WELCOME BACK TO THE DYM OFF-SEASON STAR WARS SPECTACULAR!!
If you're just joining us, check out the intro here, PART 1 here, PART 2 here, and PART 3 here.
PART 4: THE EPIC TRILOGY OF TRILOGIES
It is preposterous that spome people love old Star Wars and hate the new ones, because they're all the same. Every new Star Wars is a meticulously engineered recreation of the Original Trilogy.
But, it still remains to be asked: What was so good about Star Wars in the first place? Why would it be worthwhile to make the same movie nine times? (Nine times? Nine. Times.) To answer this we will go back to George Lucas's original endeavor to make a meticulously engineered recreation of The Best Story Ever.
The third and final principle of The DYM Ultimate Star Wars Theory is that the story of the Skywalker Saga is the one of the most important stories we can tell, because it is our story, the story of our lives.
George Lucas wrote The Skywalker Saga with the specific goal of creating a mythology for the modern age. He stated this goal in numerous interviews and commentaries, including this quote from 1997 in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays:
“I had a longtime interest in fairy tales and mythology, that sort of thing. I had decided there was no modern mythology. I wanted to take old myths and put them into a new format that young people could relate to. Mythology always existed in unusual, unknown environments, so I chose space."
He was inspired by Joseph Campbell’s seminal 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (and even consulted with Campbell on the story outline). Campbell observes that the stories of nearly every legendary hero in the classic mythological pantheon had certain narrative set pieces in common. He called this the "monomyth" or "Hero’s Journey."
Relying in large part on the work of Carl Jung, Campbell interprets ancient literature similarly to the way we described it earlier, in PART 3: Not as flighty fanciful tales, but descriptive accounts of people and their world. Myths are true stories composed entirely of the metaphors of the imagination. The central key to Campbell’s analysis is Jung's most famous thesis - that ancient mythological narratives all sound the same, because the archetypes they employ represent of the very structure of the uncounscious mind.
So, the Hero’s Journey, in the metaphor-laden language of the ancients, is the story of your life. To your unconscious, any difficult situation you face is a "Call to Adventure." It could be getting a new job, running a marathon, or winning a fantasy football championship (obviously). This is the path you must walk:
You have a problem which forces you to try something new. The new experience is difficult in ways you hadn't anticipated. You may fail at first but you learn something about yourself along the way. What you learn changes you, and you eventually find that the new you is more capable of accomplishing your goal. Perhaps, in the end, you'll be able to teach other what you've learned as well.
So now you also know that every time you get stuck in traffic or step in dog shit, these are among the trials that all heroes must encounter on the road to glory.
That is what Star Wars is about.
Now, compare the mundane adventure we just described to Campbell's summary of the typical Hero's story arc:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder. Fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won. The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
Campbell identified the universal structure of hero stories as a series of specific symbolically significant events organized across 3 acts: The Departure, The Initiation, and The Return.
In the first act the heroes learns that there is much more to the world than what they see, and they meet a guide who helps them learn more.
To be initiated into the mysteries, the hero must undergo a metaphorphosis. To change themselves, the hero must face their greatest fears so, the second act becomes a journey of self-discovery.
The third act is the hero returning to the world they departed from in act 1. There have been many trials along the way - some failures and some successes. But the final victory in act 3 is decisive because the hero has brought their tranformitive power back to change (and save) the entire world.
In Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell gives us much more than an abstract of the three-act drama. He identifies 17 specific events that consistently occur in all Heroes' Journeys, and he describes the archetypal significance of each one. Every Star Wars Trilogy follows this exact outline - in fact, the essential plot points in every Star Wars are one of these 17 steps, all occurring in the same order that Campbell prescribed. His essential steps of the Hero's Journey are as follows:
The specific steps of the Hero's Journey have been documented by numerous scholars with slight variations*. The image above, for instance, has the "Rescue from Without" in the second act instead of the third. It is clear that Lucas followed Campbell's version most closely, but illustrations like this canserve as a handy guide.
Act 1: The Epic Original
The original Star Wars was, for practical reasons, written so that it could stand on its own and still capture at least the rough outline of the Hero’s Journey. It was constructed in a classical "ring" structure such that the film ends with a reference to where it began (as the Hero metaphorically "returns" to the world): The first scene has Leia standing before Vader, refusing to give him something; the last scene has Leia standing before Luke, giving something to him. The first half of the movie is generally about Obi-Wan and Han helping Luke escape from his home; the second half is them helping Leia return home (or, failing that, to the Rebel base). The two halves are bifurcated by Luke taking his “first step into a larger world” exactly half-way through the film.
The next two episodes present much more detailed versions of the traditional second and third acts of the Hero’s Journey. Luke goes far deeper into the mystery realm in The Empire Strikes Back, and then he learns much more about himself and becomes a greater hero in Return of the Jedi. They also come together with New Hope to form an expanded ring where the next two films, Jedi in particular, have layered references the original film.
New Hope and Jedi have many parallels in storyline like both journeys begin with R2-D2 and C-3PO venturing ahead of the heroes carrying a message. Then both films end with the destruction of the Death Star. But they also contained mirror opposite images in the classic mythological style. Such that the first scene of Episode IV, where Leia was alone with Vader, is reflected in the end of Episode VI, where Luke alone with Vader's burning in a funeral pyre. Now, in the trilogy, Luke begins his journey by losing his family (Aunt and Uncle) and ends it by finding his family (Sister and Father), with his self-revealing trip into the magic tree on Dagobah exactly half-way through the “second act” (Episode V).
Act 2: The Epic Prequel
The Prequel Trilogy sets a distinctly different tone from the uplifting heroism of the Originals. There is an uneasiness and tension, which signals that each of Anakin’s accomplishments is actually another step in his decent. Anakin's story is ostensibly a trajedy, not a typical Hero's Journey. But, remember that the Prequels are the "second act" of the Trilogy of Trilogies, so subterfuge and mystery abounds and this part of the story is not as straightforward as it seems.
The Prequels manage to recreate all 17 essential stages of the monomyth while still having a tragic end to Anakin's tale. They accomplish this by playing the "acts" of the monomyth in reverse - so that the steps of the first act take place in Episode III, and the third act steps take place in Episode I. Additionally, the three films shift the focus of the monomyth story arc to three different jouneys in Anakin's life:
Anakin's place in the Saga is defined by his embrace of the Dark Side, and the destruction of the Jedi. This is his "Dearture." But he is not called to this adventure until Episode III, when Palpatine offers the "Supernatural Aid" (Act 1, step 3) to help save