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Deus ex machina?


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#1 of 50 OFFLINE   Gary->dee

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Posted June 01 2003 - 04:25 PM

Can someone give me an example or two of movies with a deus ex machina? After seeing Adaptation I still don't know what one is even though it probably had one. Is it something like a predictable ending?

#2 of 50 OFFLINE   Chris Farmer

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Posted June 01 2003 - 04:33 PM

Deus ex machina is a Latin phrase meaning literally "god form the machine." It comes from Greek plays, where the protagonist would be thrown into an unsolvable situation that was impossible to get out of, then a winch would lower down an actor portraying a Greek god from above, who would present the previously impossible solution. It pretty much keeps that meaning today. Basically you have a situation that's completely impossible to solve, then somethign happens at the last second. The best example I could think of was Jurrassic Park. Grant, Ellie, and the kids have been cornered by the velocoraptors. They're screwed, they can't win the fight, they have no guns. Then suddenly the T-rex bursts in and kills that raptors (my apologies for the spoilers for all three of you who haven't seen Jurrassic Park Posted Image ). there had been no set-up for that, no trackign the rex and seeing it get closer to the lodge. You hadn't seen it for half an hour, then it just bursts in and saves the day at the last possible second. That's a deus ex machina.

They're generally looked down upon as a cheap way to solve the problems, sort of a cop-out, although when done well can certainly work just fine (like the above T-rex incident. Total DEM, but for the most part I think people accepted it no problem).

#3 of 50 OFFLINE   Richard Kim

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Posted June 01 2003 - 04:40 PM

I think that Trinity resurrecting Neo in The Matrix is a good example of deus ex machina. I was rolling my eyes what that happened. That was the only glaring flaw in an otherwise great film.

OTOH, I had no problem with Neo doing the same with Trinity in The Matrix Reloaded. Since he's the One, he can do just about anything while in the Matrix. Trinity showed no indication that she has such power.


#4 of 50 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted June 01 2003 - 04:47 PM

Richard,
Trinity may not have the same power as Neo, but that's not why she was able to bring him back. It was her fate to love the One, by admitting it, and therefore fulfilling her fate, the One was reborn, because he can't be dead and the One at the same time. At least that was my take on it...it's still deus ex machina, IMO...

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#5 of 50 OFFLINE   Walter Kittel

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Posted June 01 2003 - 04:46 PM

While I love the film, the resolution of The African Queen is totally D.E.M.

I'm referring to the German boat striking the torpedo, essentially rescuing our protagonists. While the film attempts to setup the scenario, it strikes me as the wildest of coincidences and is so improbable as to not be believed.

Not sure I agree about Trinity's interaction with Neo at the conclusion of The Matrix. The scene is used to establish Trinity's love for Neo and how that fits the Oracle's messages for both Trinity and Neo. The film clearly establishes a resurrection motif and uses Trinity as the triggering mechanism. Since there is some groundwork layed in earlier scenes, I don't consider it D.E.M.

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#6 of 50 OFFLINE   Brook K

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Posted June 01 2003 - 04:50 PM

BTW, the Deus Ex Machina in Adaptation is Chris Cooper being eaten by the crocodile. One of the movie's funniest moments.

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#7 of 50 OFFLINE   Evan Case

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Posted June 01 2003 - 05:04 PM

Brook... spoiler alert! (I've seen it, but still.)

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#8 of 50 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted June 01 2003 - 05:04 PM

You might want to put that in spoiler tags, Brook. Not everyone has seen Adaptation yet.
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#9 of 50 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted June 01 2003 - 05:08 PM

Well, now I don't have to bother watching the movie...
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#10 of 50 OFFLINE   Damin J Toell

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Posted June 01 2003 - 05:37 PM

There is another deus ex machina in Adaptation:

And this one is literally a machine: Donald getting killed in the truck collision.

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#11 of 50 OFFLINE   Gary->dee

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Posted June 01 2003 - 06:10 PM

Thanks for the explanation, Chris and everyone for the great examples! Posted Image Posted Image

#12 of 50 OFFLINE   Yee-Ming

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Posted June 01 2003 - 08:43 PM

Most episodes of Star Trek (any incarnation) Posted Image

#13 of 50 OFFLINE   Chris Farmer

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Posted June 02 2003 - 03:53 AM

No kidding Yee, while i enjoy TNG as much as anyone, it's terrible about pulling DEM solutions at the end.

#14 of 50 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted June 02 2003 - 03:54 AM

Monty Python's Life of Brian contains a great deus ex machina joke:

When Brian is saved because he falls into the alien ship.

Has nothing to do with the plot, comes out of nowhere, and serve only to extricate the protagonist from an unsolvable predicament.

Arguably, many of the examples in this thread are not truly deus (dei?) ex machina. But today the term is often used generically to refer to plot machinations that are wildly implausible, even when there's been some degree of setup. By that definition, the ending of Shakespeare in Love would qualify, even though it features royalty and not divinity. Posted Image

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#15 of 50 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted June 02 2003 - 04:11 AM

How about the ending to the 1st Superman film?
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#16 of 50 OFFLINE   Alex Spindler

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Posted June 02 2003 - 05:34 AM

War of the Worlds has a huge deus ex machina resolution, as does The Andromeda Strain. Both have a scientific reasoning for their resolutions, but they certainly fall under DEM in my opinion.

#17 of 50 OFFLINE   Seth Paxton

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Posted June 02 2003 - 06:02 AM

I agree with Brook on the Adaptation DeM. It got one of the biggest laughs from me as well.

The Life of Brian example is terrific. The Holy Grail almost has one but then its halted by another plot device that would have been big time DeM except that it had been established.
Where did all those soldiers come from at the end to help attack the French castle.


Keep in mind that DeM don't really have to mean things that couldn't happen, but rather things that are not established in any way and then just suddenly occur when there appears to be no other solution.

Mission to Mars has a DeM to me when they...
are able to solve this DNA message in 10 seconds by picturing floating candy. Not only that but they realize that what it means is that they must broadcast the signal back, which then opens the pyramid/head thing. Then a Sinease can just hop on a alien craft and fly away. Sheesh, what a terrible string of final scenes.


#18 of 50 OFFLINE   Mike Broadman

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Posted June 02 2003 - 11:04 AM

The worst offender for me was the mini-series The Stand. I've never read the book, so I can't compare it.

When the heroes are all tied up and it looks like they are doomed, the hand of God literally comes down and saves them.


You can't get more DEM than that. Let's just say I was less than happy with it after sitting through it for a whole week.

#19 of 50 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted June 02 2003 - 12:13 PM

Mike,
The end of the Stand wasn't really a DEM, because it had direct ties to the plot. The film(book) is about faith, and that's how it played out. Not to mention the fact that they weren't exactly saved by the hand of God...the hand ignited the nuclear bomb and destroyed Las Vegas.

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#20 of 50 OFFLINE   Rob P S

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Posted June 02 2003 - 12:49 PM

Speed,

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