Problems with the Hero’s Journey

Is anyone else having problems reconciling The Hero’s Journey with Michael Hague’s 3 Act structure?

I have listened to the presentation Chris Vogler does with Michael Hague (Screenwriting for Hollywood) on Audible, where each puts forward their own hypotheses for structure. However, I’m still having problems. My issue is this:

Chris says that The Supreme Ordeal (step 8 of the 12 step hero’s journey) is the same point in a movie as the midpoint in 3 act structure terminology.

Also, that the Resurrection (step 11) is the same as The Final Battle in Act 3 (Hague).

My question is this: why is the ‘supreme ordeal’ called ‘supreme’ if there is a bigger battle to come (The Resurrection).

It should not be called ‘supreme’. Supreme is superlative. You cannot get higher or better or more intense. I suggest that although this is the ‘central’ ordeal of the hero it is not the midpoint.

I suggest The Supreme Ordeal is The Final Battle in Act 3.

Furthermore, the Approach to the Inmost Cave is followed by the Supreme Ordeal. Here we have two superlatives: inmost and supreme.

If we can trust that these words hold fast to their true meanings (and as writers all we have are words) then inmost must be inmost and supreme must be supreme: it is the cave where the dragon lives. It is the battlefield where David slays Goliath. It is the gladiator’s final arena. It is the ring where Rocky has his title fight. It is the life or death russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter. 

Inmost must be inmost. Supreme must be supreme. There is no tougher test than the supreme ordeal. Yet Chris Vogler says The Resurrection corresponds to The Final Battle in Act 3. 

But the final battle must be the hero’s toughest test. The climax of the movie. The moment where the hero wins or loses, lives or dies (physically or emotionally).

Supreme must be supreme or we disempower the word of its meaning. And if we disempower words before we even start to write our screenplay, what hope do we have?

For this reason, although I pay attention to Vogler’s Hero’s Journey, I cannot reconcile it to correspond to Hague’s 3 act structure in the same way as he teaches. I cannot, in my mind, have a more supreme ordeal than the supreme ordeal.

There is no such word as supremer. 

Supreme is supreme.

So, if I stick to my guns and trust my gut, how does the 12 step hero’s journey work?

The 12 steps would look like this:

Act 1:

  1. Ordinary world.
  2. Call to adventure.
  3. Refusal of the call.
  4. Meeting the mentor.
  5. Crossing the threshold.

Act 2:

  1. Tests, Allies, Enemies.

Act 3:

  1. Approach to the Inmost Cave.
  2. Supreme Ordeal.
  3. Reward.
  4. Road Back.
  5. Resurrection.
  6. Sharing the Elixir.

Let’s take 127 Hours as a paradigm. Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle adhere to perfect 3 act structure. The movie is exactly 90 minutes and is structured like this:

Act 1: 15 minutes.

Act 2: 60 minutes.

Act 3: 15 minutes.

According to my theory, this would mean the two shortest acts have the majority of the hero’s steps. Act 2 has only Tests, Allies and Enemies. But aren’t these three words enough to fill the 60 minutes of Act 2?

What are your thoughts?

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s