What do Star Wars, The Lion King, The Matrix, the Batman movie series, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the Indiana Jones movies have in common? Joseph Campbell’s work was the inspiration for all of them. Actually, Joseph Campbell influenced many more great artists, musicians, and authors. J.K. Rowling (the Harry Potter series) and Christopher Paolini (the Inheritance series) probably also drew inspiration from Joseph Campbell’s work.
Now a documentary film about Joseph Campbell’s work, Finding Joe, is coming to the big screen. According to Reelscreen.com, Deepak Chopra, Mick Fleetwood, Tony Hawk, Rashida Jones, Laird Hamilton, Robert Walter, Robin Sharma, Catherine Hardwicke, Sir Ken Robinson, Akiva Goldsman and others are interviewed in the film.
The film explores the famed mythologist’s studies and their continuing impact on our culture. Finding Joe opens on September 30 in Los Angeles, CA. Subscribe to e-mail updates on the official Finding Joe website for updates about movie viewing locations.
Who was Joseph Campbell? Joseph Campbell (1904 – 1984) was an American mythologist, writer, and lecturer best know for his work in comparative mythology. Great authors like James Joyce and Thomas Mann and respected German Philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche influenced Campbell profoundly. Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, published in 1949, was his first book that described the monomyth or hero’s journey. A monomyth is a pattern of actions found in most epic mythical tales throughout the world. Once you learn the pattern, you will recognize it in many, many modern works.
What if Joseph Campbell never published his thoughts, ideas, and perspectives on comparative mythology? Through comparative mythology, Campbell popularized the idea that humans have an impulse to create stories and images that, although localized to a particular time and place, contain similar universal themes. If it were not for Joseph Campbell’s work, perhaps Star Wars, Batman, The Matrix, and other stories would have followed smaller, less epic adventures and might not have enthralled so many fans. Perhaps some of them wouldn’t even have been writtern.
If we examine the heroes in our favorite epic tales by stripping away the time and place, we find heroes who accept an epic challenge, set out on the adventure, endure many trials and hardships, encounter help along the way, and then return triumphant to bring good to their world. Sound familiar? It’s the basic formula for all of our favorite modern epic tales, but its roots are very old.
Young Star Wars might find it interesting that George Lucas was profoundly influenced by Joseph Campell’s work as he was developing Star Wars. George Lucas eventually became friends with Campbell after Lucas publicly acknowledged the influence Campbell’s writings had on Star Wars. When Campbell’s book The Power of Myth was made into a six-part television documentary originally broadcast on PBS in 1988, the first five episodes were filmed at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch.
So, [insert your favorite epic hero’s name here] fans, learn more about the inspiration for [the name of your favorite modern epic adventure book or film here] in the “Finding Joe” documentary film! To learn more about Campbell’s life and inspirations, check out the Wikipedia entries. The Joseph Campbell Foundation has comprehensive information on all of his works.