When I reviewed Athena’s previous DVD release of this acclaimed series of interviews in 2010, I said: “If you want to blame George Lucas for the rise of the summer blockbuster and the downfall of modern cinema, then I suppose you need to pillory Joseph Campbell too, since his book ‘Hero With a Thousand Faces’ was a major influence on the development of ‘Star Wars.'”
As I write this, Disney is gearing up for a third trilogy of “Star Wars” movies, along with possible spin-off movies featuring Boba Fett and Han Solo. All I can say is: Please, Disney, don’t rely solely on Campbell for storytelling guidance. They have some smart people involved in the new films, so hopefully that won’t happen.
It’s not that I dislike Campbell. My issue is with those who watched “Star Wars” become an enormous hit, heard Lucas talk about Campbell, and then decided every movie has to adhere to the hero’s journey. It doesn’t. For a great example of how this kind of thinking has infiltrated Hollywood, check out this story screenwriter Ted Elliott tells about the development of a movie based on the “Sandman” comic book. (Disney and Lucasfilm execs, take note: You can find Polti’s “36 Dramatic Situations,” cited by Elliott, on the Wordplay site. Print them out and keep them close while making new “Star Wars” movies.)
I’m not sure why Athena felt the need to rerelease “The Power of Myth,” other than the fact that movie and TV anniversaries divisible by five tend to bring with them new home video outings. This time around, we’re treated to three discs, not two, and Athena added some bonus features, including new introductions from Bill Moyers for each episode and 105 minutes of extended conversations with Campbell from “Bill Moyers Journal.” In addition, the 1999 George Lucas interview in the last release was expanded from 15 minutes to 28 minutes. Everything else was ported over; my previous review details those items.
And as I mentioned in my earlier review, the video quality of these episodes is not optimal. They’re watchable, of course, but you’ll feel like you’re viewing a VHS tape. However, if you’ve never seen “The Power of Myth,” you’ll want to get past quibbles about image definition and simply appreciate the wealth of knowledge this series offers. You’ll learn a lot about not only mythology but also anthropology and how ancient cultures used the stories they told. All of that ties into the use of myth in the present day, including, of course, “Star Wars.”