Well, maybe not something as binary as “smart” and “stupid”, but you can’t beat that attention-grabbing terminology.
Coming off of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (dat title), I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie and its particulars. I didn’t expect it to be that good, but much like last year’s Pacific Rim, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course I’d prefer not to speak for anyone else, but if you need a recommendation for Dawn, you’ve got it. In a cultural climate where there have been four Transformers movies, it’s good to see that there are still films -- even summer films -- that put in the effort and absolutely kill it in execution.
But now that the movie’s taken a place inside my unreasonably-large head, I can’t help but consider it in light of other movies, video games, and stories in general. Dawn may be a movie that has apes with machine guns (it’s as stupid as it sounds), but it’s an intelligent movie with the skill to put forth and examine its themes. It’s a smart movie, all things considered. Inherently smart, gunner-monkeys aside. Even so, it doesn’t take away from any other high-quality stories out there. Pacific Rim is inherently stupid, but it’s also got some juice to it. It’s got high execution as well, and brains to go along with the metaphorical brawn.
So you know what that means. I think it’s about time we try and sort this thing out.
Lest you think I’m just trying to capitalize on recent trends, I’ve actually been thinking about this subject for a while. See, I’ve been thinking about how (and when) I’m going to do some more posts on Kamen Rider -- and while I have a few ideas, I’m leaving them simply as that for now. Ideas. Just something on the farthest of backburners. Still, over the past year or so I’ve seen several installments to completion, and the question that I’ve had to ask myself is “Which series do I like the most?”
The answer to that is Kamen Rider OOO. But the question that follows is “How do I rank the others?”
I’m tempted to give the #2 slot to Fourze, because -- while unabashedly stupid -- it warps around to being unbelievably well-executed by virtue of being 100% gung ho almost from start to finish. Its passion is its character, if not its logic and general competency. On the other hand, fan-favorite W makes a very strong argument for itself by virtue of being significantly smarter; all told, I think W is the better-written series, thanks to some better pacing and overall story beats. But it can’t match the hype and energy of Fourze, which is kind of important for a franchise built on flamboyant suit battles.
In any case, the question changes to “Which of these would I rather watch all over again?” And both make pretty good cases for themselves. As do all high-quality stories. So let’s tweak the terminology a little bit; in the case of this post, let’s not call them “stupid” or “smart”. Let’s call them “hot” and “cool”. A hot story is one that’s not so concerned about being thoughtful or intelligent or any of that (though there’s nothing stopping them from doing so, i.e. Pacific Rim), but about delivering thrills to an audience. They want to give others something to remember -- something to get their hearts shaking.
Meanwhile, a cool story is one that plays things in a more downbeat manner; it sets most (if not all) of the visceral thrills aside for a more cerebral approach. If you’re going to remember it six months on, it’ll be because your brain is still processing the myriad ideas pushed forth -- which just might end up being the case with this Planet of the Apes movie. So, assuming that you have one hot story going up against one cool story, and both are perfectly-executed, in an ideal state neither one is better than the other. Inherently, at least.
Speaking personally, I think I’d prefer a hot story to a cool one -- however slightly. You know me by now, I hope; I like stories with heroes, and adventures, and passion, and all the stuff that wouldn’t be out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon. I think that by this point, there have been enough stories across plenty of media outlets that have shown that you can have your action and excitement, BUT you can also have your thoughtfulness, too.
The Captain America movies have shown that, along with plenty of other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. You don’t have to be complex, but you do have to offer up something of merit. That’s the clincher. (Then again, there are those who legitimately enjoy the Transformers movies BECAUSE they’re so stupid, so don’t take my word as law.) That’s not to say that I’ll ignore cool stories, but given the choice between feeding my mind and feeding my soul, I suspect I’d usually go for the latter.
But hey, that’s just my opinion -- and mine isn’t the one that matters here. Once more, this post is for you, and all about you. So feel free to weigh in, and answer the question at hand: what wins out, smart or stupid stories? Why do you think that is? Which one would you prefer, if you were in a situation where you only had the chance to see ONE movie from one camp or the other? How much overlap is allowed?
Riveting questions, to be sure (well, maybe). So you know what to do, I hope? Are you ready? Get set…comment!
And as for me? I still need to rank some Kamen Rider installments. I’m considering just naming Wizard as the #2 series, because it’s almost eager to marry a kick-happy hero with a sorta-evil dragon inside him with an allegory for depression and suicide prevention.
Plus it has this.
Yep. It's that kind of series. Also, I want that sick beat to play at my funeral.