Is Optimus Prime a Villain?

A while back I saw Transformers 2. Obviously my expectations were not massive, but still, big robots and Megan Fox. How bad can it be? Well, pretty bad actually. But more importantly I was distracted from the start, and not just by a scantily clad Megan draped over Harley.

In the beginning of the movie it is established that the Autobots are now working together with the US Gvt to cleanse the planet of the Decepticons. The movie starts out with one such scene where a decepticon is discovered hiding in a Chinese suburb and chased through the city and finally killed.

First of all, this Decepticon was hiding. Not causing mayhem, not (as far as we know) planning to cause mayhem. He was disguised as a construction vehicle and basically trying to stay away from the Autobots that were trying to kill him (mind you, not kill him for doing anything, but just for being a Decepticon). The following chase caused massive destruction to property and most likely several civilian deaths and injuries.

Second, when the robot is brought down and incapacitated, Optimus Prime gives him a few choice words, then summarily executes him with a shot to the head.

I will admit I am not 100% unbiased in this, since when I grew up my favorite robot was Soundwave, who is indeed a Decepticon, but I feel that even looking at this objectively, Optimus Prime is indeed a villain.

That’s war for you. Just because you enemy isn’t fighting you at the moment, that doesn’t mean that the war is over, or he’s stopped being your enemy.

This. I mean, the Transformers canon establishes pretty conclusively that the Decepticon agenda is profoundly inimicable to human (and autobot) interests - it’s evil by any reasonable definition of the word. Further, there appears to be no such thing as a Decepticon civilian - all Decepticons are, by definition, engaged in the advancement of Decepticon objectives. Now, maybe this particular Decepticon truly had renounced his former affiliation, and wished to live out his life in peace - if so, his death was regrettable. BUT:

1.) The Autobots and US Gov’t had no reason to believe this, and;
2.) Even if this was a “reformed” Decepticon, it is likely that he engaged in past war crimes for which he never stood trial or was otherwise held accountable. Other than being a quack medical practitioner, Karadicz wasn’t hurting anyone when he was apprehended, either - should he have been left at large? (Note that, unlike with human war criminals, there would be no practical, safe way to imprison a Decepticon).

It is established that Decepticons can switch sides from “good” to “evil”. Just in this film one is coerced (the small robot) and one has apparently chosen to change sides of his own free will (Blackout). This proves that Decepticons are not inherently evil. In fact, the most reasonable view is that Autobots and Decepticons are the same, just belonging to different political organisation. And there is no evidence that the victim in this case had perpetrated any war crimes, no information points to that. In fact the only reason given for hunting him down is him being a Decepticon. Or rather, not being an Autobot (You’re either with us or against us?).

In fact, the only evidence of death and destruction where this particular robot is involved is the mayhem caused by the Gvt and Autobots trying to kill him. And obviously he was right in running, since when he was caught, even though he was defenseless, he was murdered in cold blood.

This bothered me as well, it seemed very out of character for Optimus Prime.

Mr. Excellent:
We did not execute every German soldier after World War II, despite them engaging in the advancement of Nazi objectives. Unless this particular Decepticon was engaged in unnecessary acts of violence against non-combatants he should have been considered a prisoner of war, not a war criminal.

On further reflection, I think Stoneburg and Grumman make good points - the cold-blooded execution of this (alleged) Decepticon may have been unethical.

Moved to Cafe Society from Great Debates.

No, the only reason they were hunting him down is that he was a soldier in an opposing army in a time of war. This doesn’t mean he’s “evil”, or different from the other side; it just means that he’s the enemy. If he had wanted to make peace with the Autobots he should have contacted them to set up a truce, or perhaps surrendered and plead for mercy. Barring that, hunting him down was the only option they had.

I agree that killing him was unneccessary, though.

You see; people diss Michael Bay and yet here he’s thrown in a clever political message about the morality of war, and how heroes can become as bad as the enemy they’re fighting.

He’s making the world a better place with every film…

They’re machines, aren’t they? Destroying a hidden Decepticon is more like defusing a hidden bomb than it is like killing an enemy.

Eh, that doesn’t work - in this context, Decepticons and Autobots are both clearly sentient. Machines or not, they’re people.

But they’re not Human, and don’t necessarily possess Human morals.

They were built, robots don’t evolve in nature. Therefore they are sophisticated machines. Machines that apparently have programming to destroy each other. Optimus Prime cannot be a villain for following his programming. Neither can a Decepticon. Smashing any of the metal motherf***ers into junk constitutes no more than property damage.

And human aren’t meat machines?

In human terms at least, I think one could make an argument that what Prime did was the equivalent of summarily executing a spy or a soldier wearing false colors.

They are actually the creations of a “god” of sorts, and more an alternate form of life complete with what amounts to a soul, the “Spark”. The funny thing is, they could make at least as good an argument for us not being “real people”, including the fact that they have a verifiable “soul” and we don’t.

The autobots are ‘The Man’, and the Decepticons are Freedom Fighters/Terrorists.

Optimus Prime is a villain and Megatron is incompetent. Star Scream who is competent always gets shit from Megatron.

They’re Transformers. Demolishor was just doing something both factions do all the time. He wasn’t even passing himself off as an Autobot, or anything like that.

That would be murdered in cold transmission fluid.

Michael Bay is the villain.

As the director, he’s responsible for the characterizations and up until his movie, Optimus Prime has always been portrayed as a wise an noble leader. Of course, this Prime isn’t the same Optimus Prime as in other media but could you imagine the cartoon version of Prime crashing through the city streets, blowing up everything in his path, then executing an enemy with a point blank shot in the face?

That’s because it’s neo-con Optimus Prime. You’re either with us, or against us. Murdering in cold transmission fluid is the new standard… the world changed after Transformers 1 giving the Autobots & humans the right to commit immoral acts that previously would have been unacceptable in a civil society.

There’s an awful lot wrong with the Transformers 2 screenplay, this is just the start really.