Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.
About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)
Ah, Kingston Falls. It's a winter wonderland. It's like they live in Bedford Falls from It's a Wonderful Life. But in Kingston Falls, they watch It's a Wonderful Life. It's like being in a picture-perfect snow-globe – one that is about to be shaken.
Call To Adventure
We have to backtrack a bit to see the call to adventure, which happens when Rand locks eyes with Gizmo from across a crowded room. If this were a romantic comedy, here's the love-at-first-sight moment. But instead, Rand decides to bring Gizmo home to his son. This act gets the ball rolling.
Refusal Of The Call
Grandfather tells Rand he can't have Gizmo. This is a call that shouldn't be answered, but Rand is the guy who keeps calling even after you text him to stop. The kid sneaks Gizmo out the backdoor to sell to Rand. Yet one more step on the road to destruction.
Meeting The Mentor
There isn't a mentor character in Gremlins. The closest we have for the purpose of charting the Hero's Journey is Gizmo himself. All mentors must discipline their mentees if they fail to follow the rules, and Gizmo will soon demonstrate just how dangerous breaking his rules are. If only the kid had told Rand what the consequences of breaking the rules were.
Crossing The Threshold
Pete knocks a jar of water onto Gizmo's back, and Gizmo spurts out a bunch of furry eggs. You've heard the phrase, "you can't un-moisten a mogwai," right? Once those eggs are out, there's no putting them back in.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
When Gizmo mutates, it's time to decide which mogwai are good and which are not. (Hint: the one that bites isn't one of the good ones.) It's quickly Gizmo vs. the rest as Gizmo reads sweetly in bed while Stripe and the others tie up the family dog.
Approach To The Inmost Cave
Billy's tricked by Stripe into feeding him and the other mogwai after midnight. When we do that, we have to get up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night. When the mogwai do that, they mutate into disgusting monsters and start terrorizing the town.
Chopping up gremlins in a blender, nuking them in a microwave, and slicing them with a carving knife. This is either the "ordeal" stage of Gremlins, or a typical day in the kitchen with Martha Stewart.
Reward (Seizing The Sword)
Billy rescues Kate from the bar, and together they blow up a movie theater filled with gremlins. The reward is no more gremlins.
The Road Back
Uh-oh, there's one more gremlin. Before things can go back to the way they were before the gremlin outbreak, Billy must kill Stripe before he can reproduce again.
The resurrection of Kingston Falls happens when Stripe is killed, fried by the sun. In classic horror movie fashion, Stripe's skeleton leaps from the fountain, but it dissolves on the floor. The special effects team gets to use all its budget…and Billy is certain Stripe is dead and gone.
Return With The Elixir
Billy returns home with Gizmo, but Grandfather soon comes to collect the mogwai. There is no ultimate prize for Billy. His knowledge to carry forward is basically, follow the rules and don't screw up.