Tag Archives: Marvel

Film 101: The MacGuffin

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

If you’ve ever read in-depth about films, you’ve probably come across some variation of the following statements:

“The hero chased a series of MacGuffins for the entire story.”

“The plot twist revealed yet another MacGuffin…”

But what is a MacGuffin? Well, MacGuffin’s are plot devices that originated in literary fiction and have long since moved over to film as well. They appear as some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist (and sometimes the antagonist) pursues, very often with little to know narrative explanation as to why they desire this thing. It should also be noted that a MacGuffin’s importance comes not because of the object itself, but rather how it affects the characters and their motivations.

In most films where a MacGuffin appears, they’re usually the main focus of the film in the first act, but thereafter decline in importance, often being forgotten by the end of the story (though sometimes it will magically reappear to aid in the climax of the plot).

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There are many examples of MacGuffins in film but one of the most popular would be the search for the Death Star Plans (held by R2-D2 and C-3PO) in the original Star Wars film. From the beginning of the film (when Darth Vader chases down Princess Leia’s ship), almost to the end (when the Falcon escapes the Death Star to head to the Rebel base on Yavin 4), the plot is driven around obtaining those plans for either the Empire or the Rebellion. This is an almost identical scenario to the one in The Force Awakens where both the First Order and the Resistance are seeking the last map piece to locate Luke Skywalker.

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The Infinity Stones could be described as the ultimate MacGuffin of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, as possession of these objects (the Tesseract, the Aether, the Mind Stone, the Power Stone, the Eye of Agamotto) has driven a large number of the films, with the threat of Thanos coming to collect them himself growing ever larger. Just for a refresher:

-The Tesseract: Captain America: The First Avenger; Thor; The Avengers; Avengers: Infinity War

– The Aether: Thor: The Dark World; Avengers: Infinity War

-The Mind Stone: The Avengers; Avengers: Age of Ultron; Avengers: Infinity War

-The Power Stone: Guardians of the Galaxy; Avengers: Infinity War

-The Eye of Agamotto: Dr. Strange; Avengers: Infinity War

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Another MacGuffin example that appears both in literature and film is the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. If you think about it, for the most of the story the Ring doesn’t really do anything except lie on a chain around Frodo’s neck. The entire plot revolves around destroying this Ring of pure evil before the Dark Lord Sauron can get his hands on it or before anyone else can claim it for their own, but we never really get to see it used to its full potential (though admittedly hints are given as to what it can do).

Possibly the most famous MacGuffin of all cinematic history comes in the classic Citizen Kane, when the reporter attempts to track down the meaning of Kane’s last whispered word “Rosebud.” To this end, he interviews countless former friends, lovers and associates, all in an attempt to find where this one word came from (I’m not going to tell you because the reveal is something everyone should experience for themselves).

And that’s my explanation for what a MacGuffin is. Having read through the examples, do any MacGuffins come to mind that I didn’t list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

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See also:

Film 101: Archetypes

Film 101: Deus ex machina

My thoughts on: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

 

WARNING: Spoilers of varying sizes will be found in this review. DO NOT read until you’ve seen the film (unless you don’t care if some epic plot twists are spoiled, in which case, carry on).

It’s been a long three years since I saw Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and for a while it felt like the sequel would NEVER get here. But finally the great day arrived and it was totally worth the wait!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was everything I dreamed it would be, an epic return to the zany world of blue space pirates, trigger-happy raccoons and talking baby trees. And speaking of….HOW ADORABLE IS BABY GROOT???? Seriously, that little guy practically stole the film! He was almost too cute for his own good (even the minor villains were commenting on his cuteness at one point), but it added some levity to some pretty dark moments (like when half of Yondu’s crew was ejected into the vacuum of space, yeah, you read that right). And the post-credits scene featuring Teenage Groot was just hilarious. It literally consists of Groot sitting in his messy room (messy with tree vines) playing video games while Star-Lord admonishes him to clean up his room.

 

It was great to see Yondu back, even if I was slightly confused about his situation at first. When we first see the space pirate again (after he was tricked out of an Infinity Stone by Quill), he has (apparently) been exiled from the Ravagers for breaking their code, something involving the trafficking of children. I assumed they were referring to Yondu kidnapping Peter all those years ago, but it turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg (more on that later). Yondu has a pretty up and down time in this film: he starts off being an exiled captain, is taken prisoner by mutineers, and then retakes his ship with the help of Baby Groot, Rocket and one loyal crewmember in one of the most epic montage scenes I’ve seen in YEARS (lets just say his telekinetic arrow has a starring role).

Star-Lord’s team is as hilarious as ever (though I do feel like Drax burst into laughter one time too many, but that’s nitpicking). The tension between Gamora and Peter is beginning to grow palpable (she totally digs him even if she won’t quite admit it, but he definitely knows he loves her, or at least has very strong feelings for her). I wouldn’t be surprised if those two are together by the end of Vol. 3.

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Now let’s move on to Ego, The Living Planet, aka Star-Lord’s long-lost father. When I first heard that this character would be in the film, I was totally confused (I’ve never read the comics), and could not visualize what a living planet would look like. Actually, at first I thought Peter would just be talking to a giant planet for most of the time. But I have to say, the film did a great job of explaining how Ego is able to appear and travel as he does. And Kurt Russell was totally the best choice to play Star-Lord’s father, they totally act just the same way!! It explains so much about Peter, it really does. And the surface of Ego was so beautiful, perfect and so Eden-like…that I really should have figured out that much sooner that something was terribly wrong (like, before Mantis dropped the hint by nearly spilling the beans to Drax the first time).

There’s an old saying, that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. And while it IS true that Ego is Peter’s father (the opening scene set in 1980 establishes that), he is hardly an ideal parent. The way Ego presents his story, he’s spent the last 30 years or so searching for his son, his ONLY son, so they can finally be together as father and son. It sounds nice, but considering he’s lived for millions of years I should’ve considered there was more to it than that. One of the first things they do together is see if Peter can connect to Ego’s essence, referred to as “The Light”, which resides at the core of the planet. Peter can do it, which makes Ego really happy, but not because it proves beyond a doubt that Peter is his son, but because it now gives him a means to an end.

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(WARNING, I’m about to spoil the big plot twist of the film): See, Ego isn’t this benevolent immortal looking to play catch-up with his son. He’s actually a little (lot) crazy and has come to the belief that his purpose in life is to fill the universe (or at least the galaxy) with replicas of himself. To this end, he’s spent the last million years or so planting essences of himself on every planet he’s ever come across (we see Earth’s at the beginning of the film, though we don’t know exactly what it is then). And on each of those planets, he made sure to sire a child, because, though he has the ability to plant these essences, he can’t activate them without the help of a second Celestial. But until Peter, none of this children, none of his MILLIONS of children, have possessed the right genes. So what did Ego do? He KILLED them!! Gamora and Nebula discover a series of caves below the surface that are filled to the brim with bones, millions of bones. And every last one belongs to Ego’s children, many of whom were brought to the planet by Yondu and his pirates (this is why the Ravagers exiled him). Yondu was paid handsomely to turn a blind eye to what was happening, but when he was sent to fetch Peter, he couldn’t bring himself to take the boy, because he figured he would die like the others. Now, all of this is bad enough, but then Ego admits one of the most shocking statements I’ve ever heard. In describing the glories of being a Celestial, Ego tells him (Peter) that they are “above mortals.” But then, what about Peter’s mother? “You said you loved my mother” Peter reminds him, and Ego admits that he really did love Meredith Quill, so much so that had he visited her on Earth a 4th time, he would have stayed on the planet and never left.

“It really broke my heart…” he says “When I had to put that tumor in her head.”

WHAT?? (I swear you could’ve heard the gasp all throughout the theater). Crazy Ego god-planet guy say WHAT???

As the opening of the first film established, Peter’s mother died of brain cancer, a long and tortuous way to die. NOW we learn that Ego PUT the cancer there in the first place!!!!! This knowledge pushes Peter over the edge (he loved his mother more than anyone) and leads into the climactic battle between father and son.

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Of course the big lesson of this film is that family isn’t defined just by blood, it’s also who raised you, who forms actual bonds with you. The Guardians are more Peter’s family than Ego ever could have been. And as for Peter’s father…well, it was Yondu who really raised him, a fact that neither really admits to themselves until nearly the end of the film when….*gulps* when Yondu sacrifices his life to save Peter’s. Oh, that moment about broke my heart. Yondu tells Peter that “He (Ego) may have been your father, but he wasn’t your daddy!” And then he put the last spacesuit capsule-thing on Peter so he would be safe when they entered the vacuum on space, and all Peter can do is cry and scream in denial as Yondu dies right in front of him (that has to be one of the saddest moments ever in the MCU).

I’m so excited to see where the Guardians go from here, as we’ll next see them in Avengers: Infinity War (I sincerely hope Peter and Iron Man bump heads figuratively, I just know those two won’t get along at first). I also hope that Nebula gets the chance to exact vengeance on Thanos for everything he did to her as a child. I knew Thanos was cruel, but to do all of THAT to his own child…

I could probably keep going for another 1000 words, but these are the bulk of my thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2. Final verdict: it is definitely a film worth seeing and it totally lives up to the hype.

What did YOU think of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? Did you like it, not like it, prefer the original instead? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear about it 🙂

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See also: Film/TV Reviews

My thoughts on: Black Panther (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War-Review (no spoilers)

My (spoiler-free) Thoughts on: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

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John Debney (and Tom Morello) talk Iron Man 2 (2010)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

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John Debney (and Tom Morello) talk Iron Man 2 (2010)

It’s hard to create a sequel that lives up to the awesomeness that was the original Iron Man film, but Iron Man 2 did a pretty good job. The film follows Tony Stark after he publicly reveals that he is Iron Man to the world.

See, as it turns out, the palladium in the arc reactor that’s keeping Tony alive is also slowly killing him, so he begins to live life very recklessly (as he doesn’t have much time to live), to the consternation of Pepper Potts and James Rhodes, who have no idea that Tony is slowly dying. But there are other problems: Ivan Vanko, determined to seek vengeance on Stark, builds his own arc reactor and sets out to kill him. (This is also the film that introduces Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow) to the MCU.

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Stark is also under increasing pressure to sell the designs of his Iron Man suits to the government, but he is unwilling to do so. Everything comes to a head when Tony gets drunk at a birthday party while wearing his Mark IV armor. Rhodes dons the Mark II prototype and the two fight to a stalemate which ends with Rhodes flying off with the armor to give to the Air Force. At the same time, rival Justin Hammer has enlisted Vanko to build his own set of armored suits (which he passes off as his own work), not realizing that Vanko has sabotaged them so that they can be remotely controlled by him. It’s up to Tony to stop Vanko once and for all!

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While the film’s score features a healthy selection of rock songs (including two from AC/DC), the orchestral score was composed by John Debney and Tom Morello. The above video featurette details how Debney collaborated with Morello to create the score for the film.

Some have criticized the MCU for not having a “consistent” sound, which is to be expected since multiple composers have been employed to score these films, but I think each composer puts their own unique twist to each installment of the MCU, and Iron Man 2 is no exception. I hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look at the making of this film’s score.

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See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

John Debney scoring Predators (2010)

John Debney talks The Scorpion King (2002)

John Debney talks The Passion of the Christ (2004)

John Debney talks The Jungle Book (2016)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

Marco Beltrami talks Blade II (2002)

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Marco Beltrami talks Blade II (2002)

In the early 2000s (before The Twilight Saga set itself up as the vampire saga), there was another vampire of note appearing on the silver screen: Blade. Adapted from a comic book, Blade is a half-vampire who spends his days waging a behind-the-scenes war against vampires and the humans allied with them. Being a half-vampire himself, Blade suffers from a growing thirst for blood, but also has none of the weaknesses of regular vampires.

Blade (1998), introduced us to the character and his war against vampires, while Blade II (2002), continues the story. In the sequel, two years after the original story took place, Blade is forced to join forces with his hated rivals to combat a new strain of vampirism that turns those infected into “Reapers”, a mutation that is immune to all vampire weaknesses except for bright light.

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Reapers kill all humans that they come into contact with, while any vampires they feed on also become Reapers. Blade is brought in to help with the situation as the vampires have found themselves unable to contain the Reapers. Ironically, the team of vampires Blade is forced to work with (known as ‘the Bloodpack’) were actually trained for the sole purpose of killing Blade. (Also interesting to note: this film features a pre-Walking Dead Norman Reedus as seen in the picture below.)

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The orchestral score for this film was composed by Marco Beltrami, and I was delighted to find this interview where he describes the process of creating the score for Blade II. One of the drawbacks of an action film is that the fights and mayhem usually drown out the score, so this interview provides a rare opportunity to hear pieces of the music without any interference.

I used to be really into movies like Blade II, and I feel it’s a good example of a comic adapted to film (and significant since this takes place before Marvel and DC began saturating the market in 2008). There have been whispers of Blade being rebooted into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though I’m not sure where the character would fit in (it would be pretty huge to introduce the existence of vampires).

What did you think of Blade II? Did Marco Beltrami’s score stand out at all? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

See also:

Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson talk Resident Evil (2002)

Marco Beltrami talks Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Marco Beltrami talks 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Marco Beltrami talks The Wolverine (2013)

Marco Beltrami talks World War Z (2013)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook too 🙂

*film poster is the property of New Line Cinema