Character Portraits: The Mentor

At first glance, the mentor is a pretty straight forward character.  Look deeper though and they can be complex.  A mentor is there to impart their knowledge onto the hero.  A mentor is usually scholarly to some degree.  If not, they have life lessons to teach along with their special subject.

Take Obi-Wan Kenobi, for example.  When we first meet him, he is the only source of knowledge on the Force, excepting Darth Vader.  Later on we get to meet Yoda but in ‘A New Hope’ it is just Obi-Wan.  Luke, despite being too old to take up formal Jedi training, is taken into hand by the old master.

Having lived a long life Obi-wan has a lot of experience.  Along with teaching Luke about the ways of the Force, he must temper his impulsiveness.  Giving in to impulse is seen as being weak and could potentially lead to Luke’s death or worse, the dark side.

Other characteristics Mentors have are; curmudgeonly, e.g Doc. Hudson in ‘Cars’, true believer, e.g. Morpheus in ‘The Matrix’ and strange but in an all-knowing, comforting kind of way, the best example of which is Mr Miyagi from ‘The Karate Kid’.

Sometimes Mentors must die in order for the hero to take the correct path at the crossroads in their life.  Obi-Wan’s death at the hands of Darth Vader is shocking to Luke despite barely knowing him.  This is not always the case, for example could you imagine Mr Miyagi dying?

Why do we have mentors?

Basically a mentor is a representation of experience and knowledge.  Passing our experience on the next generation is a fact of life.  If knowledge did not get passed down, you would not be reading this right now.  Language would not have evolved and we would still be sitting in the trees wondering where our next meal was.

Star Wars, Episode VII; The Force Awakens

From the beginning this film wants to be like it’s earliest ancestors.  I can say now that it does a very good job of it.  Many elements feel like they have been ripped from ‘A New Hope’ but there is just enough to make the movie different.

For me, the two stars of the film are Rey and BB-8.  Daisy Ridley (Rey) acts like she belongs in the world.  We discover her, scavenging for parts on the desert world of Jakku.  She is, by any measure, independent and very feisty.  Later on, with Finn by her side, it is her who leads the way.  When they part company at  Maz Kanata’s castle, it is interesting to see that she is looking down on Finn.  It is at this point that Finn reveals his secret, but I feel more is going on here.

BB-8 on the other hand is easily the most loveable of the new characters.  His little bleeps, chirps and the way he moves his head will win anybody over.  Other than following the humans about, however, I wish he had actively taken part.

Even if Finn had not bumped into Rey, I would quite happily have followed the feisty woman and her dutiful droid on their adventures.  This is good as the dialogue isn’t always up to par.  Then again, it is never so bad as to distract from the story.  Talking of which, there are some lighter moments sprinkled throughout.  Doing this made the characters feel human, even the stormtroopers.

Watching Adam Driver playing Kylo Ren, I got the impression that he is struggling with who he is and who he wants to be.  Is he, as Rey says, afraid he will not be as strong as his grandfather?  Quite possibly.  Living up to his image would be a tough act for anyone to follow.

Episode VII does a grand job of mixing together  the personal stories with the big.  Yet again I have heard people saying that it was overhyped, but in my opinion it is a damn good film.  Certainly I didn’t feel as let down as I did with the last three movies.

If you plan to go but have not seen it yet, you will not be wasting your money.  It gnaws at you, drawing you in and when it’s done, it makes you want more.