*WARNING* Movie Spoilers Ahead
It's baseball season!
Because of this, my husband and I were discussing the movie 'Moneyball'. If you've never seen this flick, go out and rent it, cause it's great. Prepare to be entertained.
'Moneyball' takes two really boring things - math and *ahem* baseball - and spins them into this story that you can't stop watching. Oscar nominations and whatever.
Why? How? Is it because it's about baseball? (My husband.) Brad Pitt? (Umm, duh, of course it's because of Brad Pitt!) Just general awesomeness?
If any of these was your guess, then I'm about to tell you that you are WRONG. EHHH. (There's no crying in baseball!)
The answer to this movie's greatness, friends, is a little thing called the Hero's Journey. The most famous example of a movie/story that uses this ancient plot device is Star Wars. Most any genre (fantasy, sci-fi) fiction will follow this basic 'mythologic' plot line, including my own novels.
As a budding (ie: struggling, frustrated, neurotic) writer, I've studied this plot principle. Anyone who writes fiction should study the Hero's Journey, because it WILL help you create a better story. Should be on the 'Writer's Requirements' list.
Moneyball is the perfect example of a non-genre fiction story that uses the Hero's Journey, and proof that the oldest tropes are the best tropes. The movie's plot follows the Hero's Journey TO A TEE. (Golfing weather is back, too. Woohoo.)
And here, my proof: (warning, beginning of plot spoiler. As in, the entire movie broken out for you, according to the Hero's Journey plot points.)
- The Ordinary World: Our fabulously handsome, always eating hero, Billy Beane, is introduced. He's just trying to do his job managing the Oakland A's in the good old game of baseball.
- The Call to Adventure: The Hero's team loses it's best players, and it's revealed he's divorced but really cares about his daughter. He's also a failed ball player himself. On top of all this sympathy-building-sadness, his team possesses the smallest budget in the league, which makes his job so much harder. He needs to do something about this situation.
- Refusal of the Call: Our hero is unhappy with the way things are going, but doesn't know what to do, he's blocked on all fronts, so he does business-as-usual.
- Meeting with the Mentor: Here it breaks with the old trope a bit - instead of meeting our ancient-Yoda-character, full of wisdom, we meet a young Yale grad. The mentor provides the hero with a radical new way of thinking, thanks to his college education and crazy smarts - apply statistics to baseball! This magic potion is called 'Moneyball'.
- Crossing the Threshold: Our Hero decides to apply the Mentor's new idea, Moneyball, to his team, breaking with a tradition that is over 100 years old. End Act One.
- Tests, Allies, and Enemies: The hero's recruiters are dead-set against Moneyball, the players he recruits aren't sure about it, and the concrete enemy, the team manager, tries to thwart him left and right. Some of the players become his allies, but the Mentor remains his ultimate ally.
- Approach: The Hero and Mentor prepare to bring their assault on the world of baseball, and all its tradition and superstition.
- The Ordeal: Things just aren't going well. People aren't doing what the Hero wants - baseball players are being ornery, team manager won't play the guys he wants him to, the team owner, fans (and those obnoxious radio hosts), are questioning the Hero's decision to use Moneyball. Even his daughter is concerned. Our Hero has his moment of doubt, but takes a risky, daring action that could get him fired to ensure his new method is applied. End Act Two.
- The Reward: Things begin to go right. The A's win more games in a row than has been done in decades, beating old, old records. Fans believe, the owner believes, even the Team Manager believes. The Hero Billy Beane is vindicated.
- The Road Back: Then, just when everything is peachy, a moment of doubt. In the Hero's Journey, its typical for there to be a chase scene here, and Moneyball doesn't fail - the Hero races back to the record-tieing game, only to see the game go from an 11 hit lead, to tied up. Danger! End Act Three.
- The Resurrection: Just when all seems lost, that the A's will lose the game, the Hero walks away, sacrificing his viewing of the game. It works - one of his 'radical choice' players hits a home run, bottom of the 9th, and the A's win, tieing the all-time winning record. All earlier conflicts are resolved by this point - daughter issues fixed, conflict within the team over, Moneyball proved to work.
- Return with the Elixir: Our hero has had his moments of doubt and challenge, but in the end, because of his daring, he is offered a dream job managing the Red Sox, for major buku bucks. He refuses this offer, wanting to stay in California, but he feels complete - he's changed the game. Moneyball is a success, and even though it's hard 'not to romanticize baseball', the world of baseball will never be the same.
Not baseball, not Brad Pitt.
The Hero's Journey, and it ain't even fantasy.
Now study and apply, writers!