Apparently, they are two stories opposed to each other: a sci-fi epic of an unknown future and the adventures of an archaeologist in the Thirties. However, there’s something. First of all, the creator, that’s the director, screenwriter and producer George Lucas. Among his many movies, these undoubtedly occupy a special place in his filmography, as dedicated to both at least thirty years of his career. But that’s not all. If we compare the plots of these two sagas, we note that, although different, they’ve a common narrative element: the theme of the conflict between Father and Son.
Let’s start with Star Wars
which is currently shooting the seventh episode: The Force Awakens.
In 1971, after his debut movie, THX 1138 – a dystopian sci-fi film – Lucas thought of an adaptation of the adventures of Flash Gordon. We don’t know whether it was the cold reception of the previous movie, pushing it towards a more commercial project. However, he began to work in parallel with American Graffiti. For a contemporary of the New Hollywood generation – featuring young directors and actors, such as Scorsese, Coppola, Altman, De Niro, Nicholson, Hoffman, interested in taboo subjects in American society – it was a decision against the tide.
Failed the negotiations for the movie rights with the publisher of Flash Gordon’s comic book, Lucas decided to write their own subject. The initial plot was about the apprenticeship of a young protagonist as a member of the space commando Jedi-Bendu. There were also influences from The Hidden Fortress by Akira Kurosawa, a 1958 movie set in medieval Japan, about a general escorting a young princess. The story is told from the point of view of two fools who accompany them, ignoring its true identity.
In the next five years, both the subject and the script was completely rewritten several times, with the help of other collaborators. The two comedy characters became the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, while the combination of general / princess was re-used in different ways: in the first movie, with Darth Vader kidnaps Princess Leia to take on the Death Star, and in Attack of the Clones, with Anakin accompanying Padmé Amidala on Naboo, after the assassination attempt on her life . Were incorporated other elements, some of which, in my opinion borrowed from the Frank Herbert’s novel Dune (the desert planet Tatooine from Arrakis, the Trade Federation by the commercial corporation CHOAM; the Jedi Knights from the Bene Gesserit sisterhood – both in able to control their opponents through the voice – even the name of the Jedi has a corresponding one in the planet Giedi, from which is native the House Harkonnen).
The choice of the space-fantasy (or space-opera) Flash Gordon’s genre was maintained. In this sub-genre of Science Fiction, the adventure component is more relevant than scientific: it’s almost a fantasy with sci-fi gadgets. Even the Japanese influence remained: we find it in the Jedi Knights (their clothes, the code of conduct and the fighting with swords/lightsabers). But the greatest source of inspiration recognized, indeed, declared by Lucas himself, were the essays and lectures of american mythologist Joseph Campbell.
The Joseph Campbell’s Hero
In his book The Hero of a Thousand Faces , Campbell argues that the narrative structure of many myths, though belonging to different cultures and ages, is the same and that tells the journey/search/evolution of a character through a series of trials. Of course, there’re infinite variations, including the possibility that the hero fails. Campbell shows how this scheme describing the myths of Osiris, Buddha, Moses, Christ. But there’re thousands of stories that follow the model of the Hero’s Journey: from the Divine Comedy to The Blues Brothers, from Moby Dick to The Lord of the Rings. A similar modeling had already been made by the russian linguist Vladimir Propp in Morphology of the Tale .
Now we apply the Campbell’s scheme – called the monomyth– to the first SW trilogy (episodes IV, V and VI).
- The hero (Luke) initially lives in an ordinary world (the planet Tatooine, along with uncles farmers).
- The monotony of his daily life is interrupted by something external to his world (the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, purchased by his uncle from the Tuskens, but we do know escaped from the Princess Leia’s starship, attacked by Imperial forces).
- The hero is called to a mission/a world not his own (through one of the droids, Luke discovers the S.O.S. of Leila), meets a magical helper (Obi-Wan Kenobi) who gives him a magical object (the lightsaber belonged to his father Anakin). If the hero first refuses the call, an event can push him to do it (the imperial troops kill and destroy the uncle’s Luke farm).
- Once crossed the First Threshold, for the Hero begins the Road of Trials, which will guide him on a path of evolution (Luke joins the Rebel Alliance and is able to destroy the Death Star, thanks to the use of the Force).
Throughout the Hero’s Journey, the supporting characters can alternate. By the way, the smuggler Han Solo and Chewbacca were present from the first draft of the plot. If the source of inspiration for the wookie seems to have been the Lucas’ dog Indiana (this name means anything to you?), in American Graffiti is the character of Bob Falfa, a neighborhood boaster (played by Harrison Ford himself) driver of illegal car racing. The main character of that movie, Curt (alter ego of the director) don’t have a girlfriend and chasing a platonic love, while his friend John the mechanic pick up girls. Han Solo seems then a mix of Bob Falfa and John: a blowhard skilled with the engine (the Millenium Falcon), good at stealing the girlfriend to anyone (Leila, who we think at first should fall in love with Luke, falls instead in the arms of Solo, because Luke and Leia are really brother and sister).
Returning to Campbell’s hero, in the middle of his journey he faces an abyss, that’s have a revelation/awareness. In Star Wars, what happens in Empire Strikes Back. On the planet Dagobah, Luke is trained by Jedi Master Yoda. In the course of the training, halfway through the film, Luke falls into an underground cavern and meets a “ghost” of Darth Vader. After hitting him, under the broken mask of Vader’s head rolling on the ground, discovers his own face. Is this a perception of his blood ties with the enemy or a prelude of the real fight that takes place at the end of the episode?
This other scene is very famous: Leila, Solo and Chewbacca are trapped in Cloud City. Luke arrives and engages a duel with Vader. At first. the Sith strives little, trying to get with words the youngman to pass to the Dark Side of the Force; then, because the refusal of him, he start pulling slashes, cutting off the Luke’s right hand. While this is clinging above the air duct of the city, Vader settles the coup de grace, revealing him to be his father.
We are in the presence of two awards: first, the son recognizes himself and then his father. This is a topos of this Greek Tragedy (Anagnorisis). But in my opinion, here the reference is no longer Campbell: is Freud.
The hero initially fells – in a underground place, symbol of the Subconscious – that the negative component of his personality (that’s, the Impulsivity) unites him to his antagonist, and then deal with it in person. What does emerges from this confrontation/clash? Darth Vader (Dark Father) is a parent wanting his son follows in his own footsteps, not allowing him to develop a different personality. Just before the duel, we discover that his intention is to take away Luke, hibernating him in a carbonite block (a process that he test on Han Solo).
Freeze, locking up the son in a stone, prevent his escape, and if he doesn’t cooperate, get to the violence cutting off him a limb. The mutilation of a son, by a parent, it’s an act of staggering severity: in his comic saga of the Meta-Barons, Alejandro Jodorowskij has explored the symbolism of this, while Laurent Bouzereau, in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays , points out the scene was not included before the final draft. This act appears other times in the saga: in Return of the Jedi, Luke cuts off Vader’s hand to revenge; in Attack of the Clones, we discover that Count Dooku had already cut the hand to Anakin Skywalker, who in turn will do the same to Mace Windu in Revenge of the Sith. Is this an attempt to justify a brutal act, transforming it into a Jedi ritual? Luke, however, will not follow the fate of his father. Dropping by the main pillar of the city, he is discharged through a duct to be rescued by Leia, who has telepathically perceived him. Can we see this as symbolical rebirth of the hero, after the ultimate separation from his father and his exit from the uterus? However, from now Luke is no longer the impulsive guy we know: in the next and final episode of his trilogy, we find him more mature and master of his Jedi powers.
Return of the Jedi is the conclusion of the evolution of Luke to Hero. According to Campbell, if the hero overcomes his trials, he become Master of Two Worlds. That’s, in the story, he belong to the world of origin and the one in which he ventured; on a symbolic level, to the outside world, that the inner dimension). This movie also marks the redemption of Anakin, through death – as required for a tragic hero – after defending his son from the wrath of Darth Sidious. But before he died, the father asked his son to remove the mask of Darth Vader, so the latter can see him for the man he really is: only in this way, they can be reconciled to each other.
The Anakin’s Trilogy
But the justification of the Dark Father doesn’t end here. With the subsequent trilogy – in the Star Wars’ chronology, antecedent to the one of Luke Skywalker – Lucas repeats the scheme of the first. If in the previous, the story introduced Luke through the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, now this is through the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Anakin is a slave child, working in a junk shop, a skilled pilot and mechanic, which is even able to build a droid (C-3PO). The Jedi feel in him a huge presence of the Force, so as to consider him the Chosen One peacemaker of the Galactis Repubblic. Shmi, the mother, doesn’t know how she has conceived her child. This doesn’t mean a simple biblical quotation: David Adams, on the line of Campbell, introduces in the Hero’s Journey scheme the Miraculous conception and birth and Initiation of the hero-child.
I like to underline about this episode, the unheard objection of the Master Yoda, to the training as a Jedi of Anakin, beacuse him is too old and too close to his mother. This relationship of attachment to her brings Anakin, in Attack of the Clones, to kill a whole Tusken tribe responsible for her death.
Because Anakin is a child grew up without a father figure. So, he has an essentially emotionalpersonality, as it will that of his son Luke. Obi-Wan Kenobi is unable, due to his own inexperience, to guide him on the path of wise administration of its powers. So, the young man replaces the figure of his mother with Princess Padme, without break free himself from neurosis caused by the lack of acceptance of loss. Lived in slavery, Anakin is afraid of losing those who love him. When Padme tells him she is pregnant, he began to dream of her death in cause of the childbirth. The inability to control his fear drives him to pass to the Dark Side of the Force, instigated by Chancellor Palpatine (in fact, the Sith Lord). And this marks his misfortune: the Chosen One, becomes the fallen angel and the right arm of the Evil. We’ve here a topic previously treated by Lucas: the fears and rebellion impulses of youth.
In the dystopian THX 1138, the main character lives in a society controlled by the machines that enslaves individuals, through the administration of drugs. Eventually, he rebels and runs away from his hometown. In the end of American Graffiti, a clandestine race car of young people could turn into a fatal accident; also the protagonist of this film leaves his birthplace, but to go to attend college. Lucas himself as a young man had a passion for racing and will participate by driving a souped-up Autobianchi. An accident made desist him, before enrolling at Canyon Cinema Foundation. Anyway, in almost all the Star Wars movies, there’s still a sequence of a dangerous race (including fighters, speeder, pod-racer, etc.).
At this point, it’s natural to ask what autobiographical elements are in Lucas’ movies (except of course American Graffiti, explicitly set in Modesto, his hometown). Some claims that his father was the severe owner of a small stationery store, became in his early years an orphan and head of a family survived to the Great Depression. He was not Darth Vader, but anyway a conservative Republican Methodist that wanted his only son inherit the management of the store, rather than enroll in an art school. Some people say that Modesto is a dull little town, scattered in the californian desert and maybe portrayed as the planet Tatooine.
Difficult to say what an author put of himself in his works, because sometimes he doesn’t know. Unless, he leaves a mark. So, it’s curious note that the name of one of the Skywalkers is Luke. This name is the English translation of the Latin Lucas. And by the way, even in the case of Indiana Jones, there’s an interesting clue: the real name of the character is Henry Jones, Jr., as well as that of the director is George Walton Lucas, Jr. Both have inherited the names of their fathers, men who wanted their sons follow in their footsteps.
The Man with the Hat
If Star Wars is primarily the product of a plot by Lucas, the first and second movies of Indiana Jones spring from the brainstorms between Lucas, Steven Spielberg (who will direct them) and Lawrence Kasdan. These discussions were recorded and transcribed, and some parts were later published in The Complete Making of Indiana Jones . So, we can know the ideas which gave birth to this other saga.
While Spielberg was more interested in the comic gags and Kasdan was a mediator between the two, Lucas had a clear view of the main character: he had to be an adventurer, an American Samurai with a bullwhip, remembering James Bond and Clint Eastwood. The iconography was that of the serials of the Forties, in particular Humphery Bogart of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (although the definitive look of Indiana seems more like the Charlton Heston’s character of Secret of the Incas, a 1954 Paramount’s movie).
It’s not surprising to note that, in front of the unavailability of Tom Selleck to play the role, because his contract for Magnum, PI, this has been given to Harrison Ford, because apparently it is still in a tough guy, a buster, as they had been Bob Falfa and Han Solo. But Indiana Jones is a more complex character. He’s a person with two souls (as Clark Kent/Superman): on the one hand, the university professor of archeology, on the other, the adventurous explorer relics-hunter. If the first is what his father wanted him to become (repeating his choices), the second embodies the dreams of teenage Henry Jones Jr., who, not surprisingly, has chosen the battle name Indiana , namely that of the dog he had as a boy. Thus, even if the character of the Father only appears in the third movie, his shadow hangs in fact from the beginning of the saga.
Unlike the tragic relationship between Luke and Anakin Skywalker, the debate between the two Jones is on the lines of Comedy; perhaps because, if at the time of the first Star Wars Lucas was 33 years old, when he made Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (co-written with Jeffrey Boam), he was 45. In the latter movie, the adventurer who we had known becomes shy and embarrassed in front of his parent, sometime unable even to talk to him. It also here stated the reason for the conflict between father and son: the first is accused by the latter of not taking care of his mother, died of illness, because too busy with his work. As in the case of Anakin, we are in the presence of a son who has not accepted the loss of his mother. Then, we ask ourselves if Indiana Jones is not the evolution of the Luke/Anakin characters.
While between Luke and his father, there is no possibility of communion, as the latter was corrupted by the Dark Side of the Force, Indiana lives an experience with his parent: on several occasions they discover to have common characteristics (even a love story with the Nazi Elsa Schneider: an idea by Sean Connery). The father discovers features of his son he didn’t know:
“Well… It’s a new experience for me!” he says.
“Happens to me all the time!” replies Indiana.
There’s more: in this saga the father is not only justified: he is saved by his son.
Mortally injureded by billionaire Donovan (as Anakin is wounded by Darth Sidious), Henry Jones Sr. survives by drinking from the Holy Grail, which is led by his son, having this passed a series of trial of faith. Interestingly, in this way, Indiana follows the myth of Percival, a knight of the Round Table, who saved the seriously ill Fisher King, through the grail of Christ.
It’s not the only time Indiana performs such acts: in the Raiders of the Lost Ark, he warns Marion to don’t look at the opening of the Ark; in The Temple of Doom, he invokes the power of the Shiva’s stones. Paradoxically, he is both a robber of tombs and a devout of the cults he profanes. The gesture of the Grail is also a recognition of the sanctity of the King/Father and the values in which he believes. This is the fate of the rebellious sons too, to inherit some of their parents’ values: Lucas himself, the son of a conservative, declared in 1997 that he is very conservative too.
The Sons become Fathers
The solution of the conflict between father and son is in the fourth episode, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Waited for nearly two decades, announced several times, canceled and rewritten, when finally it has come to production, this movie had to satisfy the needs of Lucas, Spielberg and Harrison Ford. Perhaps for this, it’s not a masterpiece and the plot seems to be similar to the Raiders, with the Soviet secret service in place of the Nazis, being set in the days of the Cold War.
Despite this, the movie contains an interesting element: Indiana finds Marion Ravenwood Indiana, the woman of the first episode, which reveals to have had a son by him, Mutt. This is not by the chance: a thing not learned by all in the first movie, but explicit in the brainstorms of Lucas and Spielberg, is Indiana and Marion have had a love story when she was still a minor. So, the adventurer, the rebellious son of Professor Jones, suddenly finds himself a father of a teenager symbolically dressed like Marlon Brando in The Wild One – in the same way, Lucas, who could not have children, he has become father through adoption –. Following the rules of Comedy, Indiana discovers having the same attitudes that contested to his father, so he ends to understand them. But, unlike his parent, he didn’t have to wait years for an adventure with his son – opportunity that allows them to know each other –.
The Hero of Campbell thus reaches his goal, becoming Master of Two Worlds – the inner self and the outside world –. Where the adolescent Anakin had failed, Indiana wins, finding the synthesis of the two sides of his personality and his way of being a father, without giving up the dreams of youth.
So, finally, the Hero of Lucas has become an adult.
 Joseph Campbell, “The Hero of a Thousand Faces”, Pantheon Books, New York, 1949
 Vladimir Yakovlevich Propp, “Morphology of the Folktale”, Academia, 1928
 Laurent Bouzereau, “Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays”, Ballantine Books, New York, 1997
 J.W. Rinzler, Laurent Bouzereau, “The Complete Making of Indiana Jones”, Del Rey Books, 2008