’s his deal? Why is Qui-Gon constantly defying the Council and ignoring the Jedi Code?
He seems to be unique in this. In fact, he is unique in just about every way. The only other Jedi we see ignore the code and defy the council is Anakin, and he was falling to the dark side. Is that Qui-Gon’s problem?
Hardly. He was an utterly devoted Jedi. But different how, and WHY?

He speaks of the Force in an entirely different way than every other Jedi. When Yoda and Obi-Wan are training others in the force* they speak of it like a tool. Use the Force. Let it the Force flow through you.
Qui-Gon? Constantly speaks of being “mindful of the Living Force” and obeying “The will of the Force”. His first lesson to Anakin is about how the Force speaks to them, and how he can hear the will of the Force.

No one else talks about the Force like this! WHY DOES QUI-GON?!?!

BECAUSE

Qui-Gon is the Last True Jedi. He did not care about The Code. He did not care about the approval of the Council. He does not care about the laws and morals of men. He only cares about following the Will of the Living Force.

  • At this point, let me say that if you haven’t read my post about Anakin and the Prophecy, go read that first. I’m not sure how much sense this will make if you don’t know my views on the Jedi Order and the Force. (Long story short is that the Jedi Order was supposed to be the religion of the Light Side of the Force. But after thousands of years in existence its priorities shifted, and it began placing more emphasis on following the Jedi Code and the Council than following the Will of the Living Force.)

All of those great Jedi- Yoda, Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, Plo Kloon, etc.- were not wrong. They legitimately sensed the future Anakin would bring. What they couldn’t sense though, what Qui-Gon did, was that it was the Will of the Force. Anakin WAS the Chosen One. He brought balance exactly as he was supposed to. The Jedi Order turned away from the Will of the Living Force and relied held up the Jedi created Code instead.

The Chosen One brought balance to the Force by destroying both orders. Qui-Gon was the tool that the Living Force used to move the Chosen One into place.

Conclusion:

How do I know I’m right? Well, my midichlorian/Fallen Order theory fits perfectly with my theory on Qui-Gon. But there is one more scrap of proof.

Yoda: “In your solitude on Tattoine, training I have for you. An old friend has learned the path to immortality. One who has returned from the netherworld of the Force. Your old master.”
Obi-Wan: “Qui-Gon!”

This is an incredibly important line that is oft-overlooked as a storytelling device used to shore up gaps and make connections between the prequels and the original trilogy. After all, Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Anakin all come back as Force Ghosts. Why didn’t the Jedi slaughtered in the prequels do this?

So the storytellers decide that someone has to teach them. And Qui-Gon is a name we already know. From the storyteller’s perspective that works, and makes it a relatively insignificant toss in.
But from the STORY perspective? It means that Qui-Gon was right. The man who never sat on the council. Who constantly defied the Code. Who apparently couldn’t sense what every other Jedi could. That man was stronger in the Force than any other who came before him.
Because he was the first to achieve immortality.

Pan – The Origin Story… or Alternate Universe?

Here goes my first movie review. I have a feeling it is going to take a couple of these until I settle into figuring out how I want to do these in general, what details I want to talk about, what order to put things, etc. This post mostly has what I wanted to talk about. A good reviewer should probably be concerned with what readers want to know. But I’m doing this mostly for me. Because I like dissecting movies. I don’t need anyone to read it. But I like writing it down.
There might be spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Synopsis:

Living a bleak existence at a London orphanage, 12-year-old Peter (Levi Miller) finds himself whisked away to the fantastical world of Neverland. Adventure awaits as he meets new friend James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and the warrior Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara). They must band together to save Neverland from the ruthless pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Along the way, the rebellious and mischievous boy discovers his true destiny, becoming the hero forever known as Peter Pan.

Initial Excitement Level: Moderately High.

I love all things Peter Pan (except the Disney animated one. I have hated that one since I was kid). I love themes and symbolism of the story. I also love prequels and origin stories. And this rendition has two actors I was really excited to see: Hugh Jackman as the main villain Blackbeard, and Garrett Hedlund as James Hook (not exactly a household name like Jackman, but I loved him as Patrocles in Troy, and Sam Flynn in Tron). And these actors were meant to play the villains (and personally, I’d much rather have interesting and well-acted villains than heroes.) So all in all, I went into the movie with high expectations.

I was disappointed.

Right at the beginning, an unknown female narrator says,

I’m going to tell you a story about a boy who would never grow up. About a Pirate who wished to kill him. About the island where fairies lived. But this isn’t the story you’ve heard before. Because sometimes friends begin as enemies, and enemies begin as friends. Sometimes to truly understand how things end, you must first know how they begin.

Not a bad intro. Except for the fact that it is COMPLETELY misleading. It promises a lot about the coming story. The only one it comes through on is this is definitely not a story any of us have heard before. Well, except it is, because it uses the oldest tropes and themes in the book (and I don’t mean J.M. Barry’s book)

I’m not entirely sure where to start.
The acting is… good (imagine me saying that tentatively and hesitantly). I mean, there are so many problems with the portrayal of characters, but the fault does not lie with the actors. It lies with the director and the creators of the film. Newcomer Levi Miller played his part well. Hugh Jackman will always put out an amazing performance. Rooney Mara (besides being white) was maybe a bit stiff, but the character can get away with it. It’s hard to know if Garrett Hedlund did well or not, because his character was so far off of what it should have been.

I will say that Neverland is about exactly what it should be. Wildly colorful, fantastic beasts, pirates and Indians at each other’s throats. Beautiful Mermaids, and Giant Crocodiles that would make any pirate duly afraid for life and limb. In short, a little boy’s dream and an adult’s nightmare. Which is what Neverland always was. Sometimes the Visual FX become overbearing and gharish. But Neverland is by and far the best part about this movie.

But overall, this movie violently bounces back and forth between ridiculously overtly “Peter Pan” and jarringly unfamiliar and confusing.
In fact, I spent a lot of time noticing how “Pan” seemed to directly rip off basically every other Peter Pan story ever told (Especially “Hook”), and I’m in a bit of a grey area deciding whether that is a bad thing or not. You’re dealing with same story being retold half a dozen times, after all. I can see how the director would want to build off what was already there instead of reinventing the wheel. Except for the fact that the director tried to both reinvent the wheel and use existing framework.

For instance: There were a lot of interesting choices made with the Indians (even completely passing over Tiger Lily being white). There is an overt “Peter Pan” feel with this group, but not necessarily in the right way. When the pirates attack and kill an Indian, they turn into… a brightly colored puff of smoke? Hook is forced into a death match with their hero (they made sure to make it quite clear that the loser dies) on… trampolines? And as this hero is showing off he strikes this pose: movies-pan-10092015-videoLarge
I’m not sure why, but for some reason I found this incredibly reminiscent of Peter Pan in general (help me out, is this a pose Peter strikes in any other rendition?). All these things totally have a Neverland vibe. The problem, though, is that these particular effects really apply better to the Lost Boys (from Hook), with the brightly colored mud and food fights, fighting that is closer to playing, and full-of-himself hero. Seriously. I almost expected the Indians to start chanting “Rufio, Rufio. Ru-Fi-OOO!”

The Pirates were also… interesting. I’m not entirely sure why some of them looked like clowns. And I am really not sure why they made the slave boys sing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Blitzkrieg Bop”.

Then you’ve got Blackbeard (put on brilliantly by Jackmon, no arguments there) himself. Who is Captian Hook in all but name… and hook.Slightly psychotic. Slightly gentlemanly. Supreme pirate ruler of his domain. Afraid of Crocodiles, Time, and Dying. He even steals several of Hook’s iconic lines (“Bad form” “Are you here to kill me, Peter?”). Why make a new villain (with a real villain’s name) who acts exactly like the classic villain? This decision might make sense if Hook actually spent any sort of significant time around Blackbeard, so it could be sold as Hook learning from him. But he doesn’t.

And speaking of Hook… Why does he act like Han Solo dressed as Indian Jones with a Jack Nicholson smile? (Seriously, he is exactly like Han. falls in with the heroes almost on accident, only cares about his own bottom line, not the fight for what is right. And a moment of redemption at the end. He is completely unrecognizable. Nothing Peter Pan-ish about him. The writers could have easily given him another name and it wouldn’t mess up the story at all. Which is a problem since this is supposed to be the origin story of Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

*Sidenote* Smee is perfect. Perfectly casted. Perfectly acted. And the role he played and the relationship he has with Hook makes perfect sense and answers how the cowardly, bumbling, idiot somehow got to be Hook’s first-mate. Hook might not make sense. But Smee’s relationship to him does.

And then there is Peter Pan himself. Who, like Hook, has absolutely nothing in common with the original character. Peter Pan the legend is the boy who never grew up. The boy who ran away from home as a baby. The boy who is cocky and self-sure, who believes, as all little boys do, that he is invincible.
Peter in this film is everything but. First, he comes off as the most tired rendition of two very tired tropes: The Chosen One and The Reluctant Hero. He is obsessed with finding his family. His overriding emotion is fear. Fear of heights and of flying. Fear that he can’t live up to the expectations the Indians place on his shoulders to lead them, and that he can’t fulfill prophecy that he will save the fairies (which of course he eventually shoulders his burden and does). Two things wrong with that last one. First, true Peter would play the hero for the sheer adventure of it. Second, true Peter would never be bothered by anyone’s expectations of him. That’s kinda the point. He does what he wants, because it’s fun, and refuses to take any responsibility.

Yes. I get that this is supposed to be a retelling and an origin. But the thing is, you can use creative licence to give the characters a new story. You cannot change the core of the characters themselves. Especially in a story like this, where the Story cannot exist without the Themes, and the Themes exist withing the characters themselves. Yes, in “Hook” Peter was not the classic Peter Pan. But it worked because we saw that Peter made a conscious choice to grow up, but then spent the rest of the movie trying to remember who the Pan was as a little boy, and Pan realizing why he chose to finally grow up. If you want to write an origin story, you have to lead into the existing idea. You can’t have a story about a boy coming-of-age before he becomes the child who says “I want to always be a little boy and have fun.”

I think the creators of the film were fully aware that they were changing important core elements. That they would potentially face critics who will say that this story has nothing to do with Peter Pan. So I think they tried to balance the story not being Peter Pan by making the world overtly visually Peter Pan. It wasn’t enough though. And it left way too many questions open, while a prequel is supposed to answer questions.

Summary: Let’s look back at the intro quote.  “I’m going to tell you a story about a boy who would never grow up. About a Pirate who wished to kill him. About the island where fairies lived. But this isn’t the story you’ve heard before. Because sometimes friends begin as enemies, and enemies begin as friends. Sometimes to truly understand how things end, you must first know how they begin.”
Well.
Peter did grow up. He became a leader and hero.
Hook doesn’t become a pirate, so it must mean Blackbeard. Blackbeard didn’t really wish to kill Peter. He just wanted to kill the fairies.
There were no enemies who became friends.
There were no friends who became enemies. I would have at least thought that this movie would show how Pan and Hook ended up on opposite sides. But it ends up with them both sharing a laugh on the Jolly Roger.
Seeing this beginning story doesn’t tell me how the story of Peter Pan ends. In fact, there is absolutely no attempt at reconciliation. Which to me makes this is an alternate story that takes place in Neverland, with characters who just so happen to be named Peter and Hook, not the origin story of Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

But this is in fact a story we haven’t heard before. It probably should’ve stayed that way.

Rating:
Plot: 1/3
Characters: 1/3
Acting: 2.5/3
Visual Effects: 2/3
Importance: .5/3
Score: 7/15