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The film:

  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Sentinel Prime: Was he a Well-Intentioned Extremist who only wanted his people to have their home restored, or was he just a narcissistic tyrant who wanted to return to an era where he was revered as a god?
      • When he first wakes up, Sentinel immediately attacks Optimus, until the latter calms him down and explains where they are. Did Sentinel simply not recognize his old friend, or did he think that he'd been caught out?
      • Optimus reveals that Sentinel taught him his long-held belief that "freedom is everyone's right", but Sentinel's plan involves enslaving humanity as a workforce for the restored Cybertron, even demanding that the humans see them as gods rather than just machines. Did humanity's dehumanising treatment of Cybertronians motivate Sentinel to abandon his ideals, or were these ideals nothing more than meaningless words of wisdom that he never actually believed in?
      • What did he mean by saying "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few"? Was it just a blatant Actor Allusion, or was there a deeper meaning behind it, in a metaphorical sense (in terms of power) rather than a literal sense (numbers)?
      • When he was begging Optimus for mercy at the end, was he truly remorseful for his actions? Or was he just trying to save his own skin after realizing that his plan had failed?
    • 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.
      • There's also the aspect of Dylan having a God Complex, being an envious foil to Sam and viewing himself as the human savior of the Decepticons, believing in the notion that he'll be revered as such, especially when he defies the Autobots by personally reactivating the Pillars himself.
    • 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, though Prime had already expressed his opinion on Megatron's dedication to compromise in the previous film with the line "You'll never stop at one.”
      • The way Megatron put his words across, the meaning of the word "truce" is questionable. Pointing his gun at Optimus, Megatron mocked "where would you be without me?". The context being that its an ages-old civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons, Megatron's meaning of truce could be that he wants to be in charge of both the Autobots and Decepticons in exchange for saving Optimus' life. It also should be noted that in the novel, Megatron is more serious about the truce and lays down his gun, whereas in the movie, he is still holding the gun and has a more threatening/taunting edge to his voice, which raises the question of whether he was about to literally blast Optimus In the Back if he took the bait.
      • 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?
    • "Your leaders will now understand: Decepticons will never leave your planet alone! And we needed them to believe we had gone." People either interpret this as Optimus saying that the destruction the Decepticons caused in the time the Autobots were presumed dead was the only way to convince the people of Earth that they need their help (or in a darker interpretation, punishing the humans for exiling them), or that the Decepticons needed to believe that the Autobots were dead so they could surprise attack them. At the very least, the trip from the Kennedy Space Center where the Xantium launched to where the Autobots staged their attack in Chicago would take more than half a day.
  • Angst? What Angst?:
    • 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. Though this happened when a whole lot of other stuff was happening as well, such as Sentinel trashing the base, so they may not have had much time to mourn for him.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: All four of the main Decepticons go down ludicrously easily, almost to the point where they seem no more powerful than standard Mooks.
    • Megatron gets overpowered and decapitated by Optimus in less than 10 seconds. Justified by his gaping head wound, necessitating him ambushing Sentinel moments earlier to stand any chance against him. He had no such advantage over Optimus.
    • Starscream is killed by Sam of all people.
    • Soundwave barely even puts up a fight once his Autobot prisoners are freed; he just... flails about, firing off his guns aimlessly before Bumblebee shoots his head off.
    • Shockwave gets blinded by NEST soldiers and only gets one shot in against Optimus (a shot that misses) before the Autobot leader rips his head off.
  • Badass Decay: Megatron gets hit with this hard, although this is at least partly justified by his injuries in the previous film (the novelization even implies that he has a third of his brain missing). Throughout the movie, he behaves in a somewhat tired manner and tends to stay away from the battlefield, all while getting kicked around by both Sentinel and Optimus (getting killed by the latter in a Curb-Stomp Battle when he starts actually trying to fight). It's actually a plot point as by the end, Megs realizes he's been slipping big-time and it provokes him into joining the final battle.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • 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".
    • Even on this very wiki, there's no real consensus on whether Jerry Wang is an awesome Ensemble Dark Horse for taking on Laserbeak with twin pistols or a tasteless Ethnic Scrappy used to set up a gay joke.
    • Carly has recently became this in Transformers fan discussion. While some people liked her compared to Mikaela due to being a nice girl and highly supportive of Sam, others called her more boring and uninteresting compared to Mikaela in the previous movies, especially since she's the only human character in the movies that goes through a Character Arc in comparison to Carly, who is seen as a generic girlfriend, or that her development with Sam felt like it was written with Mikaela in mind.
  • Cant Unhear It: According to a poll in the Sentinel Prime page on a site that compares the voice actors used for fictional characters, Leonard Nimoy is considered the voice for the character, at least for the moment. This likely has something to do with the sheer effort he puts to the role, it compliments the charcter design very well and perfectly fits for both the Big Good and Big Bad sides of the character despite being the exact same voice. It also has to do with the character himself being portrayed as an antagonist more frequently in the wider franchise, which was greatly helped by his high-profile appearance here. Generally, if the character of Sentinel Prime appears as an elderly mentor and both hero and villain, odds are fans will hear Nimoy’s voice as the character.
  • 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.
    • Dylan getting knocked into the Pillars by Sam and intensely electrocuted to death is particularly cathartic on its own given his desire to sellout humanity for both his own survival and a high position of power as well.
  • Contested Sequel: Is it better than the wretched and reviled predecessor or just as bad? Some dare say that it’s the best of the series.
  • 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  Even more, bringing the planet to Earth would cause irreversible damage to Earth, which would result in even more unnecessary deaths.
    • A lot of Megatron fans call out Optimus Prime this because Megatron saved Prime's life by beating the crap out of Sentinel to near death and then asking Prime "Who would you be without me?" Those fans seem to be forgetting that Megatron was the one who tricked Optimus into bringing Sentinel back online with the Matrix, and so Megatron is still to indirectly blame for Ironhide's death. Megatron's offer for a truce also comes off as less than sincere since he's still pointing a gun in his direction and condescending him. So under no circumstances does Optimus fall into this trope for axing Megatron.
  • 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!
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Background Decepticon Devcon is memorable for his unique robot mode based on the Cloverfield monster, and to this day many fans would like to see a toy of him made.
    • Autobot Dino (or Mirage as he is called in the toyline) has a lot of fans who love him for his eye catching design.
  • Fanon: Though it's never outright stated, fans like to assume that the flight tech from Prime's new trailer was made using Jetfire's parts.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The film ends with Optimus narrating that the Autobots will never abandon Earth and the humans. The fourth film shows paramilitary groups actively hunting them down, though led by a corrupt leader. Particularly as, until Cade snaps him out of it, Optimus has given up on Earth and the humans and fully intended to leave once they destroyed the seed.
      • Another line from the ending speech is “[there will be] days where our allies turn against us.” Cue the fourth film and…
    • 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 another character is more interested in replicating their scientific properties rather than acknowledging them as actual living beings. He even goes as far as telling Optimus that they are just metal. The latter does get better, though.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Alan Tudyk plays a minor role in this film as Dutch, Simmons's assistant. A decade and one year later Alan would return to the franchise in Transformers: EarthSpark... this time playing the role of Optimus Prime himself.
    • The Final Battle of the film takes place in a major city, where the Big Bad has created a portal consisting of a laser firing into the sky that allows an Alien Invasion to take place. Are we talking about Transformers: Dark of the Moon or The Avengers? Additionally, the Decepticon warships even kind of resemble the Leviathans from that film.
  • It Was His Sled: Sentinel Prime being the real Big Bad of the film. Later figures like his Transformers Studio Series Voyager treat this as a Late-Arrival Spoiler.
  • Like You Would Really Do It:
    • The writers might be prepared to kill off Wheeljack and Ironhide, but Bumblebee? Get real!
    • Also, you know, blowing up the entire Autobot spaceship with them inside.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Sentinel Prime brutally killing Ironhide. Also, the Decepticon's genocidal attack on Chicago in the same movie might have finally driven home the point that yes, the Decepticons really ARE evil.
    • 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. Not to mention when he single-handedly reactivates the Pillars so he can then smugly declare "[he] saved a whole other world" after that.
  • Narm: See here.
  • Narm Charm: Starscream's death is pathetic and hilarious, but given how it's Starscream, it comes off as fitting.
  • Never Live It Down:
    • Optimus's line "we will kill them all", a line which many fans of the franchise point to as an example of how bloodthirsty and out of character the movie incarnation of Optimus is. Peter Cullen also argued against the line, agreeing that it was not something the character would say before being overruled.
    • Starscream getting killed by Sam. No matter what feats he accomplished in the previous films (and earlier in this one), many fans cling to this one moment to insist that Starscream is an Adaptational Wimp of the highest order.
  • Older Than They Think: While Shockwave's characterization has been criticized for throwing out his famous Straw Vulcan Wild Card personality, this was also done way back in the G1 cartoon - works released before the show and even the Series Bible gave him a way more dynamic personality, but ultimately the cartoon downgraded him into Megatron's Yes-Man, not too different from Soundwave.
  • Padding: It's 2 hours and 30 minutes long, so a few people find many scenes unnecessary.
  • Replacement Scrappy:
    • 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.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Some viewers found Dylan Gould to be a way more sympathetic and relatable character than Sam Witwicky. Noah Antwiler argued that of the human cast, he's the only character that isn't comic relief, has clear motivations, and goes through any kind of arc.
  • Signature Line: "Is your daddy home?"
  • Signature Scene: Three major ones - For better or worse.
    • Sentinel's betrayal and murder of Ironhide. Remembered for being an interesting Plot Twist and for anticlimactically killing Ironhide.
    • Optimus declaring "we will kill them all" - either the beginning of a Rousing Speech before the Final Battle, or a moment that's extremely out-of-touch with the character's portrayal in the rest of the franchise.
    • Megatron's death, particularly how overtly gory and anticlimactic it is.
  • Special Effects Failure: Though Dark of the Moon has arguably the best CGI in the series, some scenes still end up looking a little janky.
    • Optimus getting back up in the NEST base after Sentinel knocks him down just looks off.
    • When Megatron is sitting on Abe Lincoln’s chair after blasting the statue to pieces, part of his leg clips through the chair.
  • 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. While it is understandable that him being the film's Big Bad was a part of a misinformation campaign, surely there was more that could have been done with him. 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, or even an original personality for that matter (at least if you're going only by the films), basically relegating him to the already plentiful role of "Decepticon who gets killed by Optimus in the third act battle".
    • Nobody was pleased in the slightest with how quickly and anticlimactically Ironhide gets offed, and that nobody mentioned the character after his demise.
    • Many fans of Jolt from Revenge of the Fallen had hoped that he could have a larger role in Dark of the Moon after he had a minor one due to being a last-minute addition. Bay's website administrator Nelson Lauren killed this hope when he declared he would not be returning, and thus Jolt gets killed off in the prequel comic Rising Storm.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • 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 potential future sequels, which did happen after all in Age of Extinction.
      • In addition, the novelization ends with the ominous implication that the Decepticons will reject Megatron's reform and oust him from power for showing weakness. This would have opened the door for a reformed Megatron to fight alongside the Autobots in subsequent films.
    • 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 would later come more into play in Age of Extinction and The Last Knight.
    • 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, especially since it held ripe potential for an Enemy Mine between the Autobots and Decepticons (something not yet tackled in the films). Alas, it was just part of a misinformation campaign, and the reports of Shockwave as ruler of Cybertron likely came from mainstream media outlets simply looking up Shockwave's role in G1 and reporting it as gospel for the then-upcoming film.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously:
    • Patrick Dempsey arguably comes out the best of the human characters due to him taking his villain role 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.
  • Unintentional Uncanny Valley:
    • Wheeljack/Que's face might seem just a little too human-like for some viewers.
    • Most of the time they show their CGI JFK's face out of focus. They focus on it one time briefly. And boy, is it creepy.
    • There's also the CGI version of Sam as he swings around after stabbing Starscream in the eye. The CGI becomes noticeable when they show the close up of his face.

The video game:

  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Warpath only appears as a boss for Megatron, but he's well regarded for being the game's main original character and a great fit for the movieverse given director Michael Bay's propensity for explosions.
  • It's Short, So It Sucks!: The game is pretty short compared to War for Cybertron, with only seven levels (one of which being the short final level), none of which were as long as a single level of War for Cybertron.
  • So Okay, It's Average: The game isn't held in very high regard due to feeling like a movie reskin of War for Cybertron, but it is still praised by some for its use of the movie cast, it's evolved gameplay that feels more unique for every character, and being able to tie into the movie without contradicting it too much or spoiling it on the grounds of being a prequel.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: As noted above, the game is very short and only focuses on eight characters - Bumblebee, Ironhide, Mirage, Soundwave and Laserbeak, Starscream, Megatron, and Optimus Prime. Other characters like Ratchet and Sideswipe only appear as support and multiplayer exclusives, while some are only bosses like Mixmaster. As such, this leaves the multiplayer roster rather limited. After the game's servers were shut down in 2020, players lost access to play as said multiplayer exclusives, limiting the game even further. As many characters as there are in the movies and how the game was willing to bring back characters like Mixmaster, bring in new ones like Warpath, or toy-exclusive characters like Stratosphere, the game could've really benefitted from it.
  • Unexpected Character: Mixmaster's return was unexpected, as was the inclusion of toy-line character Stratosphere.

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