How Deep Did George Lucas Go with the Hero’s Journey in Star Wars? — A Guest Blog by Tomas Pueyo
Much has been said about George Lucas and the Hero’s Journey. He discovered Joseph Campbell’s idea while the script for A New Hope and became instantly fascinated: so many elements of his movie fit in the Hero’s Journey framework! He decided to go all in and rewrite his script to turn it into a fundamental myth.
That turned out to be a clever decision. Star Wars became one of the most successful movies of all times. Since then, Hollywood has learned to apply the Hero’s Journey to nearly every movie. Lucas is not the last, but he was the first, leading the way to generations of movie-makers—and Hollywood execs.
What is less commonly known is the fact that Lucas was obsessed with the Hero’s Journey and other storytelling techniques. One of the ways we can see that is how precisely he applied the Hero’s Journey to A New Hope.
We can see in the image above how every single step is respected: a boy in the ordinary world of Tatooine, crossing the threshold into the extraordinary world of the galactic war, the mentor in Obi-Wan, the allies and enemies with Han Solo, Chewbacca and Darth Vader, the Ordeal with Alderaan’s explosion… Everything is there.
Given his success, Lucas’s obsession for the Hero’s Journey only grew from there. Since then, he’d apply that blueprint to everything he did. His next project? The Empire Strikes Back.
The way he had handled the rights of the movies, Lucas now had plenty of freedom making the movie he wanted to make. Again, step by step, every beat in the Hero’s Journey is applied. Here, Lucas decided to go the extra mile and be not only precise, but also quite literal.
For example, the approach to the inmost cave is not just an allegory. Luke very literally goes into a cave. He very literally goes through the ordeal of death when he sees a vision of Darth Vader, beheads him, and recognizes himself inside the helmet.
The Empire Strikes Back was even more successful than A New Hope. At this point, Lucas was so obsessed by the Hero’s Journey that he didn’t limit the application just to his individual movies. He decided to apply the Hero’s Journey to the entire trilogy.
Something really interesting happens when looking at the entire trilogy from the perspective of the Hero’s Journey. It’s not about Luke becoming a Jedi anymore. It’s about Luke’s internal fight between the Light Side and the Dark Side. In that context, his mentors aren’t Obi-Wan and Yoda anymore. It’s Darth Vader.
Through the Hero’s Journey, Lucas connects the plot with the main theme of the movies: the eternal fight between Light and Darkness.
And since the Light Side and the Dark Side are in constant battle, one can’t focus on the Hero’s Journey for the Light character without focusing on the Dark character too…
In fact, Luke is not the only hero in Star Wars. Anakin is his nemesis; both follow each other, teach each other, and become one in the end. They are both heroes, two halves of the same story.
You can order The Star Wars Rings: The Hidden Structure Behind the Star Wars Story by Tomas Pueyo from Amazon.Powered by Sidelines