Deus Ex Machina Explained
Deus Ex Machina Explained

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The main character is trapped. There’s no way out. They are surely doomed. The movie is over. Then all of a sudden, an inconceivable solution appears from out of the blue. This is what is referred to as a deus ex machina and it is one of the most frowned upon tropes in filmmaking. Coined during Ancient Greek theatre, deus ex machina translates to “god from the machine.” This refers to a mechanical device that the Greeks would use to lower actors playing gods onto the stage. These gods often served as a plot device to help the characters out of a sticky situation. Since then, this term has been applied to any cheap, improbable solution in film, theatre, or literature. Think about the eagles in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King or the T-rex that saves the day at the end of Jurassic Park. These unlikely heroes seem to come out of nowhere, as if delivered by the gods themselves. The term deus ex machina is usually used derogatorily to reference a lazy solution to a conflict within the narrative. It’s like an escape hatch for the filmmakers when they write themselves into a corner—but it’s also a solution that usually undermines the rest of the story in the process. So why exactly is this device problematic? Let’s find out. As a film lover, is there anything more interesting than finding out how the sausage is made? Watch our SFX: Secrets on Jurassic Park. Then take a real deep dive into filmmaking with our videos on the origins of sound, the power of aspect ratios and how different film gauges affect how you see the movies.

Comments

Snuggles McSquishbottom : The best deus ex machina ever is when the animator suddenly dies in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, letting them escape the cave monster.

BRAGGLEFRAGLE : Tolkien... Lazy writing.... Nah, chief.

TacTundra : > uses LotR as the opening example of lazy writing Lol.

Alias 0311 : Arya Stark

Mizchief : damn, i wish deus ex machina happend to me when i was taking an exam...... but all that happened was a foreshadow of my incoming failing grades....

サニャSanny : People keep talking like Deus Ex Machina = lazy writing Lazy usage of Deus Ex Machina is lazy writing.

Phil Lower : Needed an explanation for why the latest episode of Got sucked so bad. Thx

Whiting : You use the eagles as an example of because you obviously weren't paying attention or read the books.

MrCapa : A good example that plays on Deus Ex Machina The Claw from Toy Story 3

Billy b : The T rex showing up in Jarrasic park was great.

Jakab Zalán : You should also do a video on why deus ex machina was meaningful in the greek epos, the genre where it was born. I think Tolkien, for example, consciously used this archetype.

Matt Britzius : The eagles aren't Deus Ex Machina. Fight me.

Pooya Shirazi : so you're saying being literally saved by an eagle earlier and the fact that Gandalf is a good friend of theirs is not foreshadowing ? if not, would Gandalf breaking the fourth wall and telling the audience that he is later going to save Frodo by riding a giant eagle and even wink at the audience in the end count as foreshadowing?!

Elsa Laiho : Okay but in LOTR the Eagles are literally an intelligent Good group of people all by themselves, and have during the history of the world taken part in several battles im the side of the good guys. At least in LOTR they weren't sent by The Actual Gods Themselves. I mean, I know LOTR pretty much erased the fact that they weren't just dumb animals but actually intelligent and capable of making desicions by themselves, but they are. And they are good. And they didn't have an excuse like "But we're not as strong as we used to be" like the elves, so obviously they take part in that battle. I mean, it's quite literally about the fate of the whole Middle-Earth

Jon Txartxalak : " Super easy!...barely an inconvenience. "

Vul Thur Yol : The eagles from LOTR and the T-rex look more like fiats than deux ex machina. not an expert in writing, tho

Connor Boughner : LOTR trilogy is amazing and I don't care what anyone else says

Mourad Lamtougui : Game of thrones season 8 am i right

T3.O1F5 : The Jurassic world one wasn’t Deus ex Machina. Something happened like that earlier with a shark

Pyrophallus : Now explain Diabolus Ex Machina.

Dagens24 : I don't know if I agree with your JP example. The T-Rex had already been established as being in play, so for it to show up in the final confrontation doesn't exactly seem like it's out of nowhere. If they hadn't shown or mentioned the T-Rex by than point then I would say your point is valid.

Iam theDanger : First: Learn what Deus Ex Machina is. Then, you make a video about it.

Eternal mourn for Aniki : "Lazy writing", shows Tolkien Yeah, no.

Vegaspsycho : Thanks for all the great videos! Fun fact about Jim Brewer in Half Baked, the shot at 2:42 is the only time he was actually high on camera in the entire film. He kept struggling to get thru it so you can see him celebrating that he got it right as he walks out of frame.

I write Checks at the grocery store. So? : “I don’t really know how to end”... Me pushing “X” Wait. Is that a deus ex machina?

Anton Le Faivre : You could have at least mentioned the precedent of the deus ex machina trope in ancient Greek drama. This was more of a critique of the trope than an explanation, I would say.

Flash Point History : Thanks for the explanation. You presented it in an awesome format as well

ThatGameGuy : Sometimes, like In the case of Jurassic park, the occurrence isn’t so much “lazy writing” as it is a thematic choice. The abrupt entrance of the tyrannosaur is meant to convey that as perilous as the raptors seem, they remain prey for perils even greater. Nor are the eagles to be frank, sure they’re convenient, but they’re hardly baseless. They’re an Allie of Gandalf’s just like men of Rohan or of Gondor. This video seems be a product of the very thing you’re accusing these movies of, lazy writing. After reading some of the comments, it seems I’m not alone in this objection.

eskreskao : At least you didn't explain Superman 1's ending as him "spinning the world the other way to reverse time".

Riyu Tsuha : I thought Deus Ex Machina is Epic Soundtrack. But in reality is about lazy writing...

Schlomo Finkelzukebergstein : One does no simply... Uses return of the King scenes to say bad things about movies! •Dislike 157 •Waaaaar

VIRGINIA MELO : I'm so happy I found this channel (again... I seem to have found it before but I wasn't subscribed yet... feeling stupid but really glad)

dottoolshed : Shame that you didn't mention the origin of the device from Greek theatre, and its original function.

Luke M : After seeing the random rat save the day in Endgame, the whole eagles swooping in to save the day scenes really aren't that bad.

RaidenURmind : With regards to foreshadowing I'm surprised Chekhov's gun wasn't mentioned.

olke85 : Even someone of the greatest films ever made are guilty of that... Shows Jurrasic Park. LOL

Verminyard : You don't understand what Deus Ex Machina is.

mopslikvonstein : Many of the examples you give aren't really deus ex machina because they don't come completely out of nowhere. For example, the eagles were nicely set up in The Fellowship of the Ring when we saw Gandalf could use a moth to summon the eagles. It's not like a previously unmentioned eagle suddenly appeared out of nowhere in The Return of the King. Similarly, in Jurassic Park it's not like a T-Rex just suddenly appears for the first time in the climax to save the day. The audience knows there's a T-Rex roaming the area. (Also the aquatic dino was also set up in an earlier scene in Jurassic World. It was shown killing in that exact same way.)

Sultan Ag : I wondered what does this mean since I started watching cinema sins lol

Jordan Peters : Overused term # 477

Tf i just read? : night king killed by arya stark😑

Association of Free People : Gandalf isn’t one, he’s literally a demigod analogue from the start.

DerajAzden : Well in Lord of the rings there is some forshadowing because gandalf was communicating with the eagles (who are literally god's BTW) throughout the three films

MoonMaN Gaming : MFW Half Baked was more solid in its story than most of my favorite movies growing up lol

Chris Grudge : Superman turning back time was foreshadowed. During the marlon Brando montage he explains time travel and its consequences

komasdfg : 3:13 *cough* rey *cough*

Murphy Park : Deus ex machina is when the writer hasn't earned the moment, like if they were saved from velociraptors by the army. The T-Rex was already introduced, and last seen loose in the park. That's called set-up and a surprising moment, or good writing. Fine line, but an important one.

Arijeet Datta : Shut up: Jurassic park is not deux ex machina. The Tyrannosaurus rex 🦖 attacked only the velociraptors because they were moving

H Z : I thought this was about the actual game