The point of MacGuffins/Deus Ex Machinas

Discussion in 'Transformers Movie Discussion' started by Superion33, Jun 28, 2009.

  1. Superion33

    Superion33 Banned

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    Just wanted to have a friendly discussion on these. Here is the definition that I could find for both:

    From what I understand of Deus Ex Machina, its basically a cheap plot device where some object or thing is used as the be-all and end-all thing that drives the plot. Either a doomsday device or the last artifact of hope. I'd classify almost every single TF thing in the TF mythos as a Deus Ex Machina - Plasma Energy Chamber, Oracle, Key to Vector Sigma, Matrix, Allspark, Well of Allsparks, etc.

    From what I know of MacGuffin, its something along the lines of a Deus Ex Machina in that it is created purely to advance the plot. Artificially. Sam's grandpa's glasses is a use of a MacGuffin. Its used as a plot device to make the characters act in a certain way.

    I don't think either of these are necessary. I think a plot can happen fine without any of these elements. Look at anything from a war movie to a drama - there are no plot devices used like the above.

    I know we as TF fans have been barraged with this stuff lately, but do we really need this? Sure, I could see ONE Deus Ex Machina - along the lines of the one ring in LOTR - but do we really need one more stronger than the other? Do we really want to go the route of bad anime with someone is strong because their "power level" is greater than anyone else's only to find someone later on that is "even more" powerful and continuing ad nauseum?

    I think the focus has comptely been consumed by these cheap writing tactics. There are an infinite amount of new ways that TFs could be portrayed if someone just uses their imagination in clever ways. What is so bad about the motivation being simple? What if it is just a simple battle? What if the entire universe isn't in danger - does that make the plot somehow less?
     
  2. shroobmaster

    shroobmaster Well-Known Member

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    But, like, considering how much it uses 'em, isn't McGuffins pretty much part of Transformers lore nowadays?

    Plus the TF2 McGuffins, except for the Harvester, was basically still usage of TF1's Allspark considering they were shards or made from it (the matrix).
     
  3. Superion33

    Superion33 Banned

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    Ok, like I know you personally shrooby understand that the movie is its own thing. So why would you now suddenly be defending old ideas?

    The entire point was to break the tradition. I said as much in my initial post. The point is to try a new series without that. Without any hocus pocus or anything along those lines. Many many many shows have done that and been successful. In fact, I'd say the majority of shows on TV do not use these things - why can't TFs?

    The Key to Vector Sigma was a Deus Ex Machina as much as Vector Sigma itself. Just like in your example of the Harvester. Its still cheap writing in my opinion.
     
  4. DaggersRage

    DaggersRage Autistic bastard.

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    Deus ex machinas arnt cheap plot devices, just a lot of movies use them cheaply. Jetfire ripping out his spark and giving Prime his parts is an example of a deus ex machina in the movie.
     
  5. iamamachine

    iamamachine colonyofcells

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    The Decepticons in ROTF were not much of a threat so the plot to destroy the sun with the sun harvester was an interesting idea.
    In the movie, I saw Decepticons got killed by tanks, missiles, and bombs so it seems that Decepticons are too weak to be much of a threat to anyone.
    In TF1, Blackout was portrayed as invincible and they had to hit him in his weak point to beat him. Starscream was able to easily beat jets, whereas in ROTF, a bunch of jets were able to easily kill the Decepticons (I am not sure why Starscream and Soundwave allowed the jets to do damage).
     
  6. shroobmaster

    shroobmaster Well-Known Member

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    The movie is it's own thing, but stuff like forgetting Optimus, Megatron and TransforGuffins is but a crime! It's like, strawberry cake without strawberry, or cake!

    ANYWAY, couldn't the same be said for all common objects in story writing? Every story uses heroes, villains, deaths, geographic ares...etc.etc. to change plot points, considering all are fictional characters controlled by a guy with a pen, are they really that much different from objects needed in a plot? The Allspark is just as much of a plot-exit as Gordon's daughter in THE Dark Knight, the difference is that one of the plot-shifters could talk and walk.
     
  7. Superion33

    Superion33 Banned

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    Who said anything about forgetting characters - I am taking about objects.
     
  8. transmetal2dinobot

    transmetal2dinobot Sub-Commander

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    Deus ex Machina translates from latin to God in the Machine. Most act as universal problem solvers, the only thing that can stop the unstoppable, divine intervention if you will. These can enrich a storyline if used properly, but if used incorrectly(using the term loosely) they can severely weaken it. Example, every other Galactus storyline in Marvel Comics showing him to be an unstoppable demi-god, only to be stopped by the magical negative field/whatever. Or the function of the matrix of leadership in TFTM. A deus ex machina is not by definition a macguffin, it is more like the solution to an unsolvable problem. that said, nothing stops a macguffin from being a deus ex machina.

    MacGuffins are a great little gimmick if utilsed properly. I don't think those that have been used in the movieverse(allspark, harvester etc) have been used properly, either being given too much or too little focus to be really effective and make us care about them. There needs to be some deeper drive, objectives and challenges to overcome. properly used macguffins come in handy here, as they become an object of interest for the audience, the literal "plot device". think of the briefcase in pulp fiiction, or the gopher in caddyshack. neither contribute directly to the plot, but have enough indirect influence that they keep the audience interested.

    i think the problem with simple motivations(from a writers perspective) is that they seem very small scale. people aren't generally satisfied with small scale, so something has to be epic. i wish it were as easy as just having a simple battle as the motivation, but it's not. there has to be a reason behind it, and there are two that most stories will choose between. treasure or ideology. to avoid drama with various groups, writers will tend to go with the former. and lo, we have our war over the allspark, with all of it's god in the machine like properties.

    i ask that you forgive spelling/grammar, i worked a triple shift today, starting at 5am, and then had to go halfway across the city to meet with an editor. it's 2am now. god damn.
     
  9. Digilaut

    Digilaut My name is Drift.

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    I have no problems with McGuffins such as the Allspark or the Matrix. They're just part of the Transformers franchise, along with alot of other little McGuffin cousins..Minicons..Energon.. etc.


    *rotf spoiler below*

    One Deux Ex Machina that I think IS terrible in the movieverse is the railgun they use to shoot Devastator with in ROTF. That was totally worthless.
     
  10. Cory Bauer

    Cory Bauer Well-Known Member

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    I agree with your sentiments, but in practice it's not so easy. For one, to make "Saving Private Ryan" with live-action Transformers would cost a billion dollars, so it's just not going to happen. Since Optimus Prime and his fellow Cybertronians have very expensive day rates, they've got to share the screen with a band of fleshlings (if I remember correctly Shia's entire salary for the first film cost the same as a single robot transformation, presumably on of the more complex ones). So the question becomes: how do you involve a civilian boy and his friends/family in a giant robot civil war? They can't just tag along for the fun of it like Spike and Sparkplug did in G1.

    And that's where the MacGuffin and Deus Ex Machine's come into play. It allows Sam and company to have direct meaningful involvement in a war they otherwise could and would not partake in.

    Regarding the sun harvester, I don't mind that one bit. It's classic Decepticon scheming.
     
  11. Superion33

    Superion33 Banned

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    I am perfectly fine with humans sharing some of the screen time with the robots if it wasn't economically feasible. But, they had the entire disguise theme that, IMHO, they did not use well besides that of Blackout in the first scene of the first movie.

    I think they could have easily have done something along the lines of IDW Infiltration.

    The point of bringing up Saving Private Ryan as an example was to show that a GREAT movie could be made upon the premise of a very simple plot. The universe wasn't at danger. If the team had failed, life would still have gone on. They weren't chasing some magical object with magical powers. It was a simple rescue mission.

    Many movies don't have the Deus Ex Machina - The god power. That was the point of bringing up examples - to show that motivation can be extrinsic rather than a FORCED motivation to go find some magical thing before the world blows up. Thats why I keep saying the story seems to be written by two boys playing toys. Its that level of intelligence.
     
  12. transmetal2dinobot

    transmetal2dinobot Sub-Commander

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    SPR is a great movie, mostly because they didn't have to do much to make a great story. It's grounded mostly in reality, loosely based around the Niland Brothers story. original fiction is a lot more difficult to effectively create. but i see where your coming from, the small scale of things.
    The IDW series is good with this, especially with infiltration, but something like that is harder to condense for the big screen.
     
  13. blueandwhite

    blueandwhite Well-Known Member

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    Deus Ex Machina and the MacGuffin are both excellent tools when used correctly. Unfortunately, they are also horrible devices when overused. The biggest issue I had with ROTF is that both devices were used so extensively that it was hard to characterize the movie as actually having a legitimate plot. We had Deus Ex Machinas like Jetfire (spacebridge teleport and spark infused Prime for example), and MacGuffins (Allspark, Matrix, Sam himself) flying every which way which made swiss cheese of the plot.

    I loved a number of the action sequences in the film, but the overuse of these devices really threw me off. To have three separate MacGuffins (and a fake one) is just excessive.
     
  14. Cory Bauer

    Cory Bauer Well-Known Member

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    You're ignoring the challenge at hand: how do you make a civilian boy and his friends/family integral a giant robot civil war without a MacGuffin or Deus Ex Machina? Come up with a solid answer to that and then your argument would be valid.
     
  15. Superion33

    Superion33 Banned

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    First, I never liked the entire "boy and his car" take on the movie. Thats only one of many ways for the premise of the movie. In fact, his family did not even have to be a part of it. Sam could as easily have been a single twenty-something or a employee of some government agency.

    But if we're going to stick to the same premise as the Bayverse, then there are many ways to handle it. One of the easiest being that Bumblebee was severely damaged to the point of death and his cover was blown by Spike. But instead of reporting Bumblebee, Spike helps Bumblebee to survive and thus a bond is formed. The Autobots can't "off" Sam, and Bumblebee won't allow anyone to harm the human that helped him - thus a bond is formed.

    No need for the Allspark or the glasses. Now that Spike knows that there are other TFs on earth, he says he will help the Autobots as their human liasion since all the TFs go incognito in their ALT modes and can't be seen directly.

    For danger - you have the unseen Decepticon menace. Don't need to bring "the ultimate doom with the sun blowing up" into it.
     
  16. knoted

    knoted Resistor Transistor

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    This.

    The ironic thing is : at the beginning, at NEST HQ; Galloway asks Prime why he wouldn't just give the humans Autobot tech so the humans could defend themselves so the Autobots wouldn't have to be granted Earth asylum anymore.

    Well, obviously the humans don't even need the Autobot weapon tech anymore because it just takes a plot device on a human vessel + Simmons' pinpoint coordinates to get the big job done.

    LAME.
     
  17. Cory Bauer

    Cory Bauer Well-Known Member

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    A Bond between Sam and Bumblebee would not explain or give any reason for Sam to be on the battlefield. They already have a bond in the films, but without the MacGuffins there would be no reason for the battle to involve Sam. Keep trying.
     
  18. Ethereal

    Ethereal A Sad Flareon

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    I think that, unfortunately, a lot of big budget films and popular franchises tend to rely on the Deus Ex Machina device, which really hurts it. The Devs one in ROTF was a big big glaring DEM.

    I think they work to a point, but unless you're Jim Butcher writing The Dresden Files, letting painfully obvious DEMs solve your problems are a bit much.
     
  19. 03Mach1

    03Mach1 Reason Has No Voice

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    MacGuffins seemed to work for Indiana Jones. I'm sure the TF franchise will continue to do just fine with them.
     
  20. Cory Bauer

    Cory Bauer Well-Known Member

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    Yes, that one was completely unnecessary and disheartening.
     

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