The Hero’s Journey
Watching a film, one can easily recognize plot, theme, characterization, etc., but not many realize what basic principle lies behind nearly every story conceived: the hero’s journey. This concept allows for a comprehensive, logical flow throughout a movie. Once the hero’s journey is thoroughly understood, anyone can pick out the elements in nearly every piece. The hero’s journey follows a simple outline. First the hero in question must have a disadvantaged childhood. Next the hero will find a mentor who wisely lays out his/her prophecy. Third the hero will go on a journey, either literal or figurative, to find him/herself. On this journey the hero will be discouraged and nearly quit his/her quest. Finally, the hero will fulfill the prophecy and find his/herself, realizing his/her full potential. This rubric may be easy to spot in epic action films, but if upon close inspection is found in a wide array of genres, some of which are fully surprising.
The “Star Wars” franchise is familiar to most, and may be the easiest in which to discover the hero’s journey. In “Star Wars,” we find young Luke Skywalker, a rebellious youth, living on a farm on the isolated planet of Tatooine, taken in by his aunt and uncle following the death of his mother and father. Luke grows up with dreams of flying through the stars, only dreams until his chance meeting with Ben Kenobi. Kenobi informs Luke of his real past: that his father was a Jedi knight and that Luke was destined to become great. Though Kenobi’s guidance and Luke own adventurous spirit, he finds himself pushed into an intergalactic quest to become a valiant Jedi in a galaxy controlled by the evil Empire.
Another film following the blueprint for a hero’s journey is “Finding Forrester.” In this film Jamal Wallace is an intelligent inner-city youth, who find him faced with the decision to fall into the model of a hoodlum, or to become the model student/athlete and a premier private school. He meets fellow inner-city dweller and full time recluse, William Forrester. Forrester is a writer famous for writing one book, a masterpiece, and then falling from the public eye, never to write again. The unlikely pair, mentor each other in this film, Forrester turning Jamal into a well-developed writer, and Jamal helping Forrester break out of his protective bubble and experience life again. Throughout the movie the odd couple each must face tests and tribulations, culminating in a spectacularly moving finale. Although the film does not fall into the epic/action category, the hero’s journey surely can be found.
The hero’s journey usually follows a certain rubric with little variation. These films are no exceptions. In “Star Wars,” Luke Skywalker is without a doubt a disadvantaged youth. His parents have died, and he lives under his aunt and uncle who spurn his attempts to leave the farm and make it on his own. Through a chance...