Welcome to our mission statement. You’re here because you’re wondering what Greg and I had in mind when we decided to create Reel Heroes back in 2012. There are a zillion other online movie review sites. What makes ours different?
Scott is an expert in the psychology of heroes and I’ve been exploring the world of heroes in literature for the last 15 years. Together we take a look at the heroes and villains in movies and give you a perspective you won’t find anywhere else. The details of our analysis of heroes can be found in our latest book Reel Heroes & Villains.
Other movie reviewers focus solely on the quality of the movie. We do that, too. But I’ve found in my research that people need heroes and villains. Hero and villain stories are psychologically important to us. These tales educate, they inspire, and they entertain.
Let’s start with heroes: The typical hero journey follows a classic pattern. Heroes experience a series of stages that are characteristic of all hero stories in myth and legend throughout the ages.
When movie makers acknowledge these patterns we usually get a satisfying movie-going experience. But when they ignore these ancient, time-honored paradigms, generally the story falls flat. So, we’ll be able to not only tell you if a movie was good or bad, but we can also pinpoint where the storytelling was good or not so good.
We base much of our hero analysis on the work of Joseph Campbell, a comparative mythologist who detected the following pattern in all hero stories:
(1) The hero starts out in a safe, familiar world.
(2) The hero is summoned, either willingly or unwillingly, into a new, dangerous, unfamiliar world.
(3) The hero is charged with some goal or mission.
(5) The hero then acquires some missing internal quality to attain the goal.
(6) The hero is transformed significantly and returns to the familiar world.
(7) And then the hero delivers the meaning of the journey to others.
We have used this pattern extensively in Agile Writers to formulate our novels. In the past few of years I’ve helped people compose many first drafts and several self-published books. They’ve all relied on these tried-and-true stages of the hero journey.
There are other hero models that we may also refer to in our reviews. Paul Moxnes has a model based on family structure; he argues that heroes emerge within a family hierarchy (e.g., Fathers, Mothers, Sons, Daughters, Servants, etc). In my own research on heroes, I’ve found that heroes tend to possess The Great Eight characteristics. Heroes are smart, strong, selfless, caring, resilient, charismatic, reliable, and inspiring.
In our study of heroes in the movies in 2013 we became intrigued with the role of the villain in movies. Since 2014, we have been looking at the villains as well as the heroes. We’ve identified the “villain’s journey” and have written extensively about it. Since 2015, the supporting characters in the hero’s journey are also the focus of our reviews.
Not many people have studied the villain in storytelling. Far more emphasis has been placed on heroes, and so we will be boldly going where few people have gone before. One thing we do know is that almost all good stories focus on one of three conflicts between the hero and some oppositional force:
(1) Man vs. Man — this is the classic conflict between a hero and a villain.
(2) Man vs. Nature — this is a conflict between a hero and some force of nature. We see this in movies such as Jaws, Gravity, and Castaway. The villain does not take human form but is the formidable power of nature.
(3) Man vs. Self — this is the inner conflict a hero endures, as when the hero must overcome addiction, a wretched childhood, or some crisis of confidence. Here the villain resides within the hero.
Our initial observations indicate that the hero and villain share similar journeys. The hero is on a quest to overcome his missing inner quality. Villains, on the other hand, fail to overcome their missing inner qualities and in fact appear to be led morally astray by lacking these qualities. We’re still learning about how the villain “works.” Join us as we discover more about villains, heroes, mentors, and other supporting characters.
For each movie, we give three ratings: One rating of the movie as a whole, a rating of the hero in the story, and this year a rating of the hero’s mentor figure. Here are our criteria for conducting these three different ratings.
It’s our goal to review all wide-release movies. We love to review bad films as much as good films because it gives us a chance to see where the artist deviated from the acknowledged structures (and wonder how in the world did this film get made).
As we’re both employed full time (myself as a software engineer and Scott as a professor of psychology), we review just one or two films a week. Sometimes we view these films together and compare notes over a meal at the Sedona Taphouse. Other times we see the films separately and exchange notes online.