Screenwriting 101: A Look at the Hero’s Journey, Pt. 2

star-wars_1977By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

We continue with our Screenwriting tutorial on The Hero’s Journey, by analyzing Act Two of the original Star Wars. Check out Part 1 here.

Act Two opens with Luke’s aunt and uncle dead, and he finds new purpose to follow Obi Wan and learn the ways of the Force, and to fight the Empire, who has taken so much from him.  They take the droids to Mos Eisley, where they hope to find passage of the planet.

This is Pinch I. For Luke, it’s where he and Kenobi hire Han Solo and his companion Chewbacca to ferry them to the planet Alderaan. Han and Chewie are “Hero Partners,” as ultimately Princess Leia will be, and they blast there way off the planet Tatooine when the Empire catches up to Luke and company. They barely make their escape off Tatooine.

Act one, with Princess Leia in the clutches of the evil Empire. She’s in the belly of the beast here and since she refuses to cooperate, the evil Governor Tarkin destroys Alderaan with the Death Star, a foreshadowing of what lies in store if Luke can’t get the plans to the rebellion in time. The evil act is keenly felt by the spiritual Kenobi through the Force, as he utters “I fear something dreadful has happened.”

Coming out of hyperspace where Alderaan should be, they end up caught in a tractor beam by the death star and are brought into what Joseph Campbell calls “the Labyrinth,” a huge maze where they hope to find the princess, rescue her, and escape. This is also the story’s midpoint, from here, we’re going to start going downhill where the story beats stack up rather quickly.

As they enter what is known as “the ordeal,” Campbell’s story format drives the wise wizard to part company with Luke, in order to make sure they can escape the Death Star. Trusting him in the charge of his faithful companions, he reminds him of his call to adventure … to get the droids to the rebellion. “Your destiny lies along a different path than mine,” he assures.

This is where they split up, with Kenobi going to get rid of the tractor beam, while Luke and Han decide to rescue the princess, who is already in her own ordeal and facing her worse fears. But this isn’t he last we’ll hear from him. Quite the contrary.

After Kenobi leaves on his mission, fate takes a hand again as R2D2 discovers the princess is in a detention center nearby, and she’s scheduled too be executed. Luke hattches a plan to rescue her, but Han will have none of it. “Better her than me, “ he says. This is his refusal to the call of adventure. Before hand, he was just the Ferry pilot. But now he’s being called, and Luke uses the allure of a healthy reward to get his participation.

Right here is Field’s next pinch … Pinch 2 … leading to Han, Luke and Leia in a gun fight as their escape has been cut off.  Ever the quick thinker, Leia grabs Luke’s blaster and fires it at the wall, blasting a hole in it. She then screams to Solo “Into the garbage shoot, fly boy!” and dives in. Then goes Chewie, in spite of the smell, Luke, and then Han brings up the rear with a cowboy yell, before landing on a pile of trash. And for a brief moment, we can breathe. There’s even a quick joke to diffuse the tension. But it doesn’t last.

They are trapped in Campbell’s “belly of the beast,” literally, as Luke gets grabbed by a one eyed snake monster and is stuck in a death roll. They manage to free him, but there’s something much worse coming with no way to get out. In a few seconds they will meet a pressing end. While Solo tries to block the closing walls with debris.  Our heroes are going deeper behind the lines, plunged into danger and confronting their worse fears. They’re either going to  be crushed be the trash compactor, or, as Luke says “it wont’ take the Empire long to figure out where we’ve gone.”

This is where our heroes will manage to escape, after a running gun battle, an exciting gunfight, but also at great cost, as Kenobi sacrifices himself to Darth Vader in order to free his comrades. After facing and conquered their fears, our hero now has to deal with the loss of their sage mentor … Campbell refers to this as “losing the guide,” the source of Luke’s mystical wisdom.“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Luke says.

Once our hero has escaped the ordeal, which served as the consequence of his acceptance of the journey, he is forever changed.  But he’s also at his lowest point … and from there he’ll resurrect even stronger, rededicated to his mission.  This is where he’s faced with the ultimate ordeal ahead in Act Three.

Here’s The Hero’s Journey visually:

Hero's Journey

About James DeRuvo 173 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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