The Death of Story
Why is it that we’re seeing so many massive franchises, unstoppable cultural icons in their prime days, start to fracture before our very eyes? Why do giants from Star Wars to Halo to the Marvel Cinematic Universe crumble like a withered, fragile leaf?
Because there is beauty in an ending, whether it by passing or conclusion. Such is the nature of fragile things. But an immortality that corrupts the heart, the vision originally cast? That’s a nightmare.
Every story is written with an ending. Even the shortest of short stories have them. A concluding remark. A completion of the goal or event. No matter what, stories have endings, even if we may desperately want them to continue.
Yet, having a resolving ending, something you can feel satisfied or at peace with, is an art form. There will always be lingering “what ifs” to any ending, true, but that list shouldn’t be so long or vital to the story being told that viewers are left distraughtly confused. That’s what we call a cliffhanger.
Newsflash, no one’s terribly fond of them until the next instalment can ease their woes. It makes people eager to come back, so this is the tactic most franchises utilize now a days. Isn’t it grating though? To always be strung along? To never have an answer without another question shoved into your face?
Let me tell you a story: There once was a powerful magician, so powerful his people considered him a god, despite being immortal beings themselves. His peers, considered gods themselves, were in a constant struggle for more power. The magician, distressed by these actions as they tore apart his people, decided to lock his “godlike” peers away. Then, he fell into a deep sleep for millennia. When he awoke, he found a world that abhorred him: his people were but mere shadows of their former selves. His methods had killed what he had fought to protect, so he made a decision to reverse those methods. He would set his peers free and destroy the world of those who inhabited it (again). The destruction would continue. He didn’t care for any of the lives he’s massacring because this time his plans will surely resurrect what he seeks, right?
This story is actually the arch of a primary villain from one of my favorite game franchises: Dragon Age. Yes, you read that right, a villain. This character became so obsessed with reclaiming the past that he’d lost sight of why they he’d done it all in the first place: to help his people. Is that not how we’re treating some of our favorite franchises by demanding more and more from them, far past their original story to tell?
I know we don’t want to see any of our favorite franchises go; I’m just as guilty. This mentality is why franchises themselves are so popular right now, but have you ever realized that continuously dragging these worlds back to life to tell another tale is causing more damage than good? That every next instalment to their lifespan is slowly corrupting what you adored in the first place?
The longer we sustain franchises, the more endings it’ll have to “endure”. Again, every story has an ending, so many of these franchises were built on an ending that has now passed. An ending that satisfied us enough to endear us to them. “Re-ending” these stories over and over lessens the unique impact of the original. Every new conclusion is a chance for, more than likely, some complete stranger to the original storyteller to go and mess it all up.
For every extra year a franchise lives beyond its originally envisioned lifespan, there’s an increased chance for it all to crash and burn, for something to break. Your franchise will earn its scars, but how many times can one stitch it all back together before there’s nothing recognizable left? When is it more merciful to let it rest?
Halo’s been in a constant tailspin since Bungie left it in the hands of Microsoft. Star Wars has morphed into Disney’s mass-audience cash grab instead of the universe fans adored. The MCU has most certainly lost some charm or spark since the Infinity Saga ended.
So… will we bring forth the next martyr or let our beloved franchises retire in peace?