The movie ‘Shrek’ directed by Andrew Adamson and Vickey Jenson, is an exceptional movie that follows the ‘Hero’s Journey’ while simultaneously subverting it. The main theme of the movie is ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. This moral also makes you reflect on some judgements that you may have made about a person throughout your life.
The key stages include Shrek (Hero archetype) meeting Donkey (Shapeshifter - Trickster, Mentor and Ally - archetype) on his way home. Shrek being confronted by all the fairytale creatures which cause him to go to Lord Farquaad’s (Shadow/Herald archetype) castle to get his swamp back. Farquaad ordering the knights to ‘kill the ogre’, Shrek defeating the knights and Farquaad sending Shrek on a quest to retrieve Fionna (Ally archetype), so that Farquaad can marry her, and Shrek must fight a dragon (Shapeshifter archetype) to achieve this. When Fionna is about to marry Farquaad, Shrek interrupts the ceremony so that he can admit his feelings for Fionna, they kiss and Fionna turns into an ogre. Shrek and Fionna get married and go on their honeymoon. Many different camera/filming techniques are used, e.g., close-up, wide-view, low-angle, high-angle, panning, long-shot, extreme-close-up, following-characters and mild-angle.
The character Shrek is portrayed as a disgusting, disturbing and ugly ogre, this makes the viewers believe Shrek to be an unlikely hero, as ogres are normally portrayed as villains or enemies. The opening scene/credits of the movie show Shrek acting as normal - bathing in mud, brushing his teeth with caterpiller slime, showing the audience that Shrek isn’t a hero, as these are not heroic qualities, but more associated to that of a ‘monster’. This subverts the original idea of the normal hero because Shrek is an ogre, however in the movie Shrek is the hero. This proves the main idea of the story which is ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. Shrek as an ogre is stereotyped as a monster, while in this story he is, in fact, the hero.
The character Donkey is an unusual sidekick for Shrek. They don’t get along initially due to their very different personalities. Donkey is more open with his feelings and can get along with anyone, while Shrek is classified as a recluse and an introvert. However, they develop a mutual understanding and respect, which becomes a wonderful friendship. They learn to appreciate each other’s differences and help each other grow as individuals, while encouraging the other through the duration of the quest. For example, when throughout the movie Donkey continues to be a very loyal friend to Shrek even when he turned his back on him and left.
Fairytales are a well-known construct that provides moral lessons and analogies in an entertaining way. ‘Shrek’ utilizes a wide range of fairytales to entertain and achieve its main moral lesson of ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. For example, the fairytales used in the movie are: ‘Cinderella’, ‘Three Little Pigs’, and ‘The Gingerbread Man’. The movie changes Cinderella’s chariot from a pumpkin into an onion, which corresponds with Shrek’s early description of ogres as onions. “Ogres aren’t like cake. Ogres are like onions, they have layers”. Which is an analogy to Shrek describing himself as a ‘thick-skinned’ being that can take insults and punches without wavering.
The movie ‘Shrek’ simultaneously reflects and subverts the ‘Hero’s Journey’ and makes you think about the film’s moral: ‘Never judge a book by its cover’. This makes it an exceptionally well-made movie, that I would recommend to everyone, who likes to see a traditional story structure challenged.