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.
Freedom to live
Freedom to live means freedom from negative emotions which pull the hero away from living in the moment. Negative emotions such frustration, sadness, shame, fear, depression, doubt and despair are banished and instead he is able to celebrate the victory.
They are awarded with some high level of success as dictated by the world in which he lives, it may be that he becomes king, he gets the girl, gets the promotion, sees the bully get dragged off to detention.
Star Wars has the big medal ceremony to acknowledge their bravery and success in destroying the Death Star.
Aliens – Ripley escapes with her life and her loved ones.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Freedom – the power to think, speak, act as you wish without restraint. Not imprisoned or enslaved.
Liberty, independence, abandon
Live – to enjoy being alive
Delight, prosper, experience, love, pleasure, thrive
How to use it in your writing
What is success for your hero? Have you set up from the start? Is this moment a reflection of what he was like in the opening scene of the film?
Has your hero truly earned this moment?
Master of Two worlds
As with all the steps, sometimes they are clearly separate from each other and other times they are intertwined and flow directly into each other as part of the same scene. Magic Flight, Crossing the return Threshold and Master of the two worlds can be one large block.
By the end of this stage, the hero now has proven he ability to effortlessly pass back and forth between the two worlds.
Increase the stakes at this stage by putting a ticking time bomb of some sort about to go off. Make the enemy confident and seemingly have the advantage over the Hero for the longest possible time.
In Aliens Ripley has combined her loader lifter skills with her warrior protector skills and fights the Alien Queen “Get away from her you bitch!”
Master – Acquire complete knowledge or skill
manage, dominate, overcome, control, overpower
World – A realm or domain, A particular way of life.
How to use this in your writing
This is the final confrontation; don’t have anything left in the tank at the end of this battle.
Make sure everything is resolved with no loose ends.
Add to the desperation by considering the location, put your hero with his back against the wall so he has no place to run, if he fails he can’t escape, he will die. Or the reverse applies and locate the battle on the enemies home ground where he has the advantage.
Give the hero some witnesses to this action.
The crossing of the return Threshold
The crossing of the return Threshold brings to a conclusion what began at the crossing of the first Threshold; in the same way the Ultimate Boon relates to the Call to adventure.
It’s the moment when he has figured out what it takes to be a hero and is willing to do it. From this point on, for the rest of his life, he’s finally worked out the kind of person he’s going to be.
Often there is one more final foe to be defeated here.
Save the Cat describes the three Acts as;
Act I – Thesis – describing what is.
Act II – Anti Thesis – turning his world upside down.
Act III – Synthesis – the combination of the two worlds.
The Crossing of the Return threshold is the moment when the hero has the willing and wisdom to bring them together.
The Incredibles – The Incredibles united together and defeated the Omnidroid. Crossing the return threshold is when they return to their house and discover Syndrome has abducted Jack Jack.
Return – To come back from where you’ve been
Restore, give back, come back, revert, get back
Definition – Opening; beginning
Boundary, point of departure, starting point, dawn, door, verge, brink, entrance
How to use it in your writing
Have you combined the wisdom the hero has learnt during the adventure into a moment to signify how the hero is going live his life from this point on?
Be aware that this stage can happen during the final big battle or just after the big battle.
Rescue from without
Hero’s don’t live in a vacuum, they are heroes because of us. They sacrifice their lives for us but they are not alone. Others should not stand idly by and watch the hero do everything. The Hero must do all the heavy lifting but his friends and allies should be what give him the slight edge over the enemy.
It’s function in a story is to take the hero as close to the moment of death as possible.
Keep in mind it’s not a random event, it’s an action from another character that’s been earned by the earlier actions of the Hero, it’s Karma, you do something good and something good happens back to help you when you need it.
Also, it seems to work best when it appears as a surprise rather than letting the audience know what’s coming. In Transformers 4 this stage was flagged early, dragged out and lost impact. Alfred Hitchcock often spoke about confusing the use of surprise and suspense in films, this is a beat where it is better served by surprise.
Star Wars –Just before Luke fires the shot to destroy the Death Star and Darth Vader is about to kill him, Han Solo appears and takes out the fighters attacking Luke. Han “You’re all clear kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home.”
The Avengers – Iron Man has made the heroic sacrifice and is falling to his death after taking out the enemy with the nuclear missile. Hulk saves him and cushions his fall.
Jurassic Park – Just before the Raptors kill them, a T Rex appears and kills the Raptors letting the heroes escape. This particular example is not true Rescue from withoug as there was no karma and takes it over the line in Deus ex machina which generally should be avoided but there are numerous incidences in film where it has occurred in film and has been successful
Raiders of the Lost Arc – The Nazis open the Arc and the Angels unleash the power of God on them. Indy is saved because he keeps his eyes shut.
Avatar – Avatar uses two, the first is for the overall battle between the soldiers and the Na’vi when Eywa sends the Pandorian wildlife in to turn the tide of the battle and again when Sully fights Quaritch in the final battle, Neytiri kills him with arrow.
Rescue – To save someone from a dangerous or distressing situation
Deliver, save, relive, pull through
Without – the outside of a place or area
Outside, external, extrinsic
How to use in your writing.
I think it’s important not to allow this stage to become deus ex machina. Focus on the hero being very active at this stage. The friend or ally who gives assistance is usually only just enough to give the hero the edge over his opponent so the hero can triumph. Don’t allow this outside help to replace the action of the hero.
Once the Ultimate Boon has been achieved, the antagonist chases after the Hero or a big final fight. In film this is the big, exciting climatic piece.
It’s either a fight or a flight. The Hero goes head to head with the villain. A chase with the enemies in hot pursuit or reversed and the Hero is chasing the villain. How many romantic comedies end with the guy chasing the girl before she gets on a plane to Paris or running in the rain to her house.
Like all the stages in the Hero’s Journey it’s not a literal magical flight.
Star Wars – The assault on the Death Star
The Avengers – The fight over New York
Toy Story – Buzz flies into Andy’s car after defeating Sid.
Avatar – Huge fight in the air and on the ground between the Na’vi and the soldiers.
Magic – Impressive, wondrous, explosions, boom
Flight – Chase, pursuit, run, fight,
How to use it in your writing
A ticking time bomb of some sort adds to the urgency.
Make it as big as possible as the world will allow.
It can be a fight, a chase or both.
Refusal of the return
The Hero has achieved the Ultimate Boon and has proved himself worthy to complete the journey. He now must return, bringing with him what he has learnt and what he has become.
However, sometimes the hero wants to remain in the moment and enjoy the feeling of bliss and enlightenment that the Ultimate Boon has brought. The pull of being Hero is too strong and this diversion will not last. A Hero puts others ahead of himself.
Frodo Baggins, on he brink of throwing the ring in the fires of Mount Doom, refuses to throw it in and claims the ring as his own.
After examining many films to extract the Hero’s journey, I find this stage almost always omitted. I find the stage Death of the Mentor far more common and more worthy of inclusion in the journey.
Refusal – An act of unwillingness to do something
Rejection, denial, not accepting
Return – To come back to an earlier condition or place
Homecoming, arrival, reunification
How to use in your writing
This is the least most common stage of the Hero’s journey as once they have achieved the Ultimate Boon it means they are ready to go on. However, your story may need a moment where the hero is consumed by the sensation of achieving a higher level of enlightenment and he may need something further to shock him out of it.
The Ultimate boon
The Ultimate Boon is the specific direct response to the call to adventure.
The Ultimate boon does not necessarily happen at the end of the film, often it happens around the end of the second act. Very clearly Joseph Campbell indicates the Ultimate boon happens before the Magic flight stage and what some people consider the Ultimate Boon stage is actually the Mastery of two worlds stage.
In Star Wars the Call to adventure is the Princess is in peril and needs rescuing “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” Leia is rescued at the end of the second Act, That’s the Ultimate boon. Luke’s response to the Call to adventure is at the end of Act one when he decides to join Obi Wan, learn the ways of the force and become a Jedi like his father. That happens at the end of Act three when he trusts the Force and makes the shot. That’s master of two worlds
In The Avengers, the Call to adventure is Tony is asked to join the Avengers, and when the Avengers unite at the end of Act two, that’s the Ultimate Boon. However, when Tony guides the missile through the hole and destroys the invasion fleet, that’s not the Ultimate Boon, that’s Master of Two worlds
In Kung Fu Panda, the Call to adventure is when Po is selected to become the Dragon Warrior and learn the secret to unlimited power from the Dragon scroll. He learns this at the end of Act two when he discovers ‘the secret’ is belief. That’s the Ultimate boon. However he still has to fight Tai Lun with this knowledge. When he defeats Tai Lun and the Furious Five bow in respect and call him Master, that’s the Master of Two world’s stage.
Ultimate – The Best achievable or imaginable
Final, last, terminal, utmost, extreme
Boon – A Thing that is helpful or beneficial
Blessing, benefit, favor, God send, gift
If you just look at the word Ultimate – it does mean the end but when you combine it with the word Boon, a thing that is helpful or beneficial or even a God send, it means what is needed to be able to finish the quest.
How to use it in your writing
Usually, not always but usually, The Call to adventure or Inciting Incident happens to the hero, it is not usually an action from the hero. The first turning point, Crossing the first Threshold, Break into Two moment is an active choice made by the hero in response to the Call. Usually, not always.
And the Call to adventure has a resolution at the end of the second Act but the quest is not yet over because obtaining the ultimate boon means you are worthy to complete the journey.
The decision made at the first turning point sets off a chain reaction which is completed at the end of the third act.
Sometimes people set up a Call to adventure where it is completed at the end of the third act and struggle trying to fill act two. If this is the case for you perhaps you can tweak these moments.
If your story is working as it is then don’t force it in just because Joseph Campbell says so but keep in mind this set up is common and works in a number of stories.
Call to adventure
The crew is awoken from hibernation because they have received a distress call from an unknown source.
Refusal of the call
A couple members of the crew resist going but Dallas, the captain, insists.
The onboard computer Mother. It knows the true meaning behind sending them on this quest.
Crossing the First Threshold
Entering the crash landed Alien Space ship. Kane encounters and is attacked by the first form of the alien.
Belly of the whale
They bring back Kane with the face hugger attached and put him into the infirmary.
Road of the trials
The Alien explodes out of Kane’s chest and then transforms into a larger creature. They hunt it and try and learn it’s weakness as it kills a number of them.
Meeting with the Goddess
Ripley gains access to Mother and learns the secret mission and that the crew are expendable.
Woman as Temptress
The unseen forces of the company, they are the ones who sought the Alien life form and it’s potential as a weapon regardless of the consequences for the crew.
Atonement with the father
She learns she was right about Ash, he had a secret agenda and they fight to the death.
Ripley is able to resuscitate Ash and extract information out of him about the Alien.
To escape with their lives, Ripley concludes they must get on the escape pod and detonate the ship
Running around the ship, being chased by the Alien, as the self destruct timer runs down.
Master of two worlds
She uses her skills to get into a space suit and jettison the Alien from the pod
Freedon to live
She has survived and enters hibernation
You can also find the links for
Alien – The Hero’s Journey stages
Alien – The Save the Cat beat sheet
Aliens – The Save the Cat beat sheet
Aliens – The Hero’s Journey stages
Hero’s journey and Save the Cat work very well in concert with each other. If you’ve discovered one but not the other I recommend having a look.