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Qui-Gon Jinn

Star Wars
by Monkey Boy

I would say I'm in a very small minority. I actually liked The Phantom Menace. Confusing, irreverent plot; annoying little child actor with questionable acting talent; ridiculously over-the-top and arguably racially offensive CGI duckbill character; I really didn't mind any of it. I sat back and enjoyed the ride. I wasn't expecting the second coming of Jesus, although ironically our hero-who-would-be-villain ends up being somewhat immaculately conceived. I just watched as zany aliens and cool spaceships and guys with laser swords cavorted across the movie screen, and I liked it.

Episode I would also mark the debut of the character who would become one of my favorite Jedi Knights: Qui-Gon Jinn. Maybe it was because he was played by one of my favorite actors, Liam Neeson. Maybe it's because he's such a jackass, who often does the opposite of what you'd expect a Jedi to do (not to mention the opposite of what a sane person with any good common sense would do). Maybe it was the poofy goatee. In any event, I liked QGJ.

In his very existence, he is controversial, in that he introduces a contradiction into the Star Wars sextilogy (that's what I'm calling it): In The Empire Strikes Back, Obi-Wan Kenobi mentions that he was taught by Master Yoda, but in TPM it's quite obvious that Qui-Gon was, in fact, Kenobi's tutor in the ways of the Force. While it was later explained half-heartedly by showing that Yoda in fact has a hand in teaching all future Jedi padawan learners, it still left a bad taste in many a fanboy's mouth (and I imagine fanboy mouths have their share of bad tastes already).

Still, I liked Qui-Gon. Over the years, a fair amount of Qui-Gon merchandise has been released, but it's been a while since anything substantial has surfaced. There just isn't all that much demand for collectibles from what is generally regarded as the worst installment of the Star Wars series. Recently, a few pieces have bucked the trend, like Gentle Giant's Qui-Gon mini-bust, and this here 12" Qui-Gon from Sideshow Collectibles' Order of the Jedi line.

Qui-Gon has seen 12" figuredom a few times before, but as with Mace Windu, his pre-Sideshow forays into the 1/6th scale world are better left forgotten. I shudder just thinking about the rooted hair and ridiculous facial expressions...euhhh. Thankfully, Sideshow's offering lacks Barbie hair and doesn't look like it's yelling at anybody. If that were it, it would have been accomplishment enough. But oh, that's not it at all.

First off, Qui-Gon is tall, and that's a good thing, because Liam Neeson is a tall guy. Of the four Order of the Jedi figures I've picked up thus far, QGJ is noticeably the tallest. So (and this is something you rarely get to say in today's action figure world) it looks like proper scale is being considered with these figures. Sitting at the top of this very tall figure is one pretty nifty head sculpt... if someone says they can't see Liam Neeson in there, then I have to question whether or not they know who Liam Neeson is. This is Qui-Gon right to the very tip of his gigantic, crooked nose.

The only issue(s)? The hair. While it's much better than rooted hair, I've got a few bones to pick with it. Number one, it's very obvious that the hair is a separate piece from the head. What is this, a NECA figure? Even they've been doing that less and less. Hair just doesn't look good when there's a big seam running along the hairline. Okay, it's not terrible, but it just contributes to the "toyness" of the figure, and when it's a high-end collectible we're dealing with, that makes a difference.

The second issue is the styling of the hair. In most of Episode I, some of Qui-Gon's long locks fell in front of the shoulders. Sideshow's figure has all the hair flowing down his back. I assume this was done to preserve the range of motion in his head, although it's also possible that sculpted hair would be harder to make look convincing in such a position. I wonder what Sideshow's planning to do for its upcoming Lord of the Rings figures... almost every one of them is a hairstyling nightmare.

The paint is also done particularly well. I especially like the way Sideshow captured Qui-Gon's brown-but-slowly-going-gray hair color. The face is painted fine, but other than that there's not much to discuss since the rest of the body is mostly a generic design covered by his Jedi outfit. Like the other figures in the OOTJ line, we get a shirt, some pants, a tunic, a belt, boots, and a robe. Once again, I can't really find any substantial re-use in the outfit; everyone's fashion accoutrements are similar but unique. The robe features a wire that runs through the hem of the hood, allowing it to be posed more realistically around the figure's head. The robe covers most of the articulation, but he's got 30+ points, which is more than enough to get him in any number of poses. All joints are tight and work well. His belt also features some food capsules, a slot for his lightsaber, and some opening pouches to store his accessories.

Ah, the accessories of a Jedi. If you've been collecting this line, you're probably starting to get a little weary of them. While the outfits don't utilize much re-use, the accessories are not so lucky. Pretty much every Jedi figure so far has been accompanied by an identical comm-link and aqua breather (though the amphibious Kit Fisto lacks the latter). They also all get a holoprojector, although Qui-Gon's is actually different than the tiny coin-shaped device that comes with Mace, Obi-Wan and Kit Fisto. It still has the sticky stuff on the back to help it stay put in his hand, but the sculpt is accurate to the holoprojectors in Episode I, with funky little swirlies around the edges. Speaking of hands, Qui-Gon gets a couple extra for Force gesturing and holding things with triggers.

QGJ also gets his lightsaber, of course, and like the other OOTJ figures, he gets one un-ignited and one ignited. I imagine the reason they went with two sabers instead of one saber with a detachable blade has to do with how easy it would be to break of the pegs that would attach the blade to the hilt. I had this happen to a few of my smaller Hasbro figures before they abandoned that method; the new style for Hasbro saber accessories is similar to what Sideshow is doing. Other than his lightsaber and projector, Jinn's final unique accessory is a small grappling hook that was used in an Episode I deleted scene to save Qui-Gon and company on Naboo when their Gungan sub surfaced too close to a waterfall. It has no rope or anything attached to it, and it doesn't really fit into any of his belt pouches, though it can be carefully hooked on the belt itself. QGJ also gets a circular logo base with a metal clasp for his waist to keep him standing, though he stands fine without it.

If you picked up the exclusive version (which I did not), you got an extra accessory: the poncho Qui-Gon used to disguise himself on Tatooine. It's a pretty cool extra, especially since it's a nod to Luke Skywalker's Tatooine poncho, which is essentially identical. However, picking up the exclusive often involves busy phone lines and an excruciatingly slow server on the Sideshow website, thanks to their limited numbers. So if you missed out on this extra goody, it's really no biggie. However, the more OOTJ figures there are, the more the constant re-use of accessories is likely to disillusion fans. The routine of lightsaber, comlink, aqua breather, holoprojector, extra hands, and one unique accessory is becoming a bit tired. Though it may look like a lot of accessories, many of them are incredibly small, and you can only see the same thing so many times before you begin to wonder if it was worth dropping $50+ on the damn thing.

So perhaps it's time Sideshow changed things for the exclusive version of the figure. In the past, a Sideshow exclusive didn't always mean an extra accessory alone; at times it meant a complete re-imagining of the character, or a representation of the character at a specific time. I think it would benefit Sideshow to go back to that practice, since its current regimen of standard Jedi swag is wearing a bit thin. It would also encourage more people to buy both versions of each figure. As it is, no one in their right mind who scored the exclusive would ever want to get the regular edition of this figure, but if the exclusive were about more than just an extra accessory, it would definitely cause some buyers to contemplate owning both. Take, for example, Sideshow's 12" Kroenen figure from their Hellboy movie line: the regular version was the way he appeared through most of the film, while the exclusive portrayed him during his final battle with Hellboy. The body was the same, but each figure had a unique head sculpt and different sets of masks. The key here is different accessories, not extra accessories.

While Qui-Gon is a great figure in his own right, Sideshow might want to rethink withholding an accessory from its casual buyers if it wants them to stay onboard the Order of the Jedi train for much longer.

-- 10/11/06

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