The Monomyth in American Science Fiction Films

28 Visions of the Hero’s Journey


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About the Book

One of the great intellectual achievements of the 20th century, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces is an elaborate articulation of the monomyth: the narrative pattern underlying countless stories from the most ancient myths and legends to the films and television series of today. The monomyth’s fundamental storyline, in Campbell’s words, sees “the hero venture forth from the world of the 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 to his fellow man.” Campbell asserted that the hero is each of us—thus the monomyth’s endurance as a compelling plot structure.

This study examines the monomyth in the context of Campbell’s The Hero and discusses the use of this versatile narrative in 26 films and two television shows produced between 1960 and 2009, including the initial Star Wars trilogy (1977–1983), The Time Machine (1960), Logan’s Run (1976), Escape from New York (1981), Tron (1982), The Terminator (1984), The Matrix (1999), the first 11 Star Trek films (1979–2009), and the Sci Fi Channel’s miniseries Frank Herbert’s Dune (2000) and Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune (2003).

About the Author(s)

Donald E. Palumbo is a professor of English at East Carolina University. He lives in Greenville, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Donald E. Palumbo

Series Editors Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 204
Bibliographic Info: notes, filmography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7911-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1851-7
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Table of Contents

Introduction—On Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth and The Hero with a Thousand Faces 1
1. George Lucas’ Original Star Wars Trilogy 15
2. Before (and a Little After) A New Hope: The Time Machine, Logan’s Run and Time After Time 33
3. Early ’80s Cult Films: Escape from New York, Tron, Dreamscape and The Last Starfighter 48
4. Dune: Herbert’s Novels, Lynch’s Film and the Scifi Channel’s Two Miniseries 73
5. The Terminator: Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese as a Composite Hero 100
6. Back to the Future: Science Fiction Film Comedy as Adolescent Wish Fulfillment Fantasy 109
7. Red Pills, Problematic Realities, Metaphorical Dreams and the Monomyth in Total Recall and The Matrix 123
8. Celebrating a Formula: The First Ten Star Trek Films 142
9. Star Trek Rebooted: J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek 176
Notes 189
Bibliography and Filmography 191
Index 195

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Thoughtfully argued, thoroughly researched”—SFRA Review

• “Palumbo combines his enthusiasm for science fiction movies with his deep involvement with Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth plot structure in this detailed and insightful analysis of sf quest movies from 1960 to 2009…compelling…recommended”—Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts