Movie mentors can come in many forms


Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 8:48 p.m.

What do these movie quotes have in common?

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Jigsaw's sick and twisted games are carried on by a new protege in "Saw 4."

Special to The Sun

A. "Wax on, wax off."

B. "Use the Force, Luke."

C. "Take the red pill, or the blue pill."

D. "You think it's over just because I am dead. It's not over. The games have just begun."

If you guessed "Things Said by Classic Movie Mentors," then you've won this week's grand prize - the ability to read the rest of this column secure in the excellence of your knowledge of movie minutia.

In real life, a mentor is someone older and more experienced who takes a novice under his or her wing. The mentor develops a relationship with such protégés, giving them wisdom, inside information and teaching them a few secrets to success along the way.

In the movies, a mentor is basically the same thing, only with a few touches of the dramatic thrown in for flair. The mentor is wise and usually super dangerous. The mentor speaks in riddles and clichés, forcing the protégé to figure out the lessons for themselves. And, of course, the mentor usually dies after saying something dramatic, leaving the protégé to avenge the death.

The mentor/protégé dynamic is time-tested (much beloved in the genres of kung fu and sci-fi) and usually a wellspring of positive energy and pair bonding. But there is no reason that diabolical villains can't be mentors, as well.

And that brings me to the topic at hand - that rascally serial killer, Jigsaw. He's back again in "Saw 4," and once again he plays the role of mentor. This began in "Saw 3," when he was teaching former victim Amanda to carry on his gruesome work. Amanda was not his only protégé, it would seem - Jigsaw has been grooming multiple people to take over his mantle when he passes on, which, as you may or may not know, he has.

This is not a spoiler, because the opening images of "Saw 4" show the nauseating autopsy of his corpse. John Kramer, aka Jigsaw, is finally dead once and for all. But if that is the case, who is carrying out his latest wave of sick-and-twisted games?

One of the mysteries of the film is who the new protégé is. But "Saw 4" isn't just a whodunit, it's also a "howdunit," "whydunit" and "whendunit." The series is known for using excessive flashbacks and jumbled sequencing, and this latest installment overuses this concept to a confusing degree.

And make no mistake about it, "Saw 4" is intentionally confusing. When the film is over and one places the events and motives in sequence, they don't all make sense. Thus, the film has seemingly been edited by a hyperactive spastic, chopping it up and putting it into a new order so that no one can realize how ridiculous it all is.

Jigsaw has always been a unique and complex villain, and now he has recreated himself as a mentor to the depraved. He joins good company and stands among the most notable mentors the movies have to offer, who are:

10. Jigsaw, played by Tobin Bell in the "Saw" series.

Admittedly, Jigsaw is a controversial candidate for the list of all-time great movie mentors. But he represents a novel approach to the concept; and since a) he's still dead, and b) they are making more "Saw" movies, it is safe to assume that we will be seeing more bloody mentoring in the years to come.

9. Juan Sanchez Villa-Lovos Ramirez, played by Sean Connery, in "Highlander."

I honestly don't consider him one of the great movie mentors, but he does fit the bill. It's just funny to me that a dyed-in-the-wool Scotsman like Connery is playing a guy named Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez. Funny, funny stuff.

8. Morpheus, played by Lawrence Fishburne in the "Matrix" series.

Like Tony Robbins, Morpheus sounds great but never really says anything that means anything. Unlike Tony Robbins, he does look like a million bucks in black leather.

7. Rufus, played by George Carlin in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure"

Rufus comes from the future, wears a leather coat and helps Keanu Reeves save the planet. He also drives a phone-booth time machine and plays wicked guitar, which clearly gives him the edge over Morpheus.

6. Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, in "Fight Club."

Split personality or not, Tyler is a commanding force in the growing field of anarchy cults. He quickly recruits an entire fraternity's worth of men who like to beat each other up and raise hell, and he acts as a father to them all - a crazed one who beats them up, but a father all the same.

5. The Ghost of Elvis, played by Val Kilmer, in "True Romance."

Clarence may be a little crazy, but every time he needs advice, Elvis appears to him and gives him the sort of straight talk one would expect from the King.

4. Patches O'Houlihan, played by Rip Torn, in "Dodgeball."

This man was formerly the greatest dodgeball player ever, and is now a stark raving madman living on the streets in his wheelchair. The great thing about Patches is that his unorthodox training style may be just crazy enough to work ※ or it could be just plain crazy and result in multiple injuries. You can never tell with this guy.

3. Pai Mei from "Kill Bill." If you like mentors who mercilessly beat and humiliate their students, Pai Mei is your man. He understands that one can't make an omelet by breaking a few eggs, and one can't make a kung fu master by breaking a few bones.

2. Yoda from the "Star Wars" franchise. What makes Yoda a better mentor than Obi Won-Kenobi? It's because he sounds like Fozzie Bear, and everyone loves Fozzie Bear.

1. Mr. Miagi, played by Pat Morita in the "Karate Kid" series.

Mr. Miagi doesn't need swords, knives, time machines or laser guns to teach a kid how to become a man. All he needs is a shammy and a dirty car, or a pair of chopsticks and a housefly. Miagi uses dull household chores and everyday life to teach his charges how to grow and become courageous karate champions.

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