Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Main Character
Day 2 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.
Let’s just accept that 1) favorites generally don’t fluctuate; 2) challenges focus on favorites; 3) there is going to be a certain degree of redundancy; 4) it is OK to talk about the same person more than once; 5) when it’s been two years since I posted about something, it’s not redundant, not really.
That’s more for my benefit than yours because I guarantee you don’t care. My apology stated, let’s move on to the fun stuff.
And what could be more fun than the legendary Qui-Gon Jinn? I listed some points in this post from 2013 — mostly, that I was entraced by this guy the moment I first saw him on the movie poster and was not disappointed by his appearance. Liam Neeson’s own personal core of awesomeness helps keep Qui-Gon a sustainable favorite even as we near the two decade mark.
Yes, he’s only in one of the three prequel films, but his shadow is over them all. Qui-Gon Jinn, like another favorite of mine, Cadfael, is a warrior/monk/teacher/detective/all around amazing and awesome guy. He’s been a role model to me since I was 14, which was made even cooler by the fact that Obi-Wan was 14 as his apprentice. I could basically step into Obi-Wan’s shoes and be mentored by this great man.
It’s because of Qui-Gon Jinn that I think stubbornness is a virtue. He never accepts what authority tells him because, even if Yoda is 800 years old, Qui-Gon is confident enough in his own experience and knowledge to believe he just might know better than the little goblin. He tests each situation for himself and draws his own conclusions. Nothing shakes him from his beliefs. He’ll take rebuke, shame, even physical assault, but he will not change his position and he will not compromise on what he knows is right: “I will do what I must.”
Which is not to say he’s never known failure, even deep, biting failure. He never stopped blaming himself for the fall of his second apprentice, Xanatos; nor did he ever recover from the death of the love of his life, Tahl. He held himself responsible for that, too. But he was tough in the face of his mistakes; they never introduced self-doubt, and he carries the entire plot of Episode I, and, arguably, the prequel trilogy, on his shoulder as he charges ahead. The Force could not be clearer: he has found the “Chosen One” and the Jedi must train him.
While some of his in-film behavior is inexplicable — I simply can’t believe a man who has been betrayed in the past, even betrayed by Obi-Wan, would ever backstab his apprentice before the Council the way Lucas’ Qui-Gon does. But there are times I genuinely believe George Lucas doesn’t know as much about his own characters as I do.
Qui-Gon is proud and stubborn but also gentle. He has an innate knowledge of what people need, what people will respond to, what will cause them to stretch and grow. Obstacles don’t ruffle him as long as he knows he’s in control — watch his temper flare when Watto shoos him out of the shop, for example — and while he doesn’t believe the Council could find the will of the Force with both hands and a flashlight, his trust in what he calls “the Living Force” (the Force of right now, this minute, not the dusty past or the shifting future) doesn’t waver at any point.
In 1999, when I carried the Visual Dictionary everywhere for months because I couldn’t see the movie until a month after it came out, I drew the inevitable conclusion that Qui-Gon had to die in Episode I. There was no getting around it. I still cried when it happened. Actually, it just made me like him more; I was really infatuated with dead people back then. Sometimes I still am, as long as the death is pointful (not profitable), in character, and, most important of all, not Pyrrhic. Sidebar.
Qui-Gon’s life and background remains shrouded in mystery to me; honestly I have never been able to bring myself to believe that Dooku was his master. His death also has some mystery, in my opinion, because I find it a little overly convenient that when he falls in love a second time, he instantly dies. I’m inclined to think he faked his death so he could run away with Shmi, not allowing the Jedi to derail his heart a second time; but that’s a conspiracy for a different day (1)(2). He’s cool and he’s awesome and that’s all there is to say.