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With the new Star Wars instalment growing ever closer, Lachlan Liesfield is hoping for a change of tack following Tolkien’s example of less is more.
Riding a recent Tolkien kick, I decided to dive back into the books and re-read all those parts that I remembered so well from I first read them. And it finally seemed clear what I loved about Middle-Earth that I missed in nearly all other recent worlds. Something unexplained. Tolkien’s universe can be continually believed and discussed because there are elements to which we can still have these debates over. Characters such as Tom Bombadil, whose origins will forever remain a mystery (Tolkien himself said he did not know them), still leaves heavy discussion from fans as to his true nature, scouring the passages of the books for hints. Check any Tolkien forum and you’ll see it on nearly everyone. It leaves room for discussion on what exists, and why, that keeps even older fans engaged long after they’ve read all there is on offer.
It comes in stark contrast to the old Star Wars expanded universe, for which nearly every sub-character, not only in the films but in so many of those supplementary books, games and comics, were all furnished with backstories, so many of which turn otherwise unimportant characters into integral parts of the universe. Eg, every bounty hunter from Empire had his tale told and his feats listed to fill Wikia pages of unexpected length.
And this was a problem, at least certainly I found it one.
It culled the imagination of its fans, and even of its creators, those outside of George Lucas beholden then to remain faithful to an almost uncountable level of additional materials who must act in concert with one another, losing sight of any true vision for the universe. It was a business model, not a creative one, the most speculation truly available to fans of what would be released next.
It is for this reason then that I’m thankful for its scrapping following its acquisition by Disney. The expanded universe’s best tales remain readable for those who wish to find them, but clutter is gone, new creators no longer beholden to the fluff that filled so much of their universe.
Will its universe find cohesion in the same way Tolkien’s does? I doubt it. It doesn’t have to though. Middle-Earth is a mythology more than it is a franchise, but Star Wars doesn’t need to be. It’s likely that so much of the universe will again be over-explained, speculation over teasers rather than content (much like Disney’s growing Marvel Cinematic Universe), but hopefully a guiding hand can at least know when certain areas are overfilled and certain story-lines just “too much” for the universe. It doesn’t need everything explained in it. Star Wars is fantasy, not hard science fiction, where the type of story itself demands the details of each technology be covered lest it overwrites its own internal logic. Star Wars is a universe where the most rousing things are those whose nature fans can debate upon for years to come without expecting to have a definitive explanation (the force before the prequels). Hopefully someone will know when to leave the lore be.
And maybe they’ll leave just a little mystery, for me?