What’s the Best Example of the ‘Rule of Cool’ in a Movie?
Today, I’m looking for what you think you is the best example of the “rule of cool” seen in a movie.
Pop Culture Theme Time is a feature where I put a question to you to see what you think about a particular theme. I might later revisit the theme for a future Drawing Crazy Patterns or Top Five.
An old Dungeons and Dragons term that has been picked up by the larger pop culture world is the “Rule of Cool.” CBR’s Alexander Sowa discussed the rule earlier this year:
[T]here’s no one official wording on what the “Rule of Cool” is. However, it’s most easily summed up this way: if something makes the game more exciting, let it happen. If a player wants to jump off the top of a wizard’s tower to ambush an enemy who’s hundreds of feet below them, allow it. If they want to throw a sword to cut the rope hanging their fellow party member from the gallows, allow it.
When expanded to the larger world of pop culture, it generally means, “The limit of suspension of disbelief for any given element in a story is directly proportional to its awesomeness.”
In other words, if something is awesome, then it doesn’t really have to make sense (or it has to make LESS sense). This is similar to last week’s discussion of “hand waving,” but we’re not even talking about stuff that was even hand waved, and I’m not talking about plot holes, exactly, just really cool things that make less sense the more you think about them, but they’re still cool, so shut up.
My example is Darth Maul’s awesome double-sided lightsaber from Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. A double-sided lightsaber doesn’t seem to be all THAT awesome of a weapon, practicality-wise, but damned if it doesn’t look REALLY COOL!
That’s my pick. What’s yours?
And feel free to suggest future Pop Culture Theme Time topics to me at email@example.com!
7 thoughts on “What’s the Best Example of the ‘Rule of Cool’ in a Movie?”
In Back to the Future, Marty McFly is seen stuffing candy into his mouth late at night when Doc calls him to tell him to bring the video camera to the mall. Slightly later in the film, Marty orders something without sugar at the diner in 1955.
It would’ve corresponded with his sugar phobia if he was seen eating raisins or nuts, rather than candy, but candy is cooler.
Marty could’ve been diabetic and having a hypo at night.
Let’s go back to Star Wars: A New Hope. The swing across the shaft because the bridge controls were broken. It looks cool, but it does illustrate how a lot of the original Death Star’s design was “rule of cool.” Deep shafts everywhere? Sure. No railings? Why not.
My first thought was Roger Ebert’s take on a scene in 2002’s “Resident Evil”: “There is one neat effect when characters unwisely venture into a corridor and the door slams shut on them. Then a laser beam passes at head level, decapitating one. Another beam whizzes past at waist level, cutting the second in two while the others duck. A third laser pretends to be high but then switches to low, but the third character outsmarts it by jumping at the last minute. Then the fourth laser turns into a grid that dices its victim into pieces the size of a Big Mac. Since the grid is inescapable, what were the earlier lasers about? Does the corridor have a sense of humor?”
There’s no greater rule of cool application that noise effects in space.
Everybody asking for silent explosions and laserbeams, nobody really wants them.
Ricardo, I don’t know. Firefly and Serenity managed to remain pretty compelling despite the lack of sound in space.
The odd thing is that Marty ordered a Pepsi Free, which was free of caffeine, not sugar. Then as now, the one “without any sugar” was Diet Pepsi. (There was also Diet Pepsi Free, which had neither.)
I’m sort of guessing it was product placement done without a lot of attention to detail.