Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope, Archetypal Structure Analysis

#starwars #structure #herosjourney

"I came to the conclusion after American Graffiti that what's valuable for me is to set standards, not to show people the world the way it is...around the period of this came to me that there really was no modern use of mythology...The Western was possibly the last generically American fairy tale, telling us about our values. And once the Western disappeared, nothing has ever taken its place. In literature, we were going off into science that's when I started doing more strenuous research on fairy tales, folklore, and mythology, and I started reading Joe's books. Before that, I hadn't read any of Joe's books...It was very eerie because in reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces I began to realize that my first draft of Star Wars was following classic motifs... So I modified my next draft according to what I'd been learning about classical motifs and made it a little bit more consistent...I went on to read The Masks of God and many other books." George Lucas

Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope

This is what George Lucas said in the authorized biography of Joseph Campbell, A Fire in the Mind. For all fans and followers of the Star Wars phenomenon around the world, it is not a secret that Joseph Campbell’s work influenced the Star Wars series immensely and this is exactly the reason why I am also analyzing this cult movie series (I decided to go deep just with the first one because it set the standard). I think it can be really valuable to see how the Intuitive Screenwriting Wheel, works on a real example, the narrative that follows the Hero’s Journey. So let’s see what we can learn by comparing the stages.

Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell

Also, note that the structure Star Wars was built upon is not Christopher Vogler’s Hero’s Journey from The Writer’s Journey book, it was rather the opposite. Vogler also took this film into consideration while he was working on the book. Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope was released in 1977, while The Writer’s Journey was published in 1992. Vogler wrote the original text of the memo that inspired the book in the mid-1980s while he was working as a story consultant for Walt Disney Pictures.

1. Warrior →Fool (The exposition of a wound — ego) BATTLEFIELD

Pain caused by the wrong identity vs. all possible identities. The main conflict is introduced.

“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.”

In the prologue once again, we see that the ordinary world (in this case, the galaxy) is actually a BATTLEFIELD where the main conflict of the story is introduced –- Freedom vs. Evil. The opening starts with the attack, Dart Vader enters Princess Leia’s starship, looking for the Death Star plans. Before she is taken into custody, Princess Leia, who is also one of the rebellion leaders, secretly gives the plans to R2D2 – the droid.

So, it is interesting that the exposition of the wound and ego can be the introduction of the Antagonist (Dart Vader – Dark Father) who is representative of the pain that the wound and ego battle in this film.

R2D2 and another humanoid robot C-3PO escape the ship and end up on the strange and deserted planet Tatooine.


2. Creator →Orphan (A ray of hope) HEART’S DESIRE

Hero’s heart vs. non-authentic relationships.

… where they are captured by Jawa traders and sold to Luke and his uncle. Droids tell Luke about the rebellion and his eyes sparkle. A part of the message Princess Leia hid in RT-D2 comes through: “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only chance.” Again, we see Luke’s eyes sparkle, he says: “She is beautiful.” *THE CALL TO ADVENTURE (CAMPBELL-VOGLER)

Luke also wants to go to the academy (this is what his heart desires) but his uncle wants him to stay home and help him. This is the ‘non-authentic relationships’ part I am putting into the equation. The uncle who is obviously protecting Luke is actually lying; he is afraid that Luke might be a lot like his father who Luke believes is dead.

We can also translate this stage as 'the hero either follows his heart or he is lost', or humanity better follow its heart or they are lost.

When he returns, Luke discovers R2-D2 is missing, but he hesitates – afraid to go after him. He knows the planet is dangerous and it’s probably better to stay home.


In the morning, Luke is gone.

*While structuring your film, I really encourage you to choose at least one image that will represent the stage you are working on, so as soon as you know where you are heading, it will be easier to create steps (scenes) that fit on your way there. In Star Wars, an image that encapsulates this stage is: Luke is dreaming about the adventure.

3. Explorer →Magician (The hero decides to go on a quest) A BETTER LIFE IS POSSIBLE

Wrong belief vs. new vision.

We can reformulate this: as soon as the hero goes on a quest, he encounters the first obstacle, something or someone who wants to preserve the old system and structures (the Magician is always connected with the rebel archetype, someone who wants to change the system).

But also, the Magician is connected to secret knowledge. Never forget that the power for change and secret knowledge come from the same space: you have to know how things work so you are able to fight them.


In this third stage, Luke meets his mentor – Obi-Wan, the Jedi knight who can talk to droids. He gives Luke his father’s sword: a lightsaber, a weapon used by the Jedi knights who were guardians of peace and justice, but who had been destroyed by Vader. Vader was a former pupil of Obi-Wan's, who was seduced by the dark side of the Force. Luke also learns what his uncle kept from him: his father fought alongside Obi-Wan as a Jedi Knight until Vader murdered him.

Obi-Wan tells Luke the greatest secret knowledge of the Universe, like every good mentor, should do: “The force is what gives Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the Universe together.”

R2-D2 plays Leia's message for Obi-Wan, in which she begs him to take the Death Star plans to her home planet of Alderaan and give them to her father for analysis.

Obi-Wan invites Luke to go with him to Alderaan to help Leia: “She needs you, Luke, learn about the force Luke,” but he refuses, he says his aunt and uncle need him.

After Luke realizes that stormtroopers who were looking for droids killed his aunt and uncle, he decides to go on a quest. So, it comes down to ‘new vision vs old belief:’ ‘I want to become a Jedi like my father.’ Obi-Wan helps Luke stay committed to the transformation from now on.


4. Lover →Caregiver (Wish storyline) LOVE INTRODUCED

Love triggers fear (overprotectiveness).

In this stage, we don’t have a love story as we would usually have, but rather the Lover – Caregiver principle (as the opposite of darkness) is introduced. Darth Vader is interrogating Princess Leia. Leia is the ‘the mother of the rebels’ and a true Caregiver who is standing up against the shadow Caregiver