Category Archives: Week 1

Looper’s Journey

1. When asked about a Hero’s Journey as applied to film, I’m stuck on Looper (directed by Rian Johnson, 2012). There are certainly films that follow the Journey much more closely and fulfill some of the stages in the right order, but what I find fascinating about Looper is that it doesn’t do that. It instead twists the thread around with the plot device of time travel.

The main character Joe, lives in a world filled with the same jobs over and over and though his buddy is excited by every club they go to and every drug they take, many shots are devoted to Joe reacting to his surroundings in a bored way. This is a twist on the mundane origin of the hero – it’s not mundane to his coworkers, but Joe is so jaded that that is how he perceives it.

His call to action is his older self being sent back in time – Young Joe’s job is to kill his older self. In this movie, his refusal of the call lasts a literal lifetime. He kills Old Joe and goes on to live a life caught in the same job that he viewed as mundane in the beginning. The movie follows him as he ages, marries, then watches his wife murdered. He then goes back in time as Old Joe and becomes his own call to action once more. This time, his call is a little more elaborate and aggressive and Young Joe refuses a few more times, but finally agrees to help Old Joe prevent their wife’s death.

I find it interesting that so much of the Hero’s Journey is based on rebirth, but Looper is more about continual re-death, where mobsters kill their older selves and then are killed by their younger selves in a perpetual loop. Old Joe is supernatural aid, which I find fascinating, because Young Joe’s aid is himself with more years of experience. But wait! the twist is that after Young and Old Joe cross the Threshold together, Old Joe turns into an obstacle and begins to work against Young Joe.

Young Joe meets his Goddess and Temptress in Sara, the mother of the man who will kill his future wife (though he doesn’t yet know that). He must then unite with her to fight his older self, his Father figure, mentor, and enemy. I’m not sure if Old Joe transitioned into being an enemy and was no longer a father, or if he became both at once. I don’t believe the latter option works well within the Campbell thread of the journey, but I feel like it is the case and works well in the world of Looper.

After Young Joe finds out that Sara’s child will become a murderer, he has the chance to leave, to turn himself in and return to his mundane mobster life. He refuses. Old Joe finally hunts them down and Young Joe never gets the chance to be rescued from without. Sara attempts to sacrifice herself for her son. Young Joe realizes that if he allows Old Joe to kill Sara, the loop will be complete and her son will become a murderer because of Old Joe’s attempts to prevent him from living to kill his wife. Young Joe in an act that shows both his mastery of two worlds and his freedom to live (or die) kills himself and breaks the loop. Old Joe disappears before he can kill Sara.

The device of time travel weaves some of the threads of the Hero’s Journey back on itself, but all but a few of the key moments are still there (if occasionally in the wrong order). I particularly like the extended call to action and the freedom to live being flipped into the freedom to die, which is well within the re-death theme that fills the movie. Sara’s son becomes the first rebirth, as he is reborn through Young Joe’s sacrifice as a non-murderer.

2. Cinema can meet all four human needs listed. The need for mystery and the need for a picture of the universe in which human beings belong seems to be fulfilled frequently by science fiction and fantasy movies. The mystery of space or otherworldly locations, as explored by humans, reinforces humans as belonging to their own part of the universe by comparison. The need for a picture of our society in which each person belongs and the need for a picture of our own psychology that helps with the transitions of a human life is probably most often fulfilled by comedies and tragedies in the style of dramas. As people transition to a new stage of life and are forced to search for their place in a society, drama happens.

I don’t see any reason why film can’t fulfill these needs, although I’m not going to argue that it does it better. Cinema has its downsides, as does all other media, but I strongly believe that nearly all art-forms that have the capacity to tell a story can fulfill the four human needs listed.

What is a heroes ending?

What movies can you recall–besides  The Matrix, which was mentioned in the lecture notes–that follow the thread of The Hero’s Journey? When you cite your film, or films, be sure to judge whether or not you believe the general formula was appropriated well or poorly; and, moreover, describe a few scenes that match some of the stages of the journey, such as done in the video in the lecture notes.

  • Many films follow the guidelines of a hero’s journey; the basis of a plot is the presence of a protagonist and antagonist, and the fight for a certain objective, or sometimes, good between evil. My belief of a well generated formula for a plot includes events that create a rollercoaster of emotions for the reader/viewer/audience, a series of events that can cause the largest amount of surprise or theatricality. It is the never-ending satiability of Hollywood: to create a film that is not boring (to do that you need considerable or wisely used budget and talented directors/producers) and not predictable. On the other hand, some films or television series takes these ideals and push them to the limit. For example, the recent series called “NipTuck’ is entertaining but terribly upsetting. The show started out with a certain level of excitement and had to keep up, revealing disturbing twists like adultery and incest and birth defects. But, that is a tv show, with the opportunity to extend the journey of characters much further than a movie’s ability. Some great example of the hero’s journey in films are Crusades movies, which exhibit the Hero’s journey without fail; “300,’ “Gladiator,’ “Kingdom of Heaven.’ These men (note, all men) all faced a situation that caused them to enter action, or follow the “call to adventure,’ the first with fairness and independence being threatened, the latter were faced with a tragedy that left them with no hope. But throughout the films, these men went on adventures that evolved their character. The evolution of a protagonist’s character is where the Hero’s journey is questioned, because sometimes the character expresses the progress inefficiently. These men all reached a threshold, as their lives all changed dramatically. My favorite of these films is Gladiator, because the entire time the protagonist is torn between his imprisonment and his desire to have his revenge on the king, a perfect example of challenge and temptation. This revenge is only possible if he continues his imprisonment and is patient. Not to mention, the scenes of action is a good visual for the Hero’s badassery. The endings all present a death of some sort to signify closure; some literally, as in “300,’ and “Kingdom of Heaven,’ and some figuratively, as Orlando Bloom in “Kingdom of Heaven’ rides off down the mountain with the disparaged Queen, and their destination or future plans are indeterminate. But Gladiator is still my favorite example, as his death brought serendipitous feelings of atonement as he is reunited with his family in the afterlife. I think the main differences between stories about heroes is the endings; they all end fairly differently. A hero can die at the end and still be a hero, or he can run off into the sunset or be reunited with his home village to be surrounded in glory. It seems to me, although there is “a hero’s journey,’ there doesn’t seem to be a specific hero’s ending.
  1. Do you believe current cinema either meets or fails to meet the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology? Those needs would be: the need for mystery; the need for a picture of the universe in which human beings belong; the need for a picture of our society in which each person belongs; the need for a picture of our own psychology that helps with the transitions of a human life, from childhood to adulthood, from adulthood to death. Can movies meet any of these needs? Why or why not?
  • Movies strive to meet these needs; Hollywood spends billions to recreate these philosophical needs people have. Movies themselves are a mini picture of the universe, with characters and emotions thrown in, a place for people to lose themselves. A person may never be able to travel through the stars and come into contact with alien life forces, but when they watch “Star Wars,’ they can. Or look at the plethora of scientific films, documentaries on history or sea life or even illegal substances. Information is readily accessible to most people in the world, and by watching current cinema we are satiated by our needs for mystery, living precariously through these fictional lives. In fact, it could be argued that the media is oversaturating our desire for adventure and mystery, and causing it to be absent in our actions, creating a domestic society. And just as this could be argued, so could the belief that violence and adventure in cinema (as are common traits of the Hero’s journey path), and video games are causing more violence and unrest in our society. At that point though, you just have to decide if violence is inherent in the world. As Joseph Campbell points out, violence and evolution has been happening before humans even came onto the scene, so to excuse ourselves from this behavior is taking ourselves out of the god’s hands. In fact, in a book called “Ishmael,’ this very same point is made, while the main character follows a loose hero’s journey. But, instead of spoiling the ending of that book like we did to the movies above, you guys will just have to read it =)

Hero’s Journey

In approaching this discussion I spent a few moments recalling the plots of some personal cinematic favorites. I could think of several examples that pretty clearly follow The Hero’s Journey. Les Miserables was recently made modern and beautiful and the journey of the main character is certainly epic and heroic, but also too obvious. Jean Val Jean was impoverished but retained an almost superhuman strength. The story of his life from the point where he comes out of prison and after a series of events tears up the documentation labeling him a convict is his departure into the unknown. He then faces obstacle after obstacle that truly test his solid gold character, which is the initiation. Val Jean’s return is a little confusing for me, but my best guess is that in the final scene, which is like the most beautiful scene in all of musical theatre history, when he gives Cosette the letters that tell her the story of her early life and what his story has been right before he dies, that is his return.

I looked through my DVDs and realized that one of my all time favorites I think fits this formula, does it well, and I doubt anyone else will use it. I would argue that in Ridley Scott’s 1991 masterpiece Thelma & Louise, Thelma goes on The Hero’s Journey.

I can’t help but to buck against Campbell’s very 1949ish insistence that the hero is male because of what women represent. I haven’t looked into it, but I would hope some interested feminists out there have also noticed that this is offensive and looked for examples to the contrary or more importantly that we are holding ourselves to a higher societal standard in recent years and are creating stories and retelling our mythologies in ways that put women in the hero’s role.

First in terms of characteristics of the hero, Thelma is not on a quest for her mate and doesn’t seem to represent creation, and while it is subtle, her independence and bravery, even as recently as 1991 I think do count as a special sort of power. When she witnesses an assault on her friend Louise she interferes at great personal psychological and perhaps even physical risk. In my opinion, Thelma shows nobility of character and willingness to risk her life when she ends the life of this violent misogynist. This situation having turned deadly and being driven by a great injustice also then serves as Thelma’s call to action. She departs on her journey. I think there are many more places where the plot of this great film can and do match with The Hero’s Journey.

Movies can absolutely meet the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology. The need for mystery has been satisfied by film since great film began to be made. The Departed and Mystic River come to my mind as some of the best movies in my lifetime that have truly made me wonder what was true in the world throughout. When it comes to a picture of the universe in which human beings belong, I think that we have most likely taken that function of mythology for granted in movies. Most film includes a presumption that human beings are meant to be and will even fight hard for the preservation of human kind almost as if to protect the right to that presumption. Maybe movies that involve a threat to the extinction of humans are exhibiting that function of mythology by creating that risk? I think that the need for a picture of our society where each person belongs, movies can and have absolutely met this need in terms of the functions of our mythology. Movies that have intersecting plots like Crash or Love Actually I think have serve that function, where many stories have places that cross, sometimes only by a hair or coincidence. They make all things seem significant and all people seem necessary. Also, movies that include the stories of populations of people rarely represented on screen are important and need to keep happening. Take for example what a big deal it was when Precious came out. The story represented there is not and has not ever been rare, but ideally film should be getting braver. I think this is also true for the documentary genre. I really enjoyed the movie Babies, and what is illustrated there is this point maybe, that all people have a place in the world. My personal favorites in terms of film have to do with human psychology and development. I think some of the greatest movies are movies that show profound change in people or groups of people. These can be biographies like Whats Love Got To Do With It, or romantic comedies where someone shifts or grows a little like Along Came Polly, or sort of wonderful classic dramas like Good Will Hunting. It’s a wonderful thing that we as people are able to enjoy grandiose epic blockbusters and also the subtleties of some independent film or smaller scale movies where you have to pay attention to what is being said or represented about our psychology and life transitions. I want to believe that cinema is keeping up with the job it is tasked with and continues to do a good job of meeting the needs laid out in the four functions of mythology. I think the reality is that money is a bigger incentive and there are too many horrible children’s movies being made and not enough of the good stuff.

Hero’s Journey by Hunter Bomar

1. What movies can you recall–besides The Matrix, which was mentioned in the lecture notes–that follow the thread of The Hero’s Journey? When you cite your film, or films, be sure to judge whether or not you believe the general formula was appropriated well or poorly; and, moreover, describe a few scenes that match some of the stages of the journey, such as done in the video in the lecture notes.

Honestly, there are many great examples for this topic, and like Victoria mentioned, most heroic movie plots are very similar. However, there is one movie that comes right to my head (beside the Matrix, because that is my favorite movie of all time! It would have been my choice for this…). My choice is Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom. I love all the Indiana Jones movies and honestly any of the would fit the Hero’s Journey no problem but, I haven’t watched these films in awhile (I am not a movie person…at all) but, The Temple of Doom is the one that I have the best memory of. So lets explore why its so fitting, my memory is somewhat vague so bare with me if your a movie buff. Call to adventure: Indiana finds Intel about some magical stones, after being ‘setup’ following a plane crash, Indiana arrived to a small village where all the children have gone missing, these magical stones are responsible for this, thus the call to action for Indiana.Now, super natural aid and mentor are sort of meshed together in this flick, because he gets help from a person in this great library where he finds clues and information to direct  his journey. I would say he gets the opposite of super natural aid (or where mother nature supports the hero) because in the Indianan Jones movies the ‘supernatural’ seems to guard the mystical item thus working against him. Now, Indiana certainly gets his series of helpers along the way, followed by a series of shortcomings where he is unsure what is the truth. Usually around half to two-thirds the way through the film he finds the “Abyss” or as mentioned in the reading this would be considered the Apotheosis. He finds some great information  or understanding that leads him to know exactly what to do. However, instead of the trials coming before the abyss they come after, because usually once this great information is dawned on him, he gets captured, and in the this film, gets brain washed for a little while, making his friends have to save him in order for the mission to carry on. After they rescue him, they scatter and fight a bunch of bad guys  and barely succeed in their mission as they flee to victory and Indiana saves the day and then he ‘returns home’ to do professor things.

2. Do you believe current cinema either meets or fails to meet the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology? Those needs would be: the need for mystery; the need for a picture of the universe in which human beings belong; the need for a picture of our society in which each person belongs; the need for a picture of our own psychology that helps with the transitions of a human life, from childhood to adulthood, from adulthood to death. Can movies meet any of these needs? Why or why not?

Well as Simon mentioned, I think that in making movies directors and writers  work to touch on all those topics, however, in the film I chose I don’t thick they were successful in doing ‘all’ of the functions (if they were trying too that is). Now, the use of mystery is obviously apparent  in all the Jones films, but the last topic “the need for a picture of our own psychology that helps with the transition of human life…” is not so apparent and really not present for that matter. It does show the diverse setting for different characters and that each person has their place is this mystical world.

Movies can defiantly meet those needs, it may be hard to meet all of them though. The reason I think they  try to meet those functions, is because those four functions are the basis of human life really, since we’ve been alive there is always mystery in the world  around us and the need for a picture of the universe is different from person to person so meeting those needs provides depth and uniqueness to a film (i.e. Avatar compared to Star Wars). The transition of human life function also follows my previous comment, in some films its vital for making the setting and plot.

Hero’s Journey- Sofia Maldonado

1.   What movies can you recall–besides The Matrix, which was mentioned in the lecture notes–that follow the thread of The Hero’s Journey? When you cite your film, or films, be sure to judge whether or not you believe the general formula was appropriated well or poorly; and, moreover, describe a few scenes that match some of the stages of the journey, such as done in the video in the lecture notes?

The movie Krull takes you to the journey of a hero in a battle against evil and the rescue of the beloved princess for the greater quest of saving his planet.  Krull almost depicted an exact representation of the phases of “The Hero’s Journey.’  During the “Departure’ phase, “The Call to Adventure’ can be seen at the very beginning of the movie, when alien invaders, called The Slayers, controlled by the Beast, attacked the castle, killed both kings and queens, and kidnapped Princess Lissa at the very moment of her wedding with Prince Colwyn.  Immediately, a “Supernatural Aid’, represented by an old man that was full of wisdom and knew every secret from the past and future, came to help Prince Colwyn.  The old man convinced the prince of his avoidable hero’s call and revealed him the hidden place of the secret weapon that was the only chance to kill the Beast (the commander of all invader aliens).  Rejection of this quest is not possible, since if so, the aliens will ultimately kill the humans, including his future wife, the princess.

The “Initiation’ phase consists of “The Road of Trials’, and can be observed in the series of tests that Prince Colwyn had to pass.  The first test was in order to get the required magical weapon, found inside of the lava of a volcano at the highest peak of the mountain, that could only be acquired by the chosen one.  After winning the magical weapon, he had to find a blind emerald seer, who had the ability of seeing where the Black Fortress moved next, the place  in which the aliens resided and kept the princess, because the Black Fortress moved to a different location with each sunset.  It is a long quest, characterized by battles and supernatural circumstances, but he is protected by the old men secrets at all time and his followers, including a Cyclope.  After finding the Black Forest and invading it, the final test of the hero was to battle the Beast and to rescue the princess.  This scene can be seen as a representation of “The Meeting the Goddess’, also part of the “Initiation’ phase.  In the “Ultimate Boom’ phase, he defeated the Beast by recognizing that only the love between each other, princess and prince, was the ultimate power of fire, which ended up killing the Beast.

The “Return’ phase is recognized by the returning of his kingdom with Princess Lissa, and the honor of those who helped him achieve this journey.  This movie is about the meaning of love as the best weapon against the cruelty of life’s circumstances, that often separate people that love each other.  The Krull’s movie definitely portrayed the details of the phases in “The Hero’s Journey’ expressed by Joseph Campbell.

  1. Do you believe current cinema either meets or fails to meet the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology? Those needs would be: the need for mystery; the need for a picture of the universe in which human beings belong; the need for a picture of our society in which each person belongs; the need for a picture of our own psychology that helps with the transitions of a human life, from childhood to adulthood, from adulthood to death. Can movies meet any of these needs? Why or why not?

In my opinion, the present movies do meet the human needs depicted in the four functions of mythology.  The need for mystery is also one for finding the truth, for finding what is considered real and what not.  For example, many movies have a mystery setting, in which a case have to be solved or the truth has to be uncovered.  The need for a picture of the universe, in which human being belongs can be seen in many science fiction movies, such as Star Trek, in which it shares a message in that we are part of something bigger in the universe, whether there aliens or not, we have a mission in the universe.  Disaster-type movies are known to present the need for humans to belong to a society, because after a disaster, humans often opt for trying to find others that share the same ideologies.  The need for a psychology is often presented in Drama movies, where it can give to the audience an understanding of life’s difficulties and transformations that human beings go through.  It seems to me that needs of the four functions of mythology are represented or are part of the different genres of movies.

  1. Can you identify any of the stages of the Hero’s Journey in the story of Gilgamesh? You may begin by asking yourself: What is Gilgamesh’s Call to Adventure; or what is Enkidu’s?

The phases of “The Hero’s Journey’, described by Joseph Campbell, can be observed throughout the epic of Gilgamesh.  The heroic characteristics of Gilgamesh are of protective nature.  At the beginning of the writing, Gilgamesh is shown as aggressive towards women and men.  However, this qualities are the symbol of his immaturity, part of a series of pictorial details that illustrates the transformations of the maturity life process of men.  Such metamorphosis, I perceived, can be seen as the rate by which men turns into a hero.  “The Hero’s Journey’ is dynamic, and is a process because the hero is not born a hero, but goes through the three stages proposed by Joseph Campbell:  “Departure’, “Initiation’ and “Return’, that happens at different points in time to cause the necessary changes for becoming a hero.

The “Call to Adventure’, which is part of the “Departure’ stage, can be observed when Gilgamesh proposed the quest to kill the guardian monster Humbaba.  Gilgamesh felt that “something was lacking’ or he “needed to win’ something, two of the characteristics mentioned by Joseph Campbell in the “Departure’ phase.  The particular something that Gilgamesh needed was to have his kingly power updated; that is, taken to the next level, the supernatural one, and not just to rule only the human world.  It is a destiny Gilgamesh took willingly, to which he entered into the Cedar Forest where the divine creature Humbaba was ruling.  Another element of “The Call to Adventure’ is that the initiation is often a quest imposed by a deity.  In the prayers of Ninsum, to the deity Shamash, she stated that Shamash inspired Gilgamesh to do such a journey.  The “Supernatural Aid’ is the deity Shamash, who first showed himself to Gilgamesh in dreams and showed him that was going to help him.  Later on, Shamash told Gilgamesh the specific moment that it would be advantageous to attack the monster.  Shamash used his powers of manipulating the weather against Humbaba, for which Gilgamesh took advantage and defeated the grotesque creature.

“The Road of Trials’ is part of the “Initiation’ stage, and is described by Joseph Campbell as an amplification of  the first problem.  In Gilgamesh epics, it is a series of troubles:  the “Bull of Heaven’, the death of his friend Enkidu and the quest to seek immortal life, caused because of Gilgamesh’s rejection of the deity Ishtar.  The rejection can be seen as part of the “Initiation’ phase called “Woman as the Temptress.’  Joseph Campbell defined this part as the hero’s awareness of the reality of the truly evil nature of the queen goddess to which the hero is married to.  Although Gilgamesh was already aware of Ishtar’s evil habits and therefore rejected her, it is still considered a “mystical’ temptation with a queen goddess, one of Joseph Campbell’s requirements for this phase.

The “Return’ of Gilgamesh from his heroic acts through the sun’s tunnel and water of the death, after finding Utanapishtim, does not quite well fit the characteristics of Joseph Campbell.  Gilgamesh did not brought back any trophies, powers or elixirs.  He actually failed both required tests.  He was not assisted with supernatural powers, let alone rescued.  It is not stated how he behaved after such a journey.  However, he was humanized and humbled.  Gilgamesh returned to his place to share his experiences and wisdom for others not to make his same mistakes and for his name to be remembered as a hero.

  1. Do you believe any of the Four Functions of Mythology, as outlined in ‘Mythological Themes in Creative Literature and Art’, are alive and active in the story of Gilgamesh? Why or why not?

The Four Functions of Mythology are present in the story of Gilgamesh.  The more apparent one seems to be the first function, the “mystical function’, defined by Joseph Campbell as a symbolic way by which human nature dominates our most deepest animal instincts.  It is a transformation caused by the achievement of a certain “level of consciousness’ that is awaken when humans are fully aware of the reality of the cruelties of life.  It is often rejected, as Joseph Campbell states, because of the burden of such knowledge.  This level of awareness can be seen in Gilgamesh at the moment his friend, Enkidu, died.  Gilgamesh realizes how harsh life can be, in that death cannot be defeated nor avoided, and that his actions caused the loss of his friend.  Such burden was so heavy on him, he rejected it by choosing to become like a beast and searching for immortality.  The third function, “sociological function’, a need for sustaining social order, as defined by Joseph Campbell, can be seen when the gods sentenced Enkidu to die, because Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s actions were not considered appropriate, based on the social order, which can be perceived in terms of authoritative command.  In other words, certain behaviors were not socially accepted based on their position as humans in the social hierarchy.  The fact that the whole epic is about Gilgamesh achieving the necessary level of maturity, turns it into a total representation of the fourth function, “psychological’, in which humans should act according to social guidelines that are based on shared ideologies and cultural standpoints among their corresponding social groups, and the level of responsibility of such actions are dependent on their role in the society.

  1. What judgement would you make concerning the success or failure of Gilgamesh’s journey? For instance, he failed to return with the Plant of Everlasting Life, but what did he gain instead? Is it a worthy

Gilgamesh’s journey has both, success and failure.  Gilgamesh’s failing of the test of staying awake for seven days was a teaching for him.  It was the way to show him that after all, he was still a human, and that because of it, there were going to exist circumstances out of his control, such as death.  The battle of his quest was over from the beginning because he could not have changed the fate of his friend.  When something is out of our human control, fighting for it is a waste of energy and time, acceptance of the reality is the necessary task in order to be able to continue with our lives.

Gilgamesh also lost the Everlasting Plant to a reptile.  However, he brought back within the true power that he was seeking for, but did not know it, for he was blind of ignorance.  Gilgamesh realized at the end, that it was the wisdom, the kingly and priceless power he had been trying to find all this time, and that such power, the wisdom, cannot be gained with strength or magic.

The journey of Gilgamesh is a symbol of the journey we all go through to become mature:  to think thoroughly before we make a decision, to control our emotional and behavioral states, to learn from our mistakes, to be aware of the reality that surround us, to be more humble and less selfish, to gain knowledge and share it with others, to not precipitate judgements, to avoid confrontations.  We can summarize all this in one phrase:  to be wise.  Such attribute is more valuable than any power, elixir or trophy that he could have ever won.


The Hero’s Journey

1) I found The  Hero’s Journey Defined  to be an excellent synopsis of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  Reading The Hero’s Journey Defined  allowed me for the first time to gain an understanding of what it is that we as moviegoers believe to be satisfying. We tend to all watch new films with differing plots and genres, but the one constant tends to be the pivotal-heroic figure. Joseph Campbell was able to break down the three phases of the Hero’s Journey that tend to common no matter the story: 1) Departure – this is the departure from one spiritual or physical realm to another, 2) Initiation – this is equal to the trials and tribulations which the hero must succeed in passing, and which distinguish himself from the ordinary, and 3) Return – the hero does not merely indulge selfishly in his attained level of enlightenment or conquests of pursuit, but instead shares his gifts with the people around him that are not on an equal status.

One film where I saw parallels to Hero formula was a film I saw a second time recently starring Jim Carrey called, Yes Man.  In this film, Jim Carrey plays the role of a man named Carl who is a divorced loan officer at a bank. Carl lives alone in a very subdued life for the sole reason that he is not comfortable moving outside of his own comfort zone. Because of this, his life, profession, and friends around him suffer. After attending a conference led by an inspiring figure who convinces Carl to say yes to everything, Carl’s life begins an incredible transformation.

During Carl’s transformation, he said yes to an opportunity to learn to play the guitar. After extensive practice, Carl was able to help save a suicidal man on a balcony.


This was just one example of Carl’s new found abilities. Also early in Carl’s transformation, Carl meets his goddess Allison at a gas station for the first time. As Carl continues his transformation, he begins to get closer and closer with Allison as well.

Here is where I see the movie,  Yes Man, departing from the model shown above. After Carl reaches a threshold in his relationship with Allison where he balks at moving in with her, his world begins to come crashing down. And his relationship with Allison come down along with it. Carl is motivated to meet his mentor/helper one more time. Carl’s mentor explains that it is not necessary to say yes to everything, only that it is necessary to do so early so that the person undergoing transformation, in this case Carl, learns it is okay to say yes sometimes, as opposed to no. With this new found inspiration, Carl is able to patch up his relationship with Allison,  as well as maximize his potential in life for his own betterment and for those whom surround him.

2) I believe that cinema can meet our human needs as expressed in the four functions of mythology, but I think of specific movies really only being able to perform well at doing this in a piecemeal fashion. As far as function of mythology number one, there are many current movies one could count on to fulfill this role. Movies like the Hunger Games, Divergent, and Lincoln  are all movies which are emblematic of human beings breaking free from the pitfalls of recognition between good and evil.

As far as function number two, the best movie I can recall (although not the most recent) is the movie Contact, with Jodie Foster. This was certainly a movie which allowed one to consider a universe which lay beyond the one that we as humans are exposed to on a daily basis here on Earth.

Function number three is where I tend to see a break with Hollywood from the norm. Movies today tend to focus more often I believe on certain societal problems and how they relate to other human beings. I believe many of these societal problems, such as global warming, war, Machiavellian business or political practices, etc., all tend to point the finger at the current status quo as being the problem. The problem we may tend to see when we look at these various problems which are pointed out is whether a particular problem has a current viable solution, and if so will that viable solution really serve to make people better off or possible worse off in economic or social ways. This is a tough question to answer because it is hard to measure comparable statistics when the impact of certain alternative practices cannot always be accurately predicted, and second and third order effects stemming from an action are often extremely difficult to contemplate.

Hero’s Journey

1) I believe the epic of Star Wars successfully melded the hero’s journey stages appropriately leading to easy acceptance by the audience as a true classic. For example, the story follows Luke Skywalker, who, unbeknownst to him, was about to become a hero and embark upon an epic journey. The tale began with Luke as an innocent young man with no ambition beyond working on his uncle’s farm on his home planet. Through assistance of Obi-Wan Kenobi, he was introduced to a “supernatural’ awakening to the force, which he himself unwillingly possessed.

Through various plot twists, he began his journey and finally was in search of the master, Yoda, to help him better understand himself and the force within him. After which, through many battles against the Dark Side of the force, he finally returned as a master Jedi. He saved his friends from a giant slug.

This series of films followed the formula well, especially if it is broken down specifically to Campbell’s definition of a hero’s journey. This quest of Luke Skywalker has what seems to be the major enforcer of all great mythologies, and that is a moral, or “light side’ hero versus the immoral, or “dark side’. I wonder if the hero’s journey formula is what the film’s creators followed in order to gain such a following as the series now possesses, despite the hidden, religion-based foundation.

2) I feel that most good films, i.e., those that seek to do more than entertain, expand on the four functions of mythology, in other words, human curiosity. When a story is written, the director or writer sits down and tries to envision what he/she wants the audience to get out of the film. I imagine they begin by surveying the four functions of mythology, which would encompass the metaphysical, cosmological, sociological, and psychological aspects of the human experience. It is interesting how some films go so far as to begin the film with the main character as an infant and end with the main character old, experienced, and near death. Through these four life aspects using mythology, this directs the audience to examine their own experiences and helps the film connect each of us to who we are, who we will be, and how we hope to reach our life’

A Hero’s Journey

Spiderman is a movie that comes to mind when I think of the Hero’s Journey. In this movie the main character, and hero, Peter, acquires super natural powers. I think the general formula was done well in the movie. Peter goes through the departure phase after he learns he has the super natural powers and then he goes through experimenting with them. In one scene in the movie he is in his room testing his capability of using his newly acquired “spidy’ senses, as shown in the picture below.


Another aspect that follows the concept of the Hero’s Journey is the absence of his parents and then his uncle. The absence of a father figure is what sets up the hero. Part of his challenges and temptations is shown when he has to go through deciding if he should use his powers for “evil or good.’


I believe that many movies today do meet the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology. Movies can definitely meet these needs. I think that many movies fill the need for mystery. One example is Snow White and the Huntsmen. There is a mystery at the beginning of who the queen is and what her motive is. Many movies feel the need to know about our universe, one example is the movie Star Trek. Movies can meet all these need because they are depictions of stories and stories can be made up. Most movies are for entertainment purposes and in order to truly entertain people the movie industry must make movies that meet one or more of these needs.

A Moral Journey

The movie, “Thank you for Smoking’ is a story of an un-likely hero. Nick Naylor is a lobbyist for big industry Tabaco who users the power of ‘spin’ to sell cigarettes to anyone and everyone. To quote Nick himself, “Every time I’m on a plane I try to convince the guy next to me to pick up smoking. I figure with how much he’ll be spending on tobacco soon I just paid for my flight.’ This is what makes Nicks journey interesting. It’s not a journey of adventure or action, but more of morals and ethics.

Nick’s journey begins when his ex-wife chooses to re-marry, which causes Nick to worry about his relationship with his 12 year old son. Nick sets course and takes his son with him on a month of business trips so that he can spend more time with his son. During this trip Nick tries to be a positive role model for their son, showing him around the big cities, and teaching his son the art of ‘spin.’ But Nick ends up showing his son the dark side of the Tabaco industry as well. Making Nick question his own plans with his son. This is where Nick meets his threshold; can Nick still be a positive role model for his son and still work for the Tabaco industry?

Nick becomes the target of an assassination. Kidnapped on the streets and forced to wear enough nicotine patches to poison him. Nick is left on the streets to die; hospitalized Nick soon wakes from a coma. But, the doctors say because of how much nicotine was introduced to his system if he smokes another cigarette he could die. This is much like a supernatural aid for our hero, or even a rebirth. Nick is forced to stop smoking by an outside force, which changes his perspectives. Nick begins questioning why it is the Tabaco industry he is fighting for.

Soon after the assassination attempt, private interviews with Nick are released to the public that destroys Nick’s credibility. Nick falls into depression until his son helps him recall the integrity in his job that everyone deserves a strong defense. Nick has come to his realization, that even if he’s not proud of what he’s done he’s taught his son that everyone deserves a fair fight. Nick returns to Capitol Hill to defend the Tabaco industry in a senate committee hearing for the FCC and makes a strong argument against the use of poison labels on cigarette packs. Nick, after finishing his last job for his employer, quits and leaves the Tabaco industry behind with the goal to defend people he doesn’t have to hate; to be a better role model for his son.

I believe that good cinema meets the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology. Movies easily create universes in which humans belong with a distinct picture of society. In the example of “Thank you for Smoking’ the movie doesn’t have to try very hard to establish those functions; as they are largely based of our culture anyway. The mystery behind is movie is how the power of argument is used. The movies main premise is that if you argue well enough you can win any battle, which makes people beg the question; can the Tabaco industry be right? When by the end your left with more of psychological question of what makes an answer right or wrong? Good movies leave should leave the viewer thinking afterwards, and by using the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology it helps movies invoke those deeper questions we have about ourselves or about society.

The Hero’s Journey

  1. “The Hero’s Journey,’ is a good read that makes me think of a couple different movies but one in particular: Kung Fu Panda. This comedy illustrates heroic acts from a different point of view. It starts with a lazy panda that is infatuated with Kung Fu but doesn’t have a lick of coordination or athletic ability. As he is working in his families’ soup he practices his martial arts moves. Po is randomly chosen to complete an ancient prophecy. His dreams have come true. Po joins the Furious Five in training. Po is no match to these guys they can run circles around Po. The master trainer, Master Shifu has his work cut out for him, he fully doubts that Po will be good at anything other than eating. Po puts in long days of training that ends up working to his advantage. The Five must fight Tia Lang a bad previous student of Master Shifu. Tia Lang fights and beats all the other Five and this is where Po comes in to save the day. Po uses his girth to help him beat Tia Lang and becomes the hero.                                                                       Po takes quite the journey during his training with Master Shifu. He gets around many obstacles that he finds with his size and stature. Po’s dreams were coming true pushing him to continue his training even when things were not going well. For the most part I believe that this movie follows “The Hero’s Journey,’ Po learned a lot about kung fu and at times thought that his dream wasn’t for him but with perseverance he pulled through eventually being the hero defeating Tia Lang.


  1.  I do not believe that current cinema meets or follows the points expressed in the Four Functions of Mythology. In order for cinema to reach the guidelines movies need to be from a piece of written work. As seen in many other students’ discussions I believe that movie producers are more focused on what people want to see which is what makes them money. The technology these days gives them many different options creating a tough environment for movie producers. If the producers were to go off of the four functions of mythology the movies would more than likely be super boring and no one would watch. In the third section of the mythology it talks about morals and social norms but the problem with this is that everyone has a different view on that these days.