Joseph Campbell's contributions to the study of mythology and comparative religion are impossible to fully measure. More importantly, his teachings and zest for life and knowledge have benefited humanity in ways many people don't realize. His study and interpretations of mythology from multiple cultural angles are well documented in books and lectures, many of which were filmed in the years prior to his death and released on public telelvsion and subsequently, home video. Of those, "Mythos" is a fantastic series of college lectures on both Eastern and Western myth and religion, however the running time is well above what the average viewer might be willing to invest in order to broaden his or her horizons; furthermore, Campbell embarks on fascinating tangents, including some that require a working knowledge of certain background information to fully appreciate. The year prior to his death though, Campbell sat down with Bill Moyers to record six, nearly one-hour long interviews on the idea of myth, and the subsequent miniseries, "Joseph Campbell: The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers" proved a public television hit. Now 25 years later and following a few releases on DVD, "The Power of Myth: 25th Anniversary Edition" seeks to prove itself as the definitive release of the groundbreaking and insightful series.
Unlike "Mythos," "The Power of Myth" is incredibly structured, largely due to Bill Moyers' superior interviewing skills that let Campbell impart his wisdom to viewers, while managing to address questions the audience likely has and subtly steer Campbell back on topic should a tangent arise. The first episode is easily the most broad in appeal, focusing on the "Hero's Adventure," touching on the concept of the hero through the ages and in popular fiction, including "Star Wars." The second episode delves into the idea of religion as myth and its affect on society, while the third episode has a similar connection, but focuses more on the storytelling aspect of cultures and the use of myth in explaining the world at large. The final two episodes focus on the role of love and women in myth and concludes with the idea of reoccurring themes and symbols in all stories, across time and culture.
Campbell is captivating as expected, making complex ideas and sensitive subjects feel warm and inviting. He's not without controversy as he explores all religions equally and from an academic sense. Along the way, he introduces anecdotes to bring the topics discussed into a relevant light for viewers, as well as using the works of predecessors and contemporaries to strengthen his interpretations and ideas. He is without a doubt, one of the finest academics the world has seen in terms of educating the general public at large, on par with Carl Sagan and David Attenborough in sprit. Moyers, the other half of the series knows his role as interviewer/moderator and when to listen, showing great appreciation for his subject and the topics being addressed. This new release features newly recorded intros from Moyers introducing the episodes and relating the impact his talks with Campbell have had on a personal level as well as what he's heard from the average viewer. They are a nice anchor point in time, introducing the works of a great man to a new generation of viewers and a worthwhile addition to the series.
The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio transfers are a bit rough looking, although Athena has a disclaimer on the discs stating this. They are obvious products of video transfers and have the requisite low detail and muddles, warm colors.
The The Dolby Digital English stereo tracks are a bit more impressive than the visual component, but the sound mix on Moyers and Campbell can feel off-balance at time and there's a tiny bit of audible hiss at some points. English SDH subtitles are included.
A third disc features a nearly two-hour interview between Moyers and Campbell from 1981 on myth, a 30-minute interview between Moyers and George Lucas on Campbell and his influence, as well as a "clips" gallery of other Campbell programs. Rounding out the bonuses is some text-based info of Campbell's influences and a biography on Bill Moyers. As is standard with Athena releases a 12-page printed booklet accompanies the set with an overview of information of Campbell and his work.
Absolutely the most accessible of Campbell's works, "The Power of Myth" is a fantastic, well-paced series that explores concepts that seem basic on a surface level but reveal a fascinating, complex culture and historical influence. There is a wealth of information to be taken in here and repeat viewings would not disappoint. Athena has done a fine job of offering some substantial bonus features for this release. Highly Recommended.