For the last quarter of a century, the world has been entranced by the vision of George Lucas. His famed Star Wars trilogy, arguably the greatest movie series in history, has had an incalculable effect on society. What most people fail to realize is that this story began as the embodiment of Joseph Campbell's book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Lucas and Campbell were very close friends, and apparently, Lucas was a fan of Campbell's work, particularly his studies on archetypes. In fact, the storyline of Star Wars is seemingly based on an outline paralleling Campbell's archetype of the hero. The first part of the hero's story is the call to adventure.
This is typically a circumstance brought on by either a message received, a tragedy suffered, or a threshold reached, be it an age, a responsibility, or the level of some pertinent factor. In Star Wars, the parallel is when Luke Skywalker is introduced to R 2-D 2 and C-3 PO, who, unbeknownst to young Luke, was built by his father Anakin. This chance meeting leads Luke to Obi-Wan Kenobi/Ben Kenobi, an old Jedi who fought in the Clone Wars with Anakin. From here, Luke returns to his Uncle Owen's home and finds both his uncle and aunt dead.
Consequently, Luke leaves to go with Kenobi, and the saga begins. The second part of the hero's story is the refusal of the call. This is not necessarily mandatory to all hero stories, but is common in many of them. In Star Wars, the corresponding element is when Luke is originally reluctant to follow his Uncle Owen's instructions regarding the droids, R 2-D 2 and C-3 PO. Had he not eventually followed his directions, our story would likely be nothing more than the story of a small dirt farm on Tattooine. The third part of the hero's story is the advent of supernatural aid.
Often, this comes in the form of an angel, a god or goddess, or some type of magic. In our story, this parallel is obvious. The Force is a mystical power that governs the universe. Those who are near it are helped by it. Those far from it are not. Next, we look to the crossing of the first threshold.
This is where the hero usually makes his first step out of his comfort zone. When Luke and company leave Mos Eisley, Luke is, for the first time in the story, out of his comfort zone. Some could say that Mos Eisley is itself outside Luke's comfort zone, but if seen in the context of the guardian, Han Solo and Chewbacca make the Exodus from Tattooine via Mos Eisley and the Millennium Falcon the threshold. Subsequently, the hero must become Jonah. No, this is not a mistake.
The belly of the whale, so to speak, is the hero's next destination. Luke's whale is twofold. First, he learns to trust his instincts aboard the Millennium Falcon in the scene where Luke is wearing the visor helmet and using his light saber to deflect the blaster shots from the training droid. Much later in the story, he learns to trust The Force while in the canal, flying his X-wing towards the exhaust port while trying to destroy the Death Star. In turn, the hero must travel a bumpy road, consisting of trials and tribulations. Luke's road is within the Empire's prison before retrieving Princess Leia.
In this prison, he is shot at repeatedly by Imperial Storm Troopers wielding blasters while running from his captors. Eventually, he tricks the guards into believing that he is a Storm Trooper, which allows him to rescue Leia. This leads us to our next step. The seventh step in the hero's story is the meeting with the goddess. In The Odyssey, Odysseus meets with Athena. In Star Wars, Luke's "goddess" is Carey Fischer.
Likewise, I was a little disappointed. In all seriousness, though, Princess Leia did help the others out of their situation, again reinforcing Campbell's archetypes of the hero story. The eighth step in our quest is the atonement with the father. In this story, Luke meets his father in The Empire Strikes Back, but is not atoned with his father until the end of The Return of the Jedi. The only contact between Luke and Anakin/Darth Vader in A New Hope is when Darth Vader is trying to kill him. Currently, we reach the triumph of every story.
Galahad had the grail. Luke had the Death Star. Granted, most heroes try to retrieve or gain their target. Luke had to destroy his.
This is the most exciting point of each story. Finally, the hero reaches the point of the story where everyone in the audience has to go to the restroom and is getting anxious to eat something. That is, he goes home. Luke never really went home.
He ends our installment with an honor presentation in the throne on a planet over which Leia had some sort of power. Eventually, Luke will return to Tattooine to visit, but will spend the rest of his life wandering the galaxy in his quest for balance in The Force. Star Wars is the quintessential epic. Granted, it was created in a time period known for cheesy, under-produced and under-budgeted movies. Granted, it was, at the time of its release, seen as "just another science fiction waste of time." That said, Star Wars is the single greatest modern example of mythological study of our time. I am sure that future in-depth studies of the mythological archetypal bases of the film series will show that George Lucas was, in truth and in fact, an astute student of mythology..