Dylan Gould: Is he a Jerkass Woobie who was unfortunate enough to inherit his dad's allegiance with the Decepticons, or simply a Dirty Coward who wanted to be on the "winning" side? His Moral Event Horizon crossing indicates that he's more so on the latter.
One is also reminded of Saren Arterius, another organic who made a desperate deal with Humongous Mecha From Space in the hopes of saving some remnant of civilization. This is a bit of a stretch, though, as Gould does not express any such sentiment.
Megatron: Was he earnest when he wanted a truce, or did he just want to reclaim his role as Decepticon leader? How you interpret this will also say something about Optimus's following actions.
Did Megatron actually deserve the benefit of the doubt, even if he was sincere? Or is this a case of The Farmer and the Viper?
On the other hand Optimus probably remembered what Megatron did in the last film.
The Autobots as a whole, continuing from the previous movie where they attack Decepticons who are just minding their own business. Here we see the Decepticons aiming to take prisoners (only deciding to execute the Autobots after being talked into it by Dylan), something the Autobots never consider doing with Decepticons they defeat. Decepticons are concerned about the wellbeing and future of their race (Megatron's taking care of children at the beginning, and the whole attempts to restore Cybertron). This paints a weird portrait of the Autobots, who seem like sore losers about losing the whole war, and would rather drive their own species towards extinction than accept their defeat and let the Decepticons rebuild Cybertron. It's true that most of these plans for rebuilding were at the Human race's expense, but frankly Megatron's hatred of humans is understandable: The first we did is dig him out, keep him paralyzed, then vivisect him For Science!! (And if you factor the Novelization or the common Handwave for him knowing English when he awoke... He was conscious through it all). It becomes easy to see the Decepticons as Well-Intentioned Extremist and the Autobots as borderline sociopaths. And that is without even getting into the Autobots involving themselves in human politics at the behest of a single country...
Although this interpretation misinterprets a few things of the movies: Optimus makes it pretty clear the War is lost (in the third movie, he outright says such to Sentinel) and that he has no hopes or intentions of winning it, his focus is keeping humanity from meeting the same fate as his race did: In the first movie, for example, he attempts to sacrifice his own life to save humanity, even though that would mean the Decepticons would win. The second movie also shows The Decepticons planned comitting genocide here long before the war even began (With The Fallen and all), not to mention seeking to destroy/enslave the entire human race because a bunch of agents from one government from a one country imprisioned you (without the rest of the country knowing it, mind you) is a pretty big overreaction. On the politics matter, the label of the scene said "ILLEGAL nuclear facility", meaning it probably belonged to some guerrila warlord and not a government.
It also misses the fact that outside of divine intervention (like the Allspark, which was destroyed in the first film) or destruction on a scale larger than Cybertron itself, Cybertron is already dead. 'Winning' and 'restoring the world' wouldn't actually accomplish anything since there's nothing left to restore. While the Autobots may not have any particular need or desire to restore Cybertron, they also realize that the 'war' at this point is essentially pointless in-fighting. There's no new Cybertronian life being born or created so 'bots and 'cons are doing little more than driving themselves to extinction. Megatron doesn't want to restore Cybertron—he wants to win and he wants a place to rule; Cybertron is just a convenient rallying call. A more realistic approach if he truly wanted to help the Cybertronian race would be to stop fighting and start figuring out a way to bring his race back from extinction—colonizing Mars for instance.
By the end of the film, the Autobots seem pretty held together despite the fact that they just possibly lost Cybertron forever. Then again, they had already more or less accepted that Cybertron was irredeemable by the end of the first film, so it may not be that big a deal.
The death of Ironhide doesn't seem to bother them really hard either.
Anti-Climax Boss: Basically all the main Decepticons go down pretty easily, but the most egregious ones are Megatron, who gets overpowered and decapitated by Optimus in less than 30 seconds, and Starscream, who gets killed by Sam of all people.
Author's Saving Throw: The previous film had said the events at Mission City were covered up, which was criticized as being lazy and hard to ignore, given the amount of people present. This film doesn't offer a cover up, instead having Cybertronians be common knowledge to the human race now, as well as examining the repercussions to this somewhat.
Sentinel Prime tends to divide moviegoers into two camps, of which the first sees him as a surprisingly complex character with a really cool design and one of the biggest badasses of the entire franchise, while the other hates him for brutally executing Ironhide and sidelining Megatron as the Big Bad.
Megatron himself veers sharply into this territory. While his Badass Decay is generally agreed to be at its worst here, the fact that it's very much an Invoked Trope that fleshes out his character more redeems him in the eyes of some. In addition, being forced to sit out of direct combat allows him the opportunity to mastermind the impressive Batman Gambit that makes up the first half of the film. That said, the fact that Optimus takes him down with the absolute greatest of ease is generally seen as a slap in the face to the character, especially considering that the alternate ending is seen as a far more redeeming and rewarding one for him that reestablishes him as a badass. Despite this, Transformers: Age of Extinction shows why DOTM has the ending that it does— it's so Megs can stay the badass conqueror he always was and return as Galvatron—which, while not as "clean" as the alternate ending, at least allows him to persist as the franchise's flagship villain.
Megatron's aesthetic, particularly his altmode and cloth cloak, is itself divisive. Reactions range from "very cool in a rugged sort of way" to "does a good job capturing his fallen-by-the-wayside characterization" to "silly as hell".
Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Bruce's extended "red cup" gag is so pointless and forced that it completely falls flat and just slows down the plot.
Catharsis Factor: Sentinel killing fan-favorite Ironhide with a dishonorable cheap shot from behind and shoving Megatron to take the position of the film's Big Bad assures that most viewers will be notably happier to see him getting beat down on by Megatron and being killed begging for his life by Optimus.
In the IDW comic adaptation, Dylan Gould, unlike in the film, is portrayed as a sadistic psychopath with delusions of grandeur. Having willingly allied with Decepticons years back, Gould covers up the Decepticons' plans and presence from the public eye, having anyone who attempts to learn the truth murdered by his personal Decepticon attack dog, Laserbeak. Once the Decepticons reveal themselves and attack the Earth, Gould uses Sam Witwicky to spy on the Autobots under threat of slaughtering his girlfriend, Carly, and giddily gives the order for the Autobots to be shot down while they are attempting to leave the Earth. Masterminding the invasion of Chicago, Gould has the Decepticons kill countless people and destroy much of the city while turning it into a fortress. Gould ultimately plans to assist the Decepticons in transporting as much of humanity to Cybertron as possible, then use them as slaves to rebuild Cybertron while Gould lords over them as their master. Even when the Autobots and humans begin defeating the Decepticons, Gould still activates the portal to bring Cybertron to Earth, completely eliminating any possible claims he had to not being fully complicit in the Decepticons' actions. Always wearing a smile and having a witty quip on hand to cover up his raving egomania, Gould truly represents the very worst humans have to offer.
In the novelization by Peter David, Sentinel Prime loses all of his film counterpart's redeeming features, turning the somewhat-sympathetic Well-Intentioned Extremist into a psychopathic Knight Templar. Having made a deal with Megatron eons ago to betray his allies the Autobots, Sentinel Prime fulfills this deal in the present after pretending to assist the Autobots, showing his true colors by ruthlessly executing three of his "brothers." Sentinel Prime steals the Pillars from the military group NEST by threatening its director, Charlotte Mearing, stating that if she doesn't give him the Pillars, he will force her to watch as he slaughters every man, woman, and child he can until she does. Lying to humanity to get them to force the Autobots to leave Earth in exchange for Sentinel Prime's offer of peace, Sentinel Prime goes back on his word, orchestrating a full-scale invasion of Earth by the Decepticons and personally overseeing the blood-soaked conflict in Chicago. Sentinel Prime ultimately plans to transport as many humans to Cybertron as possible, then torture and abuse them into reconstructing Cybertron, leaving the rest of humankind to be destroyed alongside the Earth by Cybertron's gravitational field. In the end, Sentinel Prime treats the deaths of Autobot and Decepticon alike with cold satisfaction, proclaiming that he will be the only god left on Cybertron when the dust settles, proving once and for all that, despite his claims of wanting the best for his people, Sentinel Prime truly only cares for himself and his supposed claim to godhood.
Critical Research Failure: When the Apollo 11 landing site is visited, the upper half (Ascent Stage) of the LM is shown. The Ascent Stage is what the astronauts leave the moon in. It should only be on the moon during the mission, not afterwards. Once the astronauts have left the moon, then only the descent stage/lower half should remain.
Draco in Leather Pants: This movie is often cited when people criticize the Movie-verse Autobots, who in turn get the Ron the Death Eater treatment. While yes, Decepticons were trying to repair cybertron, it's unlikely that they would offer the "inferior" humans much of a choice, and it's not even discussed how they'd get humans in Cybertron without them dying instantly. Not to mention that if they really wanted their help, they could have just asked first, and not, well, destroy and take over a city and massacre civilians for giggles. note And that"s not even going to their motives in the previous films, such as Fallen trying to destroy Earth's sun because he finds humans annoying. Even more, bringing the planet to earth would cause irreversible damage to earth, which would result in even more unnecessary deaths.
Ending Fatigue: The final battle is more like a final war, taking up just about the last hour of the film. The actual final battle (Optimus Vs. Sentinel) doesn't take place till the very end of the movie. If nothing else, Bay kept his promise about having the biggest action yet!
The film ends with Optimus narrating that the Autobots will never abandon Earth and the humans. As shown in the fourth film, shows paramilitary groups actively hunting them down, though led by a corrupt leader.
Sentinel Prime laments to Optimus that humanity does not treat them with respect, as on Cybertron they, the Primes, were Gods. But on Earth they are "just machines." Optimus disagrees on principle, as he has allied himself with many noble humans. Come the following film, a figure, fueled by Fantastic Racism more than anything else, creates a paramilitary group to target both Autobots and Decepticons alike, and shows a character, whose more interested in replicating their scientific properties rather than acknowledging them as actual living beings. He even goes far and tells Optimus that they are just metal. The latter does get better, though.
"Sentinel, you are coming home, old friend." Fast forward to February 2015, and the old Vulcan voicing Sentinel does indeed go home.
Laserbeak: "Is your daddy home?", said right before killing the poor girl's parents right in front of her.
When Soundwave brutally executed Wheeljack after the Autobot had surrendered and was begging for mercy, you knew he deserved everything that happened next.
Any sympathy for Dylan leaves when one sees the lengths he's willing to go to ensure that he isn't harmed by the coming Alien Invasion. Like when he reassures himself that he's safe... while watching hundreds of innocent civilians be slaughtered by the Decepticons.
Optimus' strange sputtering as the Driller sends him flying.
Bruce Brazos' complete halting of his scene to take down an employee feels very forced and completely falls flat.
The RUNFAAAGH! used by Sentinel towards the end of the final battle. The fact that's it's a stock sound effect from the previous film, from Megatron no less, doesn't help.
Sam's complete meltdown and utterly ridiculous screaming when the security tries to impound his car.
The actual ending happens in about two minutes. Sentinel and Megatron are killed, then Sam and Carly kiss, and Optimus makes a quick speech. Boom, the end, and at the time it was supposed to be the end of the trilogy. Many fans preferred the ending of the first film with scenes featuring the rest of the plot being, you know, resolved (like Keller dissolving Sector Seven and the Decepticon corpses being disposed of).
Starscream's utterly pathetic death. Even disregarding the silliness of Sam of all people being able to take out the second-in-command of the Decepticons, Starscream's behavior during the scene (flailing about wildly, spitting out oil(?) whenever he opens his mouth) make it impossible to take seriously). Then again, given that its Starscream, this may be the point.
Sam suddenly turning into a parkour master near the end. It's so obviously not Shia La Beouf it's ridiculous, even for this movie.
This was anticipated with Megan Fox / Mikaela's departure and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley brought in as a new character, as a lot of fans appreciated that Mikaela wasn't a useless screaming love interest and disliked that Rosie was a Victoria's Secret model with no prior acting experience. The potential anger was ebbed slightly when Rosie's character was named Carly after the G1 character and Rosie herself commented on being proud of being a part of the franchise. But to a lot of people's surprise both Rosie's acting and Carly herself turned out better than expected, as Rosie wasn't a rehash of Mikaela as a blonde and she was consistently cheerful and friendly even through Sam's moody moments in the movie. On the other hand, one hilariously vicious review said that Dark of the Moon is the only movie that could possibly make you miss the acting talents of Megan Fox.
It's also clear at times that the script was written as though Mikaela was still in it. For example, the fact that the government is comfortable with Sam bringing Carly into their secret Autobot command base without any prior approval is rather forcefully handwaved, whereas Mikaela would have had the same protection that Sam enjoys, since she was there for all of the events that Sam was present for.
Wheelie was better received than in the second movie because A) no leg humping and B) he actually helps in the climactic battle. Along with his partner, the even more quirky Brains, they manage to liven up the mood without being too obnoxious.
Averted with Mudflap and Skids. In the novelization, Skids goes down saving Bumblebee from Sentinel and Mudflap goes down saving the group at large from Sentinel trying to avenge his twin's death. Fans' reaction to this scene in the novelization actually garnered the pair a lot more sympathy and admiration, but it didn't happen for the general audience with the scene being cut.
Surprisingly Improved Sequel: It is up for debate, but the movie does aim to fix the problems that happened in the second film and fans were generally impressed with some of the story twists like Sentinel's betrayal, Ironhide's death, Gould's reveal as a bad guy, and Carly convincing Megatron to retake his leadership of the Decepticons. For better or worse, it and the original are generally considered "the good ones" of the live-action series, at least to the fandom.
Take That, Scrappy!: Narrowly averted as the film was going to contain a scene where Mudflap and Skids were killed off during Sentinel Prime raiding NEST. The scene, and their presence in the movie was cut for pacing. The scene does appear in IDW's comic book adaptation of the movie, playing the trope straight.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Shockwave. Originally touted as the film's Big Bad (as part of a misinformation campaign, granted) he gets less than 10 minutes of screentime, one line of dialogue, and serves virtually no purpose in the story besides controlling The Driller. The film also includes none of his classic Straw Vulcan or Mad Scientist personality traits, basically relegating him to the already plentiful role of "Decepticon who gets killed by Optimus in the third act battle".
It's generally agreed that, like with the previous movie, the alternate ending depicted in the novel and comics where Megatron pulls a Heel–Face Turn and joins forces with Optimus to kill Sentinel, afterwards leaving for Cybertron to help rebuild it, is better than the movie's actual ending. It would have shown Megs get some of his old badassery back and made his Character Development more obvious, showing that he was a Well-Intentioned Extremist all along who genuinely cared about restoring Cybertron and would even give up his evil for that end. One guesses that this may have been because Paramount wanted to leave him evil so that he can return as a villain for future sequels, which did happen after all in Age of Extinction.
It's shown in the third film that humans are aware of the Transformers, and that the Autobots are not well liked by the US population (being referred to as "alien mercenaries"). There are clear reasons for this dislike; the Autobots cause countless property damage in their battles, and there's the fact that the average US citizen has to worry about whether or not the car or machine near them is not a dangerous alien warrior. Sadly, the movie only touches lightly on this, and never really explores how the Transformers' known presence has affected the world at large.
This is ultimately subverted, however; promotional material for Transformers: Age of Extinction shows that humanity's attitude towards Cybertronians (particularly after Chicago's destruction) will play a big role in the next trilogy's Myth Arc.
The film's original touted plot, featuring Shockwave as the ruler of Cybertron and the Big Bad, probably could've made for a pretty good story on its own, especially since it held ripe potential for an Enemy Mine between the Autobots and Decepticons (something not yet tackled in the film's). Alas, it was just part of a misinformation campaign.
Took the Bad Film Seriously: Leonard Nimoy's performance as Sentinel Prime manages to make him one of the most complex characters in any of the films. Nimoy manages to give a great performance as both the wise mentor of Optimus, as well as the true villain of the story.