In the summer of 1976, while a young director worked with his more experienced cast, an old professor sat just off the set trying to stay cool in the Sahara heat. After every take, the 30 year-old director would come over to ask him if he had gotten the scene right. The old man hadn’t written the script, and in fact he had no personal feelings about the science fiction movie being made. After all, in 1977 science fiction was a haven for second-class directors, scripts, actors, and effects.
And the director did care. For him it was no silly script he was working through for his next payday, it was his life’s dream. But that was why he kept asking the old man for his input. You see, Star Wars might have been a film about aliens and laser swords, but it was based on a universal mythology that had been laid out by Joseph Campbell over the previous decades. George Lucas wanted it done right, and there was only one person who could ensure that.
Lucas managed to please his mentor and in the process captured the world’s imagination. His take on the ancient theme of “Six go around the world” along with his basic ideas of twins inheriting, good and bad, and the hero from obscurity hit a chord with people that resounds to this day. It accomplished what I hope for in my own writing, what any writer who has something to say shoots for.
Over a decade ago, Lucas returned to his universe for three more films. They were good, they had beautiful effects, and the acting was effective. They weren’t as good as the originals though. They didn’t follow the same universal themes as Episodes IV through VI. The plots were interesting but not magical. That, and we already knew what was going to happen and how the characters were going to get there.
Later this year Episode VII will come out. I’m excited. I love the Star Wars universe, I appreciate what Lucas can do with a movie, and Disney has been coming out with some great stuff over the last few years. I just hope that Lucas has handed them the same formula he used in the 1970s, a formula that worked and touched us all.
Joseph Campbell was a brilliant man. Where the rest of us read myths and remember them, he found patterns throughout the world and discovered a common consciousness in humanity. He wasn’t one-dimensional, either. He worked with Carl Jung on that very subject. He worked with Marijas Gimbutas in her studies on prehistorical matriarchal cultures. To both subjects he added an understanding of humanity that may never be matched.