On a comment on the SF novelists site, Elf Sternberg said:
On the other hand, if you want to teach a complete beginner how to
write a story, you really can’t do much better than a Jerry
Bruckheimer film. Take the Campebellian “cycle of the hero” and write
each stage across the top of a sheet of paper. For every character
(and I mean every) in a Bruckheimer film, write down his or her name
and then check off which stage of the cycle he or she is in. In
Armageddon, every single man on the shuttles goes through the
Campbellian cycle like clockwork. It’s amazing, from a story point of
view, to watch how deft Bruckheimer is at weaving them all together.
He has the actoin/adventure formula down: eight to ten emotional
highpoints per character, each one involving the reversal of one of
the character’s major personal values, and if he kills off a character
before the cycle is done he does it when the reversal is of the value
introduced in cycle step 1, reinforced throughout, and on a note that
delivers maximum emotional impact.
So I decided to watch National Treasure with this in mind.
First a quick review of the Monomyth might be helpful:
1. The Call to Adventure
In NT, the Grandfather Gates tells Ben the story of the Gates legacy as the call.
2. Refusal of the Call
Not in this case. Ben is ready from the word go. Or, perhaps, it can be interpreted as the father Gates saying its all nonsense
3. Supernatural Aid
The Elderly Gates gives Ben the first clue “The Secret Lies with Charlotte”
4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
Ben, Riley and Ian journey into the Arctic to find the Charlotte.
5. The Belly of the Whale
Ben and Riley in the hold of the ship as it explodes. This makes them ready for the adventure ahead–getting the Declaration.
6. The Road of Trials
This can be thought of the adventures Ben and Riley go through involving the acquisition of the Declaration and the other clues. Abigail joins the quest here too, first as unwilling helper.
7. The Meeting with the Goddess
This can be seen as the developing of the relationship between Abigail and Ben. They kiss in the depths below Trinity Church
8. Atonement with the Father
Eventually, Gates and his father reconcile, first at his house and then more fully beneath the Church after Ian has departed.
The endgame, as it seems there is no Treasure after all.
10. The Ultimate Boon
Ben and his Dad find the Treasure!
11. Refusal of the Return
Not really in this case. They want to get out of that basement!
12. The Magic Flight
In this case, the staircase is on the far side of the wondrous Treasure room.
13. Rescue from Without
The group get out of the treasure room.
14. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
Back up in the real world and the sobering aspect of what they have done. The final scene with the FBI agent.
15. Master of the Two Worlds
Bargaining with the FBI agent over the fate of the Treasure.
16. Freedom to Live
Gates donates most of the Treasure, and he, Abigail, and Riley live happily ever until the next Movie.
Well, Sternberg does seem to have a point, eh?