Take a step back and think for a moment, we aren’t leaving for Narnia or Wonderland, we haven’t traveled to Middle Earth for a tale of hobbits and wizards. Fantasy is happening in our world now, from Harry Potter to Twilight to American Gods. Last year a Norwegian film called Trollhunter came out (it’s on Netflix Instant Watch, by the way, and you should check it out if you haven’t already).
Joseph Campbell proposed a universal description of the hero’s journey: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” Dan Harmon adapted this description to the world of television: “(1) A character is in a zone of comfort (2) but they want something. (3) They enter into an unfamiliar situation, (4) adapt to it, (5) get what they wanted, (6) pay a heavy price for it, (7) then return to their familiar situation (8) having changed.” In both formulations of this purportedly universal narrative arc, the journey begins with leaving the home and ends with a return. For the superhero, however, there can be no return.
A warning for those of you who haven’t seen Lucky Number Slevin, this post contains spoilers.
Most of the negative reactions to Slevin include phrases like “style over substance” and “emotionally hollow.” I agree with these phrases, but I wouldn’t construe them as ways in which the movie fails: the major point of Slevin is precisely that its style is all it has. Lucky Number Slevin is a gangster movie without gangsters, a revenge plot without closure, a Kansas City Shuffle.