Monday, July 4, 2011

OP

I just saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon today and I was quite disappointed by the way it ended. Not that I was really expecting anything in the way of plot and meaning, I watched this movie for the special effects and explosions. Yet there's something about the movie that bugged me very much.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

In the end of the film, the villain Sentinel Prime engages in a duel with Optimus Prime, the supposed good guy. Sentinel Prime hacked off Optimus' arm and stabbed him in the chest, ready to end his life. Elsewhere, the female lead has just talked Megatron, the other bad guy into killing Sentinel Prime (who earlier in the film, took over command of Megatron's forces and usurped his power). So in a Deus Ex Machina fashion, Megatron comes out of nowhere and saves Optimus by blasting away Sentinel Prime just as he was about to kill Optimus. Megatron, who could have just watched Optimus die and then killed Sentinel Prime, offered Optimus a truce as all he wanted was to lead his Decepticons again.

Now at this point I was genuinely surprised. The Transformers movies are really just about tits and explosion, and I was expecting a very cliched Good vs. Evil plot. Yet here we have the villain saving the hero from certain doom, and offering him a truce. I totally thought he was going to turn and shoot Optimus as well.

What happened next annoyed me to no end. Optimus Prime - the hero of the story, was just saved by his nemesis who offered peace. In a rational decision (the one that certain audience mention "why didn't he just do that, it would have ended everything") unfitting for the world of fiction, and certainly unfitting for a moral hero; Optimus proceeded to take advantage of Megatron in his one moment of vulnerability and killed him with a swift blow to the head. The hero just back-stabbed the villain, who just saved him. So in the world of betrayals and deception, it was the good guy who fought the dirtiest.

Heroes should not act in such a manner. By doing so the hero was no better than the villains he fought, more than that the hero became worse. Optimus was spared by Sentinel Prime, and Megatron saved his life, but given the opportunity he killed them both instantly, no matter how dishonorable it was. I argued with a friend over whether or not Optimus Prime was a total douche in the movie. He brought up the point that Megatron would have just caused more destruction later. He asked me if hypothetically I had the chance to kill Hitler (and I knew he was going to cause the deaths of millions) right after he saved my life, would I do it?

First of all the whole killing someone to save millions hypothetical is a murky area. It is a difficult decision to reach morally whether or not it is wrong. For the act of taking a life is not morally sound, and when you kill a murderer, are you really better than them? This situation is one that I cannot answer. I believe in this hypothetical, there is the action one should take (kill) and the one that is righteous one (not kill).

Yet if he had saved my life, I would not kill him. For such an act is a monstrosity worse than the actions of its victim. I would not be able to kill if he had not saved me, so thereby, I would effectively be killing him for the performance of a righteous deed. This is worse than the slaughter of innocents - it is punishing one for doing good in the world. It is a betrayal on the most personal of levels. It is beyond simple hypocrisy. As a violation of my personal integrity and all such an action stands for. The action boils down to the fact that a man was killed because he saved a life. There is no justice in such an act, and a good person cannot bring themselves to perform without justice. It may be selfish in its core, but I still cannot bring myself to do that - for I know it to be wrong.

Certainly heroes should not use such methods. For if they do, they are not heroes, but villains.