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After reading some posts I realized that Michael has transformed from a good citizen to a cold-blooded criminal due to fate at the end of the film. The movie seems to suggest he wanted to be a good citizen and not a criminal. He says at one point during the scenes following Vito that he has his own plans, apparently apart from joining the Army.

But as shown at the end of the film, even before the beginning of Michael's criminal life he did not join his father's birthday celebration even though everybody asked him to. This was after a small altercation with Sonny. It seems that Michael's personality was always cold-blooded. Both Michael and Fredo always secretly longed to be Don and waited for the right opportunity. In the meantime, Michael pretended to be a good man and Fredo pretended to be dumb. Michael realized that Fredo is happy for him not for choosing clean life but to lose a competitor during the birthday preparation. Michael reminds himself at end of the film that he had realized long ago during the birthday preparation that he will have to kill Fredo someday, as both cherish the same dream.

My question is whether or not the last scene can be interpreted to show that Michael always secretly wanted to be what he became at the end.

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The structure of the Godfather Part 2 is to tell two stories about two men in parallel, Vito and Michael Corleone.

In one strand we see Vito, who comes from tragic beginnings as an orphan to being head of a "family". Vito's path is noble, his "fall" is when he "does what he has to" for his family, and it could be argued he doesn't fall that far, the man he kills is a bully and affecting everyone in the area, and the Corleone rule brings peace and prosperity to the area, so might even be seen by some as a good thing.

In the other we see Michael. We already know Michael was destined for different things (been in the army and educated, and distanced from the Corleone business). We have seen in the first film how inconsolable Vito is when he finds out Michael has turned assassin and "done what he had to do".

In the final flashback, we only then realise just how far he has actually fallen. The flashback happens just after Pearl Harbour. At it we see Michael arriving to talk to his father, his intention is to leave college and join the army to fight in the war.

We see here that when he "does what he has to do", it is actually far more noble. He has no NEED to do this and could easily avoid it (and Sonny actively tries to dissuade him), but his morals compel him to do it.

We also see a further sign of tragedy, in that the supportive brother is Fredo. He is actually the heart of the family (so never had visions of being Don), and the sign of how far Michael falls is his death at Michael's hands.

The final irony is (and why Michael is thinking about it) that this is HIS defining moment (like Vito killing Fanucci). If he hadn't gone to war, his (and his family's) life would have turned out very different, and in this noble act he ended up worse than any of them (and this leads onto part 3 where he tries to legitimise).

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    I try to get out, and they pull me back in. – John Nov 13 '16 at 14:23
  • Ok. Why did Michael not join his father's birthday celebration like his other siblings? It seems very cold blooded act to boycott the celebration and continue drinking all alone. This lead to perceive that he was cold blooded since the beginning. Also he was the one who proposed aggressive measures ( hitting Solosso and the NYPD captain) rather than taking a defensive stand to merely to protect the family. – runjumpfly Nov 13 '16 at 14:55
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    So that's the point. Michael was distant from the family as he wasn't part of the business, or the mindset. Once he came back from war he had changed and although he tried to keep his distance (look at his embarrassment/disgust when telling Kay about his family), when things get serious he becomes the most calculating and ruthless, falling from what he should have been. – The Wandering Dev Manager Nov 14 '16 at 14:27

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