Consequences – Deus Ex Machina in Dylan Dog
It's Josh again, and I recently saw Dylan Dog. It was a clever little movie, very similar to Being Human. While some parts of it were pretty funny, the end left a lot to be desired. Spoiler alert: I’m going to ruin a pretty lame ending.
The movie is all about an ancient cross that contains the essence of an incredibly powerful demon. Once raised, the demon is strong enough to take over the world. The monster inevitably appears, and it is epic. Jet black, armored, winged, and armed with massive horns and claws, the demon looks very cool.
Visuals aside, there are some nasty problems with how the end plays out.
Throughout the film, various characters establish the demon’s rules. Basically, once the demon is summoned, there is a symbiotic relationship between the demon and its creator. They must work together. If the summoner dies, then the demon gets trapped again in its artifact (an epic looking cross). But while it’s out, the demon has to obey the person who released it.
The movie’s villain summons the demon only to learn that it isn’t subject to the summoner’s will. The demon can do whatever it wants. The demon is able to break the summoner’s hold; it’s a surprise, and there’s nothing wrong in that.
It’s a pretty good moment except for one problem. Okay, the rules everyone expected are wrong. There’s nothing inconsistent there. Except the demon seems to forget about its symbiotic relationship to the person who summoned it. He goes back into the cross if that person dies, yet he attacks the summoner and flies away.
From there, Dylan—the main character—fights the demon and basically gets his ass kicked. He doesn’t stop the demon. He doesn’t even hurt it or slow it down. And while he fights, the summoner rushes out—and is eaten by a pack of werewolves. Summoner dead, the demon is trapped once again in his artifact. Yay, happy ending.
So Dylan accomplished nothing. If he hadn’t been there and if he hadn’t valiantly battled such a powerful enemy, literally nothing would have been different. The demon would have flown off and the summoner would have still died. The werewolves are way more important.
But this all raises another question. The demon is intelligent. He mocks the summoner, pointing out how he doesn’t need any help and how he can do what he wants. And yet, if that person dies, then he goes back to his imprisonment. He talks. He seems to think. So why doesn’t he understand this obvious vulnerability? Seriously, he knocks the summoner into a wall and flies off gloating about how evil he’s going to be.
If I were a reasonably intelligent demon bound to the world by one person, I would work really hard to keep that individual safe. Even if I didn’t care about that person’s happiness, I’m definitely worried about their safety. Sure, I might lock the summoner in a cage, but I’m going to make sure nothing bad happens. I don’t want to get sucked back into an artifact because this one person got hit by a car.
Writers set the rules of their supernatural worlds. That’s part of the fun, and yet it implies a responsibility to be consistent. Readers, especially those of the nerd breed, tend to be very judicious in tracking those rules. When writers break their own rules, readers get annoyed and lose any faith they might have had in the story.