Avatar – The Hero’s journey breakdown

Ordinary world

Jake is paraplegic marine on a deadly alien world set in the future.

Call to Adventure

Jake replaces his twin brother in the Avatar program and travels to another planet

Refusal of the call

There’s no true refusal from Jake, he simply begrudgingly accepts his lot in life. The refusal is flipped onto his Mentor Grace, who thinks it’s a terrible idea using a marine instead of scientist but is forced into accepting the situation because the military and the corporation are funding her operation

Supernatural Aid

Grace becomes his mentor and gives him his Avatar, opening  whole new world for him.

Crossing the First Threshold

Whilst on a scientific expedition into the forest, Jake becomes separated from the group when he has to escape from the Thanator

Belly of the whale

Jake is being hunted by animals, cornered and near death before he is rescued by Neytiri

The Road of the trials

Jake must learn the ways of the Na’vi. How to hunt, how to ride, how to capture his own Banshee

Meeting with the Goddess

Even though the actual Goddess on this planet is the Ewya, Neytiri is the Goddess who motivates Jake to become a hero “If you are one of us, help us.”

Woman as Temptress

Quaritch offers Jake a chance to get his real legs back, however in order to get he must betray his new people.

Death of the mentor

Grace is wounded during the escape and she cannot be saved

Atonement with the Father

Jake understands the Na’vi people and their connection to the world around them. He prays to Eywa to help them in their upcoming battle.

Apotheosis

Jake captures the Toruk Makto. This elevates him to a God like status.

Ultimate Boon

Jake becomes the leader of the Na’vi and rallies them to fight against the human invasion. Here he has completely integrated into his new people

The Magic flight

Jake leads the Na’vi in a battle against the humans.

Rescue from without

The battle appears lost but Eywa sends in her own army of the planet’s creatures and they tear through the soldiers.

The Magic flight

Jake and Neytiri fight the final battle against Quaritch

Rescue from without

Jake is about to be killed by Quaritch when Neytiri shoots him with her arrows

The crossing of the return Threshold

Neytiri sees Jake for the first time in his human form and breaking the barrier between the Na’vi and the human world for them.

Master of two worlds

They send the Humans back to their own world.

Freedom to live

Jake’s eyes open from inside his Avatar.

There are two final battles in this story, the first is humans versus Na’vi on a massive scale but then a second battle more personal battle between Protagonist and the Antagonist. This gives a more satisfying ending rather than Quaritch just dying randomly in some explosion in the sky.

The Terminator The Hero’s journey breakdown

Ordinary world

Sarah Conner is a waitress

Call to Adventure

Reece rescues Sarah from being killed by The Terminator

Refusal of the call

Reece tells her the story of the rise of Skynet and how two soldiers have been sent back in time, one man, one machine. One to kill, the other to protect, but she doesn’t believe this and tries to get out of the car.

Supernatural Aid

Reece comes from back from the future to rescue her with the aid of a time travelling machine and special knowledge that comes from having arrived form the future

Crossing the First Threshold

They go on the run from The Terminator

Belly of the whale

Reece is arrested and she falls asleep in the police station until The Terminator arrives and kills everyone. Reece is wounded.

The Road of the trials

The Terminator chases them and the trials are trying to avoid capture whilst at the same time Sarah is trying to come to terms with the situation she is in. And, of course, like all love stories the trials involve the two characters falling in love and the obstacles in the way of that.

Meeting with the Goddess

Reece is her love interest; he admires her for the woman she is about to become even though she’s just a waitress and barely a fully-grown woman at this stage.

Woman as Temptress

The police tell her that Reece is crazy and it’s all some made up story. She’s confused but inclined to believe them. If she does believe them then it will pull her away from her journey.

Atonement with the Father

This was cut out of the film but it’s when Sarah looks up Cyberdine in the phone book and wants to attack it and do to Skynet what it is trying to do to her son John.

You can watch it here

Apotheosis

The Apotheosis is flipped on The Terminator, he impersonates Sarah’s mother and gains special knowledge as to her whereabouts.

Ultimate Boon

Reece and Sarah make love and she becomes (although as yet unknowingly) the future mother of John Conner, leader of the resistance.

The Magic flight

The Terminator arrives at the motel and chases them again. They throw their home made grenades at him and the fight ends when the truck crashed and The Terminator is engulfed in flames.

The crossing of the return Threshold

Reece is injured and can barely stand, The Terminator is bashing down the door, suddenly we see a side of Sarah we haven’t seen yet. She yells at him to get to his feet and drags him up so they can escape. Giving us a glimpse of what the future Sarah and mother of the resistance leader is going to look like.

Death of the mentor / Rescue from without

Reece sacrifices his life in an attempt to blow The Terminator up. Although the explosion doesn’t kill The Terminator, it breaks it in two and gives Sarah a precious advantage so she can kill it.

Master of two worlds

“You’re terminated fucker.”

Freedom to live

She drives down the road, pregnant with knowledge of the storm that’s coming for humanity.

 

 

This is perfect story telling, both as a stand alone film and also when looked at within the context of it’s sequel T2.

Compare with

The Terminator – Save the cat beat sheet 

Superman The Hero’s Journey breakdown

Superman

Ordinary world

Zod is imprisoned.

Jor-El tells the council that their planet is about to explode

Call to Adventure

Jor-El sends his son to Planet Earth to save his life when their planet is about to explode.

Refusal of the call

Lara implores him not to send him

Supernatural Aid

Jor El gives his baby the Green crystal which has amassed all the knowledge of Krypton and puts it in the rocket.

When Kal-El lands on earth he meets another mentor, Johnathan Kent who guides Clark’s early years. Giving him a simple life with honest rewards.

Death of the mentor

Jonathan dies from a weak heart while racing Clark.

Crossing the First Threshold

Clark takes the green crystal and goes on pilgrimage to the tundra of the North to learn of his origin

Belly of the whale

He enters the Fortress of solitude as a boy and then emerges as a man.

The Road of the trials

The trials are about integrating into human society both as Clark Kent the reporter and as Superman

Meeting with the Goddess

Lois Lane is in peril, about to die in a helicopter crash when Superman reveals himself to humanity for the first time.

“You’ve got me, who’s got you?” (one of the best lines in any Superhero film ever)

Apotheosis

He flies around earth at high speed and reverses time to save Lois

Ultimate Boon

Superman uses his super powers to hunt down Lex Luhor and faces him as a Superhero. He proves he is invulnerable to all Luthor’s initial attacks, however the Ultimate Boon stage is a reversal – His weakness for Kryptonite is exposed and he is nearly killed

Rescue from without

Miss Teschmacher removes the Kryptonite necklace from  Superman

The Magic flight

Superman flies to stop the two missiles. He succeeds with one but the other hits it’s target and Superman flies around saving people’s lives including people on a train and people on a school bus

The crossing of the return Threshold

Unfortunately can’t rescue Lois Lane in time and she dies. Superman refuses to accept this and flies off to reverse time.

Woman as Temptress

His love for Lois is what motivates him to disobey his father’s directive.

Atonement with the Father

“It is forbidden for you to interfere with the history of mankind.” Jor El

“Son, you were put here for a reason” Jonathan Kent

This is the dichotomy Superman faced, which he must reconcile in order to save Lois.

Master of two worlds

Superman saves everyone and drops Lex Luthor off in the prison yard and the Warden thanks him, Superman tells the Warden that they’re all on the same team.

He is a Super Hero and he can also be part of mankind.

Freedom to live

Superman flies into the atmosphere and gives us a wave. All is well.

 

This is one of my all time favorite Superhero films. Christopher Reeve and the script absolutely nail it in terms of what Superman is.

Interesting to note about this story is that it heavily loads the stages of the Hero’s Journey down the back end rather than spreading them out more evenly through the second act. Also, the Ultimate Boon stage is a reversal; it’s his weakness that is exposed.

The setup is superior to the Man of Steel and although the effects don’t compare to what is available today I think this is the superior film. (Although I will concede that flying around the Earth at high speed to turn back time is pretty lame and it also poses the question – Why didn’t he just fly that fast to stop the missiles in the first place?)

I stripped the music from Man of Steel first flight and replaced with Superman theme. watch it here

The Matrix – The Hero’s Journey Stages

Ordinary world

Neo has a boring job as a programmer for a large software company

Call to Adventure

He receives a message to follow the white rabbit on his computer and meets Trinity in a nightclub and tells him she knows the answer to the Question “What is the Matrix”

Refusal of the call

Neo receives a call from Morpheus and is guided out onto to a ledge to escape the agents looking for him but becomes scared and says, “I can’t do this” and is taken away by the agents.

Supernatural Aid

Morpheus is his supernatural aid, he gives him the red pill to enable him to see the truth and then trains him to be able to overcome his thoughts that ae holding him back so he can manipulate the Matrix

Crossing the First Threshold

Neo chooses to swallow the red pill

Belly of the whale

Neo enters the real world in s liquid filled pod guarded by mechanized octopus like creatures

The Road of the trials

Neo learns about the Matrix and his potential role in it. He learns how to fight and who his friends are.

Meeting with the Goddess

Trinity is the bringer of love. She kisses Neo once he has been killed by Agent Smith which brings him back to life

Woman as Temptress

This stage is flipped onto Cypher. He succumbs to the temptation offered by Agent Smith as he desires to give up the real world and return to the Matrix. Showing what happens when you take the easy way out

Death of the mentor

Morpheus is captured by Agents.

Atonement with the Father

Neo understands what Morpheus was telling him when he said he had to believe he was “The One” in order to be able to manipulate the Matrix

Ultimate Boon

Neo gains the courage and insight to confront the Agents, he is improving in his ability to manipulate the Matrix at the same level as the Agents.

The Magic flight

Fighting against and being chased by Agent Smith

Rescue from without

Trinity saves his life by kissing him in the real world which revives him in the Matrix

The crossing of the return Threshold

He returns from death as the One.

Apotheosis

Neo gains the ability to see the Matrix and has become The One with God-like abilities.

Master of two worlds

He’s now the One and he has the girl

Freedom to live

He tells the Machines, I’m going to show the people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them the world without you.

 

This was one of the best sci-fi movies ever made with it’s unique stylised fighting and other imagery. The next two films really came off the rails but this first one is near perfect. Unusually in this story, Neo’s Apotheosis occurs at the end of third act rather than at the end of the second act.

The Dark Knight – the Hero’s Journey stages

Ordinary world

The Batman has impacted on crime in Gotham, the Mob can’t do business like they used to and they don’t like it.

Call to Adventure

The Joker arrives on the crime scene in Gotham.

Refusal of the call

Batman ignores the Joker and focuses his attention on stopping the Mob “One man or the entire Mob. He can wait.”

Supernatural Aid

Lucious Fox is his mentor and supplies him with his equipment. Alfred also serves a role as a mentor but an emotional one.

Crossing the First Threshold

Batman agrees to help Harvey Dent and sets out to capture Lau.

Belly of the whale

Sometimes the Belly of the whale is about travelling a long way away. Bruce travels to Hong Kong and retrieves Lau.

The Road of the trials

Trying to catch the Joker and always being one step behind. The Joker wants Batman to reveal himself and public opinion is turning on Batman.

Meeting with the Goddess

The Goddess is Harvey Dent, he’s a good man who inspires Batman to be true hero. Batman supports him and embraces his values to bring justice to the city.

Woman as Temptress

Rachel makes a promise to Bruce that they would be together when he hangs up the mantle of Batman. In Batman Begins she was the Goddess but in this film she is the Temptress. She offers him a better life if he gives up his quest of being Batman.

But there is also a second temptress; Joker offers temptations and choice to Batman throughout the film. He tries to get Batman to violate his code of not killing. He tries to bring Batman down to his level and instead he succeeds by doing that to Harvey Dent.

Atonement with the Father

Alfred tells Bruce some men can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn. Eventually Bruce understands that this is what he’s dealing with, with the Joker.

Apotheosis

He becomes all seeing (like a God) when he harnesses the cell phone sonar technology to spy on all of Gotham

Death of the mentor

Lucious Fox wants no more part in Batman’s activities and resigns from Wayne Enterprises as he believes no one should have the power he has when he uses the surveillance equipment

Ultimate Boon

He learns where the Joker is and able to face him, armed with the knowledge he’s incredibly clever dangerous lunatic. He knows the clown guards are really the hostages so he takes out the SWAT team so they don’t fall into Joker’s trap and kill the hostages thinking they’re taking out the guards. He’s worked out how the Joker operates and isn’t at the disadvantage of  being two steps behind the Joker’s plan like he has been up to this point.

The Magic flight

The final fight between Joker and Batman. Joker looks to have defeated Batman and is about to blow up the ferries but Batman nails him with a hidden weapon and saves the Joker from falling to his death. The Joker has lost but he has a victory of sorts because he proved he could corrupt Harvey Dent

Rescue from without

The passengers on both ferries don’t kill each other. This distracts Joker so Batman can fire his dart at him.

The crossing of the return Threshold

Batman goes to help save Gordon and his family from Harvey Two Face Dent having endured the trials of Joker and proved that he can live by his code. He must now break it in order to save Gordon.

Master of two worlds

Batman has defeated the Joker and sacrifices his own reputation instead of letting Dent lose his.

Freedom to live

He disappears into the night. Gotham has the hero it deserves not the hero it needs.

 

The Dark Knight is easily one of the best superhero movies of all time. Whilst this breakdown contains all the elements of the hero’s journey there are a number of key story beats from The Dark Knight missing from this list.  Rachel’s death for example, although it does lead to the Ultimate Boon for Batman.

You may also like to compare with:

Batman Begins 

 

 

X-men The Hero’s Journey

Ordinary world

It’s a world where mutants exist and there is a political movement against them.

Call to Adventure

Rogue asks Wolverine for help

Refusal of the call

Initially Wolverine isn’t interested in helping her.

Supernatural Aid

Wolverine meets Charles Xavier when he wakes up in school for Mutants

Crossing the First Threshold

Wolverine agrees to stay at the school.

The Road of the trials

Wolverine struggles to fit in and accidentally stabs Rogue, she’s tricked into running away by Mystic and Wolverine goes after her.

Belly of the whale

Whilst in the train Magneto mangles Wolverine’s admantium frame.

Meeting with the Goddess

Rogue is the Goddess in this story, she inspires Wolverine’s heroism.

Woman as Temptress

Jean Grey is the Temptress, she’s a romantic distraction which could have an impact on him being part of the team if he gives in to it.

Death of the mentor

Mystic damages the Cerebro and then it knocks out Xavier

Atonement with the Father

Wolverine gets it; that he needs to be part of the Xmen

Apotheosis

Jean Grey uses the Cerebo to learn where Magneto is going.

Ultimate Boon

The X-men have become a team and they hop in the jet to rescue Rogue and stop Magneto’s plan to turn everyone into Mutants

The Magic flight

This is the fight between Magneto and the Xmen, they are trapped by their own mutant powers.

Rescue from without

The other Xmen help Wolverine get to Rogue.

The crossing of the return Threshold

Wolverine sacrifices himself to save Rogue and suffers extreme damage which looks like it’s unlikely he’ll be able to recover

Master of two worlds

Wolverine is part of the Xmen but he also has his own path to walk, learning about his past, working out why he is what he is.

Freedom to live

The world is changing, the anti-mutant law has been avoided and Magneto is imprisoned.

 

Batman Begins – The Hero’s journey stages

Batman Begins

Ordinary world

Bruce Wayne is the son of extraordinary wealthy parents and lives a sheltered life.

Call to Adventure

Bruce’s parents are murdered in front of him by a robber.

Refusal of the call

Bruce isn’t yet ready to take on the role of the Dark Knight, a man who can strike fear into criminals. Foolishly he takes a gun to kill the man who killed his parents but someone beats him to it. He needs to go on the journey first, to be worthy and to do that he must first learn what it is to be a criminal.

Supernatural Aid

Whilst in Bhutanese prison he meets Ra’s al Ghul and learns the ways of the League of Shadows.

Crossing the First Threshold

Bruce’s training begins, Teaching him how to fight but also giving him a code to live by.

The Road of the trials

The are two roads of the trials in Batman begins. The first is his training under Ra’s al Ghul where he learns his combat skills.

Meeting with the Goddess

Rachel Dawes is the assistant District Attorney and inspires Bruce to be good “It’s not who you are underneath. It’s what you do that defines you.”

Woman as Temptress

Ra’s al Ghul asks him to execute a prisoner as part of his training. Bruce refuses and destroys the League of Shadows head quarters.

Second Supernatural aid

Lucius Fox supplies him with all his high tech military devices

Belly of the whale

Bruce enters the well which was the source of his fear as a child and discovers a bat cave. He decides to own the bat as his symbol to inspire fear into Gotham’s criminals

The second Road of the trials

Bruce develops his high tech equipment and becomes the Batman. He jumps off a roof and realizes he needs to have the ability to fly and develops a cape that can let him glide. He’s also learning how the city and police operate which enables him to become Batman.

Atonement with the Father

Lucius learns that Bruce is Batman when he is poisoned by The Scarecrow and Alfred has to contact Lucius to create a cure for the toxin. Now Bruce and his mentor are both on the page are are ‘at one with’ each other.

Apotheosis

Batman learns the plan to disperse the fear gas through a microwave dispersal in poison the entire city.

Ultimate Boon

He rescues Rachel in his Batcar while the police are in hot pursuit. He is no longer a struggling novice like he was earlier in the story. He is now a fully developed hero ready to take on Ra’s al Ghul.

The Death of the mentor

When Bruce discovers that Henri Ducard is really Ra’s al Ghul and then Ghul burns his house down.

The Magic flight

Bruce flies over the sealed off area of Gotham where criminals are running riot and then fights Ra’s al Ghul on the train to stop the toxin from being released onto the atmosphere, affecting everyone in the city.

Rescue from without

Gordon destroys the train bridge so the train cannot get to the centre and blow the city’s entire water supply.

The crossing of the return Threshold

Batman fights and Ra al Ghul, not as a student but as an equal.

Master of two worlds

“I’m not going to kill you but I don’t have to save you”

Freedom to live

Bruce buys his company back and Gotham has the Batman

 

 

Batman begins is brilliant story telling. Tricky, non-linear, and has two mentors and two separate road of the trials, this is unusual and very well executed.

You may also like to compare with:

The Dark Knight

This is my painting Master and Student. See more of my Artwork of Girls and Comics

 

Spiderman – The Hero’s Journey breakdown

Spiderman

Ordinary World

Peter Parker is a nerdy kid at school. He’s an orphan with an unhappy life

 

Call to adventure

Peter gets bitten by a radioactive spider which gives him the abilities and proportionate strength of a spider

 

Refusal of the call

He doesn’t understand what the call is at this stage, so instead of using it to help people he uses it for selfish reasons.

 

Supernatural Aid

His Uncle Ben teaches him that with great power comes great responsibility

 

Crossing the first threshold

An early death of the mentor moment. Uncle Ben is killed by a thief and Peter hunts him down as Spiderman. Up until now his abilities have been a novelty and an opportunity to make some money to buy a car to get a girl.

 

Belly of the whale

Peter captures the man who killed his Uncle Ben and it turns out to be the thief he could have stopped but he said it wasn’t his problem. This moment signifies the old, selfish Peter is dead and a new righteous Peter is about to embark on the journey to become Spiderman the super hero.

 

Road of the trials

Learning how to use all his Spider skills and establishing his life in the city.

 

Meeting the Goddess

At school Mary Jane was the dream Queen but in the real world, she’s just another girl trying to be an actress having to work as a waitress. Throughout the rest of the story she will inspire protective and heroic acts.

 

Woman as Temptress

Green Goblin offers Spiderman the opportunity to join him and gives him a warning, in spite of everything he’s done for them, the public will turn on him.

 

Atonement with the father

The Atonement happens early in the film right after he avenges the murder of Uncle Ben. He understands the concept of great power and great responsibility and will take on the righteous life of Spiderman defending the citizens of New York against crime.

 

Apotheosis

Peter learns that Green Goblin knows his identity and that everyone knows he loves MJ

 

Ultimate Boon

He’s able to tell MJ his true feelings about her, even though he’s used Spiderman to hide behind.

 

Rescue from without

New Yorkers save Spiderman from the Green Goblin by throwing debris at him.

 

Magic Flight

In combat against the Green Goblin, this battle tests all the abilities he has learnt and also his character, he can’t kill the Green Goblin because he is also the father of Peter’s best friend.

 

Crossing the return threshold

He’s come to the realization that no matter how hard he tries, the ones he loves will always be the ones who pay.  He’s a superhero now but the aren’t and he will have to protect them.

 

Master of two worlds

He loves Mary Jane and even though she has admitted to him that she loves him, his dream girl at the start of the film.  He tells her he doesn’t love her because he really does.

 

Freedom to live

Swinging through the city scape as Spiderman and he understands what Uncle Ben said “With great power comes great responsibility.”

 

 

 

 

 

The hero’s journey – Death of the mentor

Death of the mentor

Joseph Campbell never listed this as one of his seventeen stages, however it is an extremely common step which usually occurs around the end of Act II. It’s significant because it marks the separation from the shelter of the mentor and that the hero must face the rest of the quest alone.

Star Wars – Darth Vader strikes down Obi Wan in front of Luke as they and now he must finish the journey without him.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie – Merrick is Buffy’s watcher, he’s killed by the vampire Lothos, at the end of the film Buffy had to face her mentor’s killer.

It doesn’t have to be a literal death either, it can mean that mentor has revealed his true self and is not someone the hero should follow.

Batman Begins – Henri Ducard was Bruce’s mentor and trained him to be the Batman. However when he revealed himself to be the true Ra’ Al Ghul at the end of the second act Bruce had to fight him and the League of Shadows.

Silence of the Lambs – When Hannibal escapes from his cell, Clarice is no longer able to call on him for the final act and must complete the search for Buffalo Bill without any more help.

 

Death – the act of dying or being killed

end, termination, cease, demise, release

 

Mentor – an advisor who trains

teacher, coach, authority, tutor, trainer

 

How to use it in your writing

If you want to make things really bad for your hero, kill off his teacher and then make him face that killer.

Flip the mentor so that the hero has learned the mentor was not just and righteous and make the hero go head to head with his former teacher who knows his weaknesses and his strength.

Return to the Hero’s journey Main page

 

Predator – The Hero’s journey breakdown

Predator

Ordinary world – Dutch is the leader of a team of mercenaries.

The Call to Adventure – They have to rescue some officials who went down over the border in enemy territory and they must take someone else with them. (Not the complete truth but it’s what they are told)

Refusal of the Call – Dutch is against it. His team works alone and they don’t want to take someone with them.

The Mentor/Talisman – There is no true Mentor in this story. He learns some things about the Predator from Anna and Indian Tracker Billie but he gets very little assistance and must rely on his skills as a soldier to suvive.

The First Threshold – A butterfly lands on the skin of the Predator and hint of it’s high tech camouflage is revealed. They are being hunted.

Belly of The Whale –.They attack the enemy camp and kill them, however, Dutch discovers that Dillon lied to them about the mission.  This marks the destruction of his relationship with his past.

The Road of Trials – The Predator begins killing them, but they can’t see it. They figure out it has camouflage and moves through the trees. They lay a trap for the Predator but it kills most of them, and chases after Dutch and Anna as they race towards the helicopter.

The Goddess – The closet person to the Goddess is Anna the prisoner, she inspires protective heroic acts in Dutch but this is only slight at best

Temptation – Dillin has succumbed to temptation. He used to be friends with Dutch but he’s ben corrupted by the system and has put the lives of the team in danger because he believes them to be expendible.

Atonement with the Father – Dutch disarms Anna to protect her when the Predator is about to kill her. This shows he knows the rules and he’s learnt how to play the game, He’s reconciled the two worlds of being a soldier and being the prey in this hunt.

Apotheosis – Dutch gets covered in mud and becomes invisible to the Predator. This is a God-like ability.

The Ultimate Boon – Dutch has discovered the Predator’s weakness and sets traps for the final confrontation.

The Magic Flight – Dutch fights the Predator, this time he has the advantage of being invisible. This is the big third

Rescue from Without – Comes from the Predator – The Predator could have killed him easily but instead gives him a chance by removing his advanced weaponry and armour to fight Dutch to the death in hand to hand combat.

The Return Threshold – The water washes the mud off Dutch and the Predator strips down to fight without armour. He’s lost his special ability and is now an ordinary human again.

Master of Two Worlds – Dutch kills the Predator

Freedom to Live – Dutch is rescued in the helicopter.