Megatron as Frankenstein’s Monster: Observations From an English Lit. student

Discussion in 'Transformers Movie Discussion' started by SKowl, Aug 6, 2007.

  1. SKowl

    SKowl Rubber Golem

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    Megatron as Frankenstein’s Monster: observations from an English Literature student

    Warning: the following contains spoilers not only from the Transformers Movie, but from the novel Frankenstein as well.

    So I saw the Transformers Movie again last week. Boy, I don’t think I’ll get tired of seeing this movie anytime soon, at least not this summer. You see, I’m a university student who spends most of his year reading, researching and writing. I’m an English Literature major, and a lot of what I deal with during the year is classic literature, novels and poetry and such. Needless to say that by the time July comes around, courses are over and I finally get a brief vacation. It’s time for my brain to relax and stop thinking about these old books written by even older people, right?

    Wrong, apparently.

    Because when I caught an afternoon showing of Transformers, my brain fell back into “university student” mode, and I caught something in the film that I believe would be very interesting to share with the fandom. It happened during the flashback scene, where Prime explains how Sam’s grandfather discovered Megatron while sailing the Arctic Circle. That’s when it hit me, maybe… Megatron is Frankenstein’s Monster, either a deliberate allusion from the writers, or just a coincidence, you decided.

    It was all fresh in my mind. I had read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the year before, and it’s the kind of story that doesn’t leave you easily. The novel opens with a ship exploring the Arctic Circle in the 18th century, just like Sam’s great grand-father (or great-great-grand-father, can’t remember). Remember how in the movie, Prime explains how it was an accident that intertwined both man and machine, as Witwicky’s dog’s broke free while they were freeing the ship from the ice, which in turn lead to the discovery of Megatron, who was also frozen in the ice? The same (or close to the same) scene plays out in the opening of Frankenstein. Explorers on a boat in the arctic circle, their ship caught in the ice, discover a man, barely alive – frozen in the arctic wasteland. He is Viktor Frankenstein, creator of the infamous Frankenstein’s Monster.

    From the novel: A sledge . . . had drifted towards us in the night, on a large fragment of ice. Only one dog remained alive; but there was a human being within it. . . . His limbs were nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering. I never saw a man in so wretched a condition.

    Though this is the first scene in the novel, it is chronologically the last, as Viktor tells the explorers of his failed experiment at creating life and how he is now hunted by the Monster, who has already destroyed everything he loves. The novel never goes into great detail on how Viktor creates the monster, it is left to the imagination (it is with the assistance of electricity, like in the old movies, but where and how he finds the body for the monster is never explained), but Shelley states that Viktor Frankenstein, somehow, had found “the secret of life” – a method that enabled him to “give birth” to the Monster. This is Viktor’s ultimate accomplishment and his greatest discovery. He discovers a source that, if treated properly, can bestow new life on creatures that had lost their own. Viktor is the only one who knows exactly what it is, and now he and his secret, along with the fruits of his experiments, find themselves stranded in the Arctic Circle, in the company of a bunch of lost explorers. Sound familiar? In the film, Megatron is trapped in the ice and is discovered by explorers in the Arctic Circle. He is the physical representation of the “harbinger of death” (as Sam puts it) who is on a quest to find a certain something that can give the gift of life, a gift that – whether it’s in Frankenstein or in Transformers – is hidden in the Arctic, and stumbled upon by a group of lost explorers, be it the “Allspark” (or the glasses pointing to the Allspark) in Transformers, or Viktor Frankenstein, his secrets hidden forever in his mind, in the Mary Shelley’s novel. Even Optimus Prime says, when speaking to Sam, “Your father made the greatest discovery” when he found Megatron – he found a “new life” as well the source and manifestation of that life, just like Viktor had made the “greatest discovery” by finding what is essential the “Allspark” for human beings.

    From my studies of Frankenstein, I learned that the novel is a rebuttal to Milton’s famous “Paradise Lost”, a poem about the origins of Man. Shelley wanted to show readers what happens when you create life, but don’t nurture it and love it. Frankenstein’s Monster is not evil, at least, no more evil than Viktor is for having created life only to reject it. The Monster wreaks havoc against Viktor for abandoning him and ruins his life. You could argue that perhaps the Autobots are like Viktor; maybe they created the Decepticons with the Allspark, only to reject their creations and have them subsequently rebel against them. Like the Monster, perhaps Megatron is not so evil, perhaps he just wants revenge for something that the seemingly “good” Autobots (like the seemingly “good” Viktor) had done to him. Megatron and the Monster are both blinded by rage and even take the lives of innocent people, all in an effort to get their own way. Both Megs and the Monster are in an enormous amount of pain, emotional pain because of their rejection and physical pain (in the case of Frankenstein’s Monster), because of his twisted shape and makeshift physical body (I wonder if the same can be said for Megatron, maybe his body causes him pain, it sure looks pointy and painful). It is this pain and lack of acceptance after “birth” that drives the Monster insane. Even Frank Welker, in an interview you can watch here (couldn't find the link on TFW2005), states that he imagines Megatron as having some deep-rooted pain:

    “What’s happening with him? Why is he so angry? There is obviously pain from something going on…”

    There is a famous scene in Frankenstein, when the Monster tries to educate himself in the ways of Man. After being “born” from Viktor’s experiment/ own personal “Allspark”, the Monster roams the countryside in Austria before finding a cottage inhabited by a small family. He watches them for months, slowly learning their language, and reading some books he finds (one of which is Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, a subtle jab by Shelley against Milton). This reminded me of the whole thing with the Transformers, and how they “watched humanity from a distance” and used the Internet (of all things…) to learn their culture, their language and their way of life. Frankenstein’s Monster does the same, and when he finally presents himself to the family he has been watching, they are disgusted by him and treat him like an evil demon. Rejected again, the Monster turns violent and destroys the family’s home, and continues on his path of destruction searching for his creator.

    In the novel, the Monster desperately requires the companionship of another being like him, and blackmails Viktor into creating another Monster, promising to stop his rampage if his wish is granted. Viktor doesn’t buy it, and thinks the Monster would only use another like him to cause more harm and take more lives – when in fact the Monster is being honest, but Viktor’s refusal to believe him only further enrages him. Much like the Autobots fear that if Megatron gets the Allspark he would perhaps create an army of angry, violent machines, like himself, only for destruction – or so they believe, you never really get the Decepticons point of view in the movie like you get the Monster’s in Frankenstein. Throughout the novel, you feel sorry for the Monster since he is abandoned and hated, not because he is evil, but because he is different. He is evil because he is hated by humanity, not the other way around.

    Imagine that Optimus Prime or the collective Autobots are Viktor Frankenstein, and that he created Megatron using the Allspark, and then abandoned him in disgust at his own creation. Like the Monster, Megatron would be angry, and seek revenge against his creator and even find means to create others like him, so that he may finally feel loved and accepted (which would add another layer to Optimus Prime being Megatron’s “brother”, not necessarily in the biological sense, but “brothers” in the spiritual sense, as in humanity is composed of nothing but our own brothers and sisters). Like Viktor and the Monster, the path of revenge leads Megatron to the Arctic Circle where he is frozen and isolated along with the secret of “life”. The glasses with the map to the Allspark replaces Viktor as the one thing that can “point” to the source of life, and Megatron replaces the Monster as the “manifestation” of what that source can create.

    I thought it would be interesting to see how many parallels I could find in both stories. Frankenstein is an excellent story, one that seems to come back every now and again, people alluding to it all the time, even unintentionally. Hope I was able to express my views clearly enough, it’s been awhile since I wrote an “essay” like this, I might have lost my talent… oh well, it’ll be practice for this coming university year (my last, yay!).

    Speaking of university and the wonderful, enormous workload that comes with it… screw that, I’m going to go see Transformers again right now!

    Cheers,
    Skowl
     
  2. DilaZirK

    DilaZirK Is bullheaded.

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    The funny thing? I DID notice these parallels to Frankenstein...though I did not think much about it.
     
  3. Banshee

    Banshee MvC2 online! woot!

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    I never read Frankenstein, but your analogy was pretty interesting.

    Two things:

    From what you posted, it wasn't the monster that was stuck in the ice, but Doctor Frankenstein himself. So that right there is kinda off.

    Second, you go on a tangent that we don't really know Megatron's motives, and that he could be simply misunderstood like Frankenstein's monster? I don't buy it.
     
  4. 80Datsun210

    80Datsun210 Well-Known Member

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    Skowl,
    That was a fascinating analysis, and well-written! I have not read Mary Shelley's novel (but I think I own it somewhere, so now I want to go and look for it). I can see the parallels with the Allspark and the whole debate about creating life or "playing God." There are many stories in which someone tries to "create" life, only to have it go wrong. Tolkien touched on this as well, with both Morgoth and Sauruman creating "life" that just turned out to be twisted and evil.

    I don't know about the analogy of Optimus Prime or the Autobots being akin to Viktor Frankenstein, however. They didn't create Megatron; rather, they and the Decepticons were both created by something else, which is not touched on in this movie. (What was it, the Quintessons? That's getting out of my area of TF knowledge.)

    By the way, have you seen the G1 cartoon episode "Autobot Spike"? If not, go rent it NOW. It dealt with a very similar theme, and the allusions to Frankenstein's monster were completely overt and deliberate.

    And yes, I imagine Megatron was in pain, being frozen like that and kept prisoner. Bumblebee sure sounded like he was in pain as they sprayed the liquid nitrogen on him. Your analysis opens up the possibility that Megatron is more complicated than merely being "evil incarnate," that there's more than meets the eye, with him. ;) 

    You get an A-, though if your grade is borderline at the end of the semester and you've shown improvement, I'll bump it up to an A. :D 
     
  5. Radioactive Ravage

    Radioactive Ravage Ancient

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    Man, if the Screenwriter's had MEANT to do that, it would have rocked.
     
  6. EvaUnit13

    EvaUnit13 REBUILD

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    Also, Captain Walton and Witwicky were the explorers, if I'm correct
     
  7. Cory Bauer

    Cory Bauer Well-Known Member

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    A very good read, thanks SKowl :) 
     
  8. Alienbot

    Alienbot Well-Known Member

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    Interesting comparison: Frankenstein is one of my favourite novels, and Bride of Frankenstein is one of my favourite films. I think the comparison would have worked had Megatron been closer to his more complex, rebel leader G1 type, rather than the devil-incarnate interpretation of the film. There was seemingly nothing nice about Megatron in this film: no indication he might have befriended humanity had he not been kept as a lab experiment.
     
  9. SKowl

    SKowl Rubber Golem

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    They are both "trapped" in the ice - not physical stuck in the ice per se, but trapped in the Arctic Circle. Both Viktor and the Monster (since they were following one another) know they will probably both freeze to death out there, so they are both metaphorically "trapped in the ice".


    That's the fun part. Since the movie universe is completely new and independant from every other series, the only thing we have to go on is the film itself (for me anyway, not having read any of the prequel comics or novels...). The only information you have to go on is what the Transformers tell us, and if Transformers are anything like humans, well, they lie. The Autobots portray Megatron as some cruel, 100%-evil monster. And of course they would, they fighting a war against him. Viktor also tells everyone in the novel that the monster is pure evil, when really he is not. Both the Autobots and Viktor Frankenstein are biased. If I was Sam, would I really believe the Autobots so easily? Even if they did save my life, maybe that's just some clever tactic to cozy up to the humans on Earth.

    Remember, the Transformers are at war, and as the old proverb goes, the first casuality of war is the truth.
     
  10. cambaprecoz

    cambaprecoz Well-Known Member

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    yeah but remember the movie is a combination of every transformers series, toys, stories, characters and canon info.

    so megatron IS some cruel, 100%-evil monster, except that he's also like Hitler, a revolutionaire, with ideas (that the moral we are taught consider "repelent") that were not, totally not helping society.

    heck even megs motto is: "Peace through tyranny!" and
    "Lesser creatures are the playthings of my will."
    kinda like what Hitler thought about survival of better races, or whatever.

    but very good comparison anyways.
     
  11. butz

    butz slippery when wet

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    Haven't actually read that book, but this is a really neat observation nonetheless.
     
  12. HyperGeek_1984

    HyperGeek_1984 Herr Doktor

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    In the first Prequel comic, Bumblebee tells us that Optimus Prime and Megatron once ruled Cybertron side-by-side, with Prime in charge of diplomatic and civilian affairs and Megatron in change of the military. The two ruled peacefully until "something changed" in Megatron and the army he had been secretly building attacked.

    Just what cause Megatron to change is never explained, but it might have been frustration with Prime and his leadership ("You still fight for the weak!"), or something Prime did that Megs saw as a betrayal, so maybe Prime did "create" Megatron, in a roundabout way.
     
  13. Banshee

    Banshee MvC2 online! woot!

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    I see. It does bear more of a resemblance now, but in modern scifi/fantasy, Frankenstein and Megatron aren't the only ones that fit in the monsters-trapped-in-ice-but-freed-by-humans category.


    That would have actually been awesome in the movie. Tragic Villains with ambiguous or noble motives always make for interesting storytelling.

    It would also be cool if humans aren't told the entire story about Megs, but that would make Optimus Prime a liar of sorts, and it would drastically change his character. (for the worse, IMO) Flawed heroes are cool, but i wouldn't see Prime being one.

    Also, in the movie, the audience actually sees Megatron be a manipulative power hungry war mongerer, that has no care for other life forms or other bots but himself. You don't see any duality in his personality, no redeeming values.

    Having such heroes and villains would make TF storyline less black and white, and would add something new to the series, but I doubt it'll happen in the movies or cartoons.
     

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