“It’s not over yet.” – Princess Leia
Here is part 3 of The Hero’s Journey, focusing on Star Wars: A New Hope. Story-wise, we have set up the big climax, Act III, and if you’ve set up your story right, it will practically write itself. Act III is where all the action is going build to the climax, and we’ll soon find out whether the obstacles that our hero has overcome have prepared him for the ultimate struggle ahead. Joseph Campbell calls this Slaying the Dragon, and it’s where our hero and his band of friends have to return to the Death Star, with the rebellion in tow, for the final battle. (Check out part 1 here and part 2 here.)
After escaping, they make their way to Yavin base, with the MacGuffin (the Death Star Plans hidden in the droid R2D2), with the aim of using the plans to formulate a last ditch final stand, an attack on a battle station that many believe in impregnable, even though the plans show a major weakness. It’s a desperate all or nothing gamble that Han thinks is suicide. So once again, he begins to refuse his own call to adventure. Meanwhile, Luke joins the attack, and in force, the rebellion storms the Death Star with as many fighters as they can spare.
As Luke sees his childhood friend blown out the sky by the deadly piloting skill of Darth Vader, and their leader who dives in a kamikaze style attack to the surface, all seems lost. That’s when Luke hears the voice of his guide, the wizard (Obi-Wan) who calls to him from the beyond to “Use the Force, Luke!”
With Vader homing in on Luke, the Dark Lord feels something and says, “The Force is strong with this one.” Meanwhile, Luke hears Kenobi’s voice say, “Luke, trust me,” and he does, like a sheep and a shepherd. But Vader is about to put an end to all that, triumphantly saying “I have you now,” and that’s when we get the return of Han, who’s well placed shot destoys two fighters and sends Vader tumbling out into space. Han has once again answered the call to adventure, declaring, “You’re all clear kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home.”
Using the mystical knowledge that his guide has taught him, Luke manages to make the right shot and destroys the Death Star, slaying the dragon. All that’s left is for both to return to claim what Campbell calls “the elixir,” or in this case, quite literally the “sword.” Medals, acceptance in the Rebellion hierarchy, and treasure from a grateful rebellion. And Han, of course, gets the girl, or so he thinks.
Of course, it’s not over yet. For this call to adventure has many trials to it, before the struggle is over. And the Hero and his guardians will take this journey again and again. But that’s for another time.
By the way, if you want to read a great book that looks at classic blockbusters that have used Campbell’s classic storytelling tool, check out Myth & the Movies: Discovering the Myth Structure of 50 Unforgettable Films by Stuart Voytilla. From romance, to drama, adventure, and comedy, Voytilla looks at some of the best stories from just about every single genre that filmmakers play with. And he shows how The Hero’s Journey works for every single one of them. It’s a great read, and a must have for any screenwriter.
May the Force be with you!
Here is The Hero’s Journey visually: