Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The poster depicts Optimus Prime, standing with a blade in his left arm, and a rifle in his right arm. There is also a young couple standing below the Transformer, and just where the 3 are standing, there is also a crash-landed Decepticon fighter. Behind the Transformer and the couple, there is a war-torn city of Chicago, with Decepticon battleships surrounding it. The film title and credits are on the bottom of the poster.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Bay
Written byEhren Kruger
Based onTransformers
by Hasbro
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyAmir Mokri
Edited by
Music bySteve Jablonsky
Production
companies
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • June 23, 2011 (2011-06-23) (MIFF[1])
  • June 29, 2011 (2011-06-29) (United States[2][3])
Running time
154 minutes[4]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$195 million[5][6]
Box office$1.124 billion[7]

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a 2011 American science fiction action film based on Hasbro's Transformers toy line. The film is the third installment in the Transformers film series and the sequel to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009). The film is directed by Michael Bay and written by Ehren Kruger. It stars Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, John Malkovich, and Frances McDormand. Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Sam Witwicky must lead the Autobots against Megatron and the Decepticons as they battle to possess powerful technology abandoned on the Moon, in order to restore Cybertron.

The film employed both regular 35 mm film cameras and specially-developed 3D cameras, with filming locations in Chicago, Florida, Indiana, Milwaukee, Moscow, and Washington, D.C. The film was 3D rendered specifically for 3-D, and the visual effects involved more complex robots which took longer to render. Dark of the Moon's release date was moved from July 1 to June 29, in order to monitor an early response to footage.

Exclusive early premieres took place on June 28, 2011, one night before worldwide release. The film received mixed reviews from critics and was praised for the score, visual effects, cast and voice performances, and use of 3D, however it was criticized for its screenplay, tonal shifts, and runtime.[8] Dark of the Moon grossed $1.124 billion worldwide, becoming the fifth highest-grossing film in history at the time, the second highest-grossing film of 2011, and the highest-grossing film in the franchise to date. Like the first film, it was nominated for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects at the 84th Academy Awards. It was followed by Transformers: Age of Extinction in 2014.

Plot

In 1960, the Ark, a Cybertronian spacecraft carrying an invention capable of ending the war between Autobots and Decepticons, crash lands on the dark side of Earth's Moon and is detected by NASA. President John F. Kennedy authorizes a mission to put a man on the Moon as a cover for investigating the spacecraft. In 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 lands on the Moon and secretly inspects the Ark before returning to Earth.

In the present day, the Autobots assist humanity in preventing major conflicts. During a mission to the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster to investigate suspected alien technology, the Autobots are attacked by Decepticon scientist Shockwave and his giant worm Driller. After the two escape, Optimus Prime discovers that the technology is a fuel cell from the Ark, thought to have been lost after escaping Cybertron. The Autobots travel to the Moon and discover Sentinel Prime, the Autobots' leader before Optimus, in a comatose state along with five Pillars he created as a means of establishing a "Space Bridge", a wormhole able to teleport matter between two points. On Earth, Optimus uses the energy of the Matrix of Leadership to revive Sentinel.

Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky lives with his new girlfriend, Carly Spencer but is unable to work with the Autobots. At his new job, co-worker Jerry Wang gives him information about the Ark, before being assassinated by the Decepticon Laserbeak. It is revealed that the Decepticons are murdering people connected to the American and Soviet space missions to the Ark. Sam contacts Seymour Simmons, and they locate two surviving cosmonauts, who reveal photos of hundreds of Pillars being stockpiled on the Moon. The Decepticons raided the Ark long before the Apollo 11 mission and intentionally left Sentinel and the five Pillars for the Autobots to find, knowing that Sentinel is the key to activating the Pillars. Meanwhile, Sam and the Autobots fight off three pursuing Decepticons and return Sentinel to their base. However, he betrays them, revealing that he made a deal with Megatron to ensure Cybertron's survival. Sentinel kills Ironhide, steals the Pillars, and escapes.

Sentinel uses the Pillars to transport hundreds of concealed Decepticons from the Moon to Earth. Dylan Gould, Carly's boss, is revealed to be working with them. With the help of Soundwave, he captures Carly. At the demand of the Decepticons, the Autobots are exiled from Earth. As their ship leaves Earth, it is destroyed by Starscream, seemingly killing them. The Decepticons invade Chicago while placing Pillars around the world to begin transporting their homeworld Cybertron to the Solar System. They want to use Earth's resources to rebuild their world, enslaving humanity in the process. Sam teams up with former NEST soldier Robert Epps to go into Chicago to save Carly and arrest Dylan. They are nearly killed by the Decepticons before the Autobots intervene. It turns out that the Autobots faked their death to gain an advantage over the Decepticons. Sam, along with NEST teams led by Lennox, and Navy SEALs, rescue Carly and begin fighting off the Decepticons. During the battle, Que is executed, and Bumblebee kills Soundwave while Optimus fights Sentinel. Laserbeak, Starscream, Shockwave, and the Driller are also killed in the ensuing battle.

Sam fights Dylan and knocks him into the Pillar, electrocuting and killing him. Bumblebee destroys the Control Pillar, permanently disabling the Bridge and causing the partially transported Cybertron to implode. Meanwhile, Carly convinces Megatron that he will be replaced by Sentinel as the leader of the Decepticons. While fighting, Sentinel is about to kill Optimus before he is incapacitated by Megatron, who is determined to regain his leadership. Megatron then falsely offers a truce, but Optimus refuses and kills Megatron by decapitating him. Sentinel tries to reason his actions to Optimus but is executed by him for his betrayal. Sam and Carly are reunited, and the Autobots remain on Earth as their permanent home.

Cast

Main article: List of Transformers film series cast and characters

Humans

Transformers

A Peterbilt 379 truck is seen at BotCon 2011, it is beside a promotional poster of the film, with people behind the truck.
A Peterbilt 379 used for the alternate mode of Optimus Prime
The Bumblebee Camaro from Transformers 3 at BotCon in 2011.

Non-speaking characters

Production

Development

You just learn a lot more about the hierarchy, and there's more about the history of what they had in Cybertron. Leonard Nimoy plays a great role.

— Michael Bay, on developing Sentinel Prime's character[10]

As a preemptive measure before the release of Revenge of the Fallen, Michael Lucchi and Paramount Pictures announced on March 16, 2009, that a third film would be released on July 1, 2011, which earned a surprised response from director Michael Bay: "I said I was taking off a year from Transformers. Paramount made a mistake in dating Transformers 3—they asked me on the phone—I said yes to July 1—but for 2012—whoops! Not 2011! That would mean I would have to start prep in September. No way. My brain needs a break from fighting robots."[11] Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who had worked on the first two Transformers films, declined to return for the third film, with Kurtzman declaring that "the franchise is so wonderful that it deserves to be fresh, all the time. We just felt like we'd given it a lot and didn't have an insight for where to go with it next".[12] Revenge of the Fallen's co-writer Ehren Kruger became the only screenwriter for Dark of the Moon. Kruger had frequent meetings with Industrial Light & Magic's (ILM) visual effects producers, who suggested plot points such as the scenes in Chernobyl.[13] Additionally writer Jenni Konner was brought on to help punch up the script, fleshing out the female characters, and adding humorous jokes.[14][15]

On October 1, 2009, Bay revealed that Dark of the Moon had already gone into pre-production and its planned release returned to its originally intended date from 2012 to July 1, 2011.[16] Due to the revived interest in 3D filming technology brought on by the success of Avatar,[17] talks between Paramount, ILM, and Bay had considered the possibility of the next Transformers film being filmed in 3D, and testing was performed to bring the technology into Bay's work.[18] Bay originally was not much interested in the format as he felt it did not fit his "aggressive style" of filmmaking, but he was convinced after talks with Avatar director James Cameron,[19] who even offered the technical crew from that film. Cameron reportedly told Bay about 3D, "You gotta look at it as a toy, it's another fun tool to help get emotion and character and create an experience."[20] Bay was reluctant to shoot with 3D cameras since in test he found them to be too cumbersome for his filming style, but he did not want to implement the technology in post-production either since he was not pleased with the results.[21] In addition to using the 3D Fusion camera rigs developed by Cameron's team,[20] Bay and the team spent nine months developing a more portable 3D camera that could be brought into location.[19]

In a hidden extra for the Blu-ray version of Revenge of the Fallen, Bay expressed his intention to make Transformers 3 not necessarily larger than Revenge of the Fallen, but deeper into the mythology, for it to get more character development and for it to be darker and more serious. Unicron is briefly shown in a secret Transformers 3 preview feature in the Revenge of the Fallen Blu-ray disc. Ultimately, the producers decided to forgo a plot involving the planet-eating Transformer, and no further comments were ever made on the subject.[22] Having been called Transformers 3 up to that point, the film's final title was officially revealed to be Dark of the Moon in October 2010.[23] After Revenge of the Fallen was almost universally panned by critics and audiences, Bay acknowledged the general flaws of the script, having blamed the 2007-08 Writers strike before the film for many problems. Bay also said the film will get rid of the "dorky comedy" from the last film.[24] On March 19, 2010, the script was said to be completed.[25]

Casting

Dempsey on the set of Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 2010

Megan Fox was originally attached to the film, and Patrick Dempsey's role as Dylan Gould was to be the employer of Fox's character, Mikaela Banes.[26] According to various published sources, Fox's absence from the film was due to executive producer Steven Spielberg ultimately choosing not to renew her role in light of her comparing Bay and his work ethic to Adolf Hitler,[27][28] although representatives for the actress said that it was her decision to leave the film franchise.[29] Bay later claimed that executive producer Steven Spielberg told him to fire Fox,[30] a claim that Spielberg denied.[31] "I wasn't hurt", Bay stated, "because I know that's just Megan. Megan loves to get a response. And she does it in kind of the wrong way. I'm sorry, Megan. I'm sorry I made you work twelve hours. I'm sorry that I'm making you show up on time. Movies are not always warm and fuzzy."[30]

With Fox not reprising her role, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was chosen to play Sam's new girlfriend.[32] Ramón Rodríguez was initially planned to be in the film, in a role bigger than the one he had in Revenge of the Fallen, but he was dropped during early production.[33] A few well-known actors such as John Malkovich and Frances McDormand also gained selected roles for the film. Malkovich explains: "I play a guy called Bruce Brazos, who's just a loudmouth, kind of business man who's Shia's character's boss. Who's just a jerk, and a kind of a loud one. But a fun character. Nice. It was fun. Very, very enjoyable, just with Shia, Rosie a little bit, and with John Turturro. So, for me, it was a blast."[34] Another well-known actor, Ken Jeong, was cast as an eccentric co-worker and stalker. Jeong described the film, "Yeah, it's a small role in Transformers, but yeah. I had an out-of-body experience working on that one because I just couldn't believe I was there. Still, that was not a thing where oh, I'm going to be a part of a blockbuster franchise like Transformers 3 or even now Hangover 2 for that matter. So I can't believe I'm a part of these franchises in any way. It was amazing. Michael Bay is brilliant and it'll blow your mind."[35]

For the role of Decepticon scientist Shockwave, veteran Transformers voice actor Corey Burton was originally approached to voice the character after previously doing so in the original television series and Transformers: Animated. Burton declined the offer, citing his work schedule and disinterest in being involved in a blockbuster franchise. David Warner (Burton's influence on his Shockwave voice) was briefly considered, but the role was ultimately given to Frank Welker, adding to his already long list of Transformers characters.[36][37]

Themes and inspirations

Due to the critically panned Revenge of the Fallen, Bay decided to completely remove the characters the Twins from Dark of the Moon: "This one really builds to a final crescendo. It's not three multiple endings. One thing we're getting rid of is what I call the dorky comedy. [The twins are] basically gone."[38] Due to fan rumors that the Twins would actually be in the film, the director made a public $25,000 "bet" that the Twins would not be seen in Dark of the Moon.[38] They had a brief cameo in the N.E.S.T headquarters in their vehicle modes in the film.

Bay acknowledged that Revenge of the Fallen was "disappointing to the fans" and said that he "doesn't want the third one to suck".[39] Bay said that he wanted Dark of the Moon's final battle to be more geographic and feature a "small group of heroes" like Ridley Scott's war–drama Black Hawk Down, Joe Dante's science fiction Small Soldiers and Hasbro's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.[39] Bay also decided to include Shockwave because he considers the character "bad" and "He's got a much bigger gun [than Megatron and is] a little bit more vicious."[39] According to The A.V. Club, the film had several minor story inspirations from the 1980s cartoon The Transformers, including the usage of a Space Bridge, and the "kicking the Autobots out".[40][better source needed]

Similar to the previous two installments, the film was told in the human point-of-view to engage the audience. Bay wanted Sam to have a girlfriend like in the first two films. Actor Shia LaBeouf said that Sam and Mikaela had become "one character" and, although he would "miss" Megan Fox, with this change "you have discovery again from a new perspective."[41] LaBeouf also stated that the additions of Huntington-Whiteley and new characters allows Dark of the Moon to keep the "magic" of the first film.[42]

Dark of the Moon also had numerous Star Trek references, partly because scriptwriter Ehren Kruger was a "big Star Trek geek",[43] but also as a nod to the fact that new character Sentinel Prime was voiced by Leonard Nimoy, who originated the iconic role of Spock on Star Trek and voiced Galvatron in The Transformers: The Movie. The first Star Trek reference is when refugee robots Brains and Wheelie, who live in Sam and Carly's apartment complex, are watching TOS episode "Amok Time"; Wheelie comments "I've seen this one. It's the one where Spock goes nuts."[43] The second reference is when Sam meets his girlfriend, Carly Spencer at work, and is being introduced to Carly's employer, Dylan Gould, Sam marvels at their workplace: "It's a beautiful building you guys have. Like the Starship Enterprise in here."[43] The third reference is when Bumblebee says goodbye to Sam at Cape Canaveral: the words "my friend" are sampled from Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ("You are ... my friend. I am and always shall be yours.").[43] The fourth and final reference is when Sentinel Prime activates the Control Pillar, quoting Spock's maxim in Star Trek II and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few".[43]

Filming

Explosions on Wacker Drive in Chicago for Transformers: Dark of the Moon filming on location
The shooting of Transformers   3 in Chicago in July 2010, in the foreground the Autobot wrecker Topspin as a heavily armed Chevrolet Impala.
A Peterbilt 379, and a yellow Camaro are beside each other, with two police cars behind. They are near a building complex.
Vehicles used on the set of Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Its production cost was reported $195 million, with the cost of the 3D filming accounting at $30 million of the budget.[5] Preparation for filming began on April 7, 2010, in Northwest Indiana, specifically around Gary, which played Ukraine in the film.[44][45][46] Principal photography commenced on May 18, 2010, with shooting locations including Chicago, Florida, and Moscow.[47][48] The first six weeks were spent in Los Angeles: locations included Sherman Oaks, Fourth Avenue, and 5. Main. The next four weeks were spent in Chicago. Locations filmed in Chicago included LaSalle Street, Michigan Avenue, Bacino's of Lincoln Park at 2204 North Lincoln Avenue and areas surrounding the Willis Tower.[49] The scenes set in Michigan Ave featured a substantial amount of pyrotechnics and stunt work.[50] Filming in Detroit was planned to take place in August but the Chicago shoot was extended until September 1.[51] In late September, the production moved to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, just before the launch of Space Shuttle mission STS-133.[52] Scenes were filmed at Launch Pad 39A, the Vehicle Assembly Building and the Orbiter Processing Facility.[53]

Four men wearing battle fatigues and holding guns and a crewmember wearing a white shirt, a hat and a walkie-talkie attached to its shorts stand on a set resembling a war torn city.
Actors on a Transformers: Dark of the Moon set in July 2010

While filming in Washington, D.C., the crew shot on the National Mall and Bay said that there would be a car race on the location. Two further locations announced were the Milwaukee Art Museum and the former Tower Automotive complex on Milwaukee's north side, then under redevelopment for mixed use also the city's equipment yard. Filming was scheduled to take place there after work was done in Chicago.[54] On September 23, scenes were filmed at the former city hall in Detroit. On October 16, a flashback scene that takes place in the later 1960s was shot at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, using extras with period fashion and hairstyles.[55] A day of shooting was also spent at the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia.[56] Other planned filming locations included Africa and China.[57] Though about 70% of the film's live-action footage was shot in 3D[58] using Arri Alexa and Sony F35 cameras,[59] more than half of the film still had to be converted into 3D in post production to fix technical flaws that 3D filming produces.[60] Other footage that needed to be converted into 3D in post production was either completely computer-generated imagery or shot in the anamorphic format on 35 mm film.[58] 35 mm film was used for scenes filmed in slow motion and scenes such as closeups of faces or shots of the sky that required higher image quality than the HD digital 3D cameras could provide.[58] 35 mm cameras were also used for scenes where the 3D cameras proved to be too heavy, or were subject to strobing or electrical damage from dust.[58] Principal photography officially concluded on November 9, 2010.[61]

Dark of the Moon was found to carry recycled footage from an earlier film directed by Michael Bay—The Island (2005).[62] Bay recycled the same footage from his film Pearl Harbor (2001) in the first Transformers film.[63]

Accidents

Shooting of the duel between Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and Dylan Gould (Patrick Dempsey) in Chicago.

Filming was delayed on September 2, 2010, when an extra was seriously injured during a stunt in Hammond, Indiana. Due to a failed weld, a steel cable snapped from a car being towed and hit the extra's car, damaging her skull. The extra, identified as Gabriela Cedillo, had to undergo brain surgery.[64] The injury has left her permanently brain-damaged, paralyzed on her left side and her left eye stitched shut.[65][66] Paramount admitted responsibility for the accident and covered all of Cedillo's medical costs.[67] Nevertheless, Cedillo's family filed a lawsuit on October 5, citing seven counts of negligence against Paramount, and several other defendants (not including Bay), with total damages sought in excess of $350,000.[68] Cedillo's attorney, Todd Smith, said, "This was an attractive 24-year-old girl who had dreams and aspirations involving acting, and this kind of injury may well have a serious impact on her dreams."[69] The filed complaint reads that "Cedillo has endured and will in the future endure pain and suffering; has become disfigured and disabled; has suffered a loss of the enjoyment of a normal life; has been damaged in her capacity to earn a living; has incurred and will in the future incur expenses for medical services, all of which are permanent in nature."[69] In response to the suit, Paramount released the following statement: "We are all terribly sorry that this accident occurred. Our thoughts, prayers and best wishes are with Gabriela, her family and loved ones. The production will continue to provide all the help we can to Gabriela and her family during this difficult time."[69] In May 2012, it was revealed that an $18 million settlement had been reached between Paramount and the Cedillo family.[70]

A second accident occurred on October 11, 2010, in Washington, D.C. While filming a chase scene at 3rd Street and Maryland Avenue, SW, a Metropolitan Police K9 Unit SUV was accidentally rammed by the Camaro that portrays Bumblebee in the film. The area had been closed off by the Washington, D.C., police, and it is unclear why the SUV was there. Both drivers were uninjured,[71] but the Camaro was severely damaged.[72] Reports indicate that the K9 Unit was heading to a report of a bomb threat as part of a Bomb Squad response, but was not using the same radio frequency as the units guarding the filming and did not realize it had gone the wrong way until it collided with the Bumblebee Camaro. Many fans who witnessed the crash were horrified at the damage the Bumblebee Camaro suffered, and cast and crew members reacted quickly to cover up the damaged Camaro and secure the scene.[73]

Visual effects

As with the previous Transformers installments, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) was the main CGI visual effects company for Dark of the Moon. ILM had been working on the pre-visualization for six months before principal photography started, resulting in 20 minutes' worth of footage.[74] Digital Domain also rendered 350 CGI shots, including the characters Laserbeak, Brains, Wheelie, and the Decepticon protoforms concealed on the Moon, the space bridge, and a skydiving sequence.[75][76]

External audio
Industrial Light & Magic's interview for the effects of the film.
audio icon Listen to the Interview

ILM's visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar said that "not only were the film's effects ambitious, they also had to be designed for 3D", and explained the company's solutions for the new perspective: "We did make sure things are as bright as possible; Michael called up theatre owners to make sure they keep the lamps bright in the theatres ... make everything a little sharper, because we know that through the steps, no matter what, when you get to the final screening things tend to go less sharp."[77] On the last weekend of ILM's work on Dark of the Moon, the company's entire render farm was being used for the film, giving ILM more than 200,000 hours of rendering power a day—or equivalent to 22.8 years of rendering time in a 24-hour period.[13] Farrar embraced the detail in creating giant robots for 3D, making sure that in close-ups of the Transformers' faces "you see all the details in the nooks and crannies of these pieces. It's totally unlike a plain surface subject like a human head or an animated head." The supervisor said that Bay's style of cinematography helped integrate the robots into the scenes, as "Michael is keen on having foreground/midground/background depth in his shots, even in normal live-action shots. He'll say, 'Put some stuff hanging here!' It could be women's stockings or forks and knives dangling from a string out of focus—it doesn't matter, but it gives you depth, and focus depth, and makes it more interesting."[78]

In a city full of skyscrapers, a robot wearing jet thrusters on his back holding a cannon flies toward a large snake-like robot. A tentacle of the larger robot is exploding.
Considerable digital animation was required for the elaborate Driller as it comprised over 70,000 parts, significantly more than Optimus Prime's 10,000 parts.

The most complicated effects involved the "Driller", a giant snake-like creature with an eel-like body and spinning rotator blades, knives and teeth. In Revenge of the Fallen, it took 72 hours per frame to fully render Devastator for the IMAX format, which is approximately a frame amount of 4,000. For the Driller, which required the entire render farm, it was up to 122 hours per frame.[74] The most complex scene involved the Driller destroying a computer-generated skyscraper, which took 288 hours per frame.[77] For said sequence, ILM relied on its internal proprietary physics simulation engine to depict the destruction of the building, which included breaking concrete floors and walls, windows, columns and pieces of office furnishings. ILM digital production supervisor Nigel Sumner explained: "We did a lot of tests early on to figure out how to break the building apart, exploring a lot of the procedural options. A building that's 70 feet tall—to go in and hand-score the geometry so when it fractures or falls apart—would be a time-consuming, laborious process. The floor of a building may be made of concrete. How does concrete fracture when it tears apart? The pillars would be made of a similar material but made of rebar or other engineering components. We'd look at how a building would blow apart and then choose the best tool to help achieve the properties of that during a simulation."[78]

A large red and gray robot, with humanoid shape
A black and white photo of actor Sean Connery, with many balloons and two persons in the background
Sentinel Prime (left) was modelled after Actor Sean Connery (right).[13]

The scenes in Chicago were mostly shot on location, as Bay believed the plates had to really be shot in the real city. Farrar was always fascinated with the idea of shooting on location and then blending the film with computer-generated imagery. He said: "We try and shoot everything real. You may have seen some films recently where the entire city has been destroyed and it's entirely CGI. Well, for a Transformers film, it's different because we actually went to Chicago. If you start with the real thing, you have a lot more to work with to make it look real. So for a couple of months there, I was in a helicopter shooting aerial plates of the real buildings. And we'd add destruction to all the backgrounds – smoke, fire, debris, fighter planes, war, battles, torn up streets – to real cityscapes."[78] Four ILM employees also traveled to Chicago and photographed buildings from top to bottom at six different times of the day in order to create a digital model of the city to be used in certain scenes.[13] ILM's crew designed many major action scenes,[13] with many of the Chicago battle concepts coming from the helicopter shooting of the aerial plates.[74]

Animator Scott Benza said Sentinel Prime had a face "more human-like than any of the other robots", with a more complex frame and "a greater number of plates" so it could be more expressive.[13] ILM had based most of Sentinel Prime's features on Sean Connery, and after Leonard Nimoy was cast to voice the role, the effects were altered to incorporate Nimoy's acting as well. Every robot would take approximately 30 weeks to build visually. Originally, the fight between Sentinel Prime, Optimus Prime, and Megatron was considered to be on water in the Chicago River, but the budget was cut and ILM realized that they would not want to present that version of the final battle to Bay, so they decided to have the battle take place on the bridge over the river.[74] For a sequence where Bumblebee catches Sam and Lennox while transforming in mid-air, a digital double of Shia LaBeouf was combined with footage of the actor in high speed so that the effects team could time it for slow-motion.[78]

Since Bay shoots all his films in anamorphic format, Dark of the Moon's representation would be "squeezed in" to distort the image, and ILM would add in the robots and "un-distort" the image.[74] The ample variety of filming formats used—single camera, 3D stereo rigs with two cameras, anamorphic and spherical lenses—proved a challenge, especially as ILM had a deadline to deliver the 3D plates to the companies responsible for the 3D conversion.[13] ILM made 600 3D shots, and Digital Domain had under 200,[74] while Legend3D, the lead 3D conversion company of the film, completed 78 minutes of work on the film and finalized the work of approximately 40 minutes of challenging non-visual effects and 38 minutes of visual effects shots.[79]

Music

See also: Transformers: Dark of the Moon – The Album and Transformers: Dark of the Moon – The Score

Composer Steve Jablonsky, who had before collaborated with Bay on The Island and the first two Transformers films, returned to compose the Dark of the Moon score. Jablonsky's musical score was lauded by critics and fans. The score was released on June 24, 2011, five days before the actual release of the film.[80]

Although a bit more score-heavy this time around, the soundtrack is certainly featured and we not only rejoin characters we have come to know, but some familiar artists who are back again as well.

— Allison Loring, reviewing the film's soundtrack[81]

The album was originally set for release on June 28, 2011, but Amazon.com listed the album as unavailable while the album was still being listed for release during the week of the film's global release.[82] It was available for download on Amazon on June 30, 2011,[82] and the score currently features 17 pre-recorded tracks that are featured in the final film. The score's length is approximately 59:47.[83] The album for the film was released on June 14, 2011. It consists of singles produced by different artists and bands, and rock tracks. American rock band Linkin Park composed the lead single for the film, "Iridescent", as they did with the first two films: "What I've Done" was used in the 2007 film and "New Divide" for the 2009 film. The music video for "Iridescent" was directed by Joe Hahn.[84] Two other singles were released specifically for the soundtrack, "Monster" by Paramore[citation needed] and "All That You Are" by the Goo Goo Dolls. Several other unreleased songs make their debut on the album, including "The Pessimist" by Stone Sour and "The Bottom" by Staind. My Chemical Romance's song "The Only Hope for Me Is You" also appeared and can also be found on their fourth studio album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys and on the soundtrack. The song was not exclusively for the movie and was featured in the credits.[85] The Black Veil Brides' song "Set the World on Fire" is also included.[citation needed]

Marketing

A bus with Optimus Prime and Chinese characters printed on its side drives across a street.
An advertisement for the film on a bus in Hong Kong

Most of the characters returned for Hasbro's new toyline, which was released on May 16, 2011.[86] In October 2010, Entertainment Tonight previewed the behind-the-scenes filming in Chicago.[87][88] A two-minute teaser trailer was announced on November 27,[89] and was posted to the Internet on December 9, 2010.[90] A 30-second television advertisement for the film aired during Super Bowl XLV on Fox TV channel on February 6, 2011.[91] The first full theatrical trailer was released on April 28, 2011.[92] The very first video clip was released on May 18.[93] A second clip was released the next day on May 19.[94] The North American promotional costs came to approximately $75 million.[5][95]

Novelizations

In May 2011, the novelization, junior novel, and graphic novel of Transformers: Dark of the Moon were released. Both the novel and the graphic novel featured Skids and Mudflap as supporting characters, but the characters were missing from the junior novel. The graphic novel made reference to several Autobots from the IDW Publishing tie-in comics who died in the stories between Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon.[96] Another novel, written by Peter David, was published on May 24, 2011, and was released only paperback. Though it is slightly different from the film, the novel still pertains to the topic and synopsis of the film it is based on in the outcome of the final battle. The novel features about 400 pages and is published by Del Rey Books. Its synopsis is:

All humankind was watching that day in 1969. And yet only a handful knew the real mission behind America's triumph in the space race: to explore the alien ship that has crashed on the far side of the moon. Decades later, scientists are still struggling to understand the technology found on board—though with the treacherous Decepticons after it, a powerful force must be at stake. The only hope of averting a crisis is to reawaken Sentinel Prime, the long-lost leader of the Autobots—but who knows what else remains in the shadows, hidden from man and machine?[97]

Video game

Main article: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (video game)

On June 14, 2011, Activision published a video game based on the film for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo DS. The versions for Nintendo's consoles were developed by Behaviour Interactive,[98] while the versions for the rest of the consoles were developed by High Moon Studios, who had previously developed Transformers: War for Cybertron. Electronic Arts released the game Transformers: Dark of the Moon on June 28, 2011, for Nokia Symbian smartphones, Apple products iPod Touch, iPhones, and iPad[99][100] and Research In Motion's BlackBerry devices.[101]

Release

A blonde woman wearing a red dress and a gold necklace. Stones and a car can be seen behind her.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley at the film's premiere

Theatrical

Transformers: Dark of the Moon first premiered at the Moscow International Film Festival on June 23, 2011. Linkin Park performed a special outdoor concert in Red Square in Moscow on the same night in celebration of the event.[1] Initially scheduled to be released on July 1, 2011, the release was brought forward to June 29, 2011.[3] It was announced in November 2010 that unlike Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, no scenes in the film were shot with IMAX 3-D cameras.[102]

Home media

During Hasbro Investor Day, it was announced that the DVD and Blu-ray Disc would be released in the fourth quarter of 2011.[103] The NTSC home release for the film was released on September 30, 2011,[104] with a Blu-ray 3D version of the film slated for release in "the coming months".[105][106] The first home release was criticized for the lack of bonus features.[107]

A Walmart exclusive edition of Transformers: Dark of the Moon also was released on September 30, 2011.[108] The PAL DVD and Blu-ray Discs of Transformers: Dark of the Moon was released on November 28, 2011.[109]

In North America, it sold 716,218 DVD units (equivalent of $13,565,169) in its first week, topping the weekly DVD chart.[110] As of February 26, 2012, it has sold 2,829,285 DVD units (equivalent of $48,058,979).[111] It also topped the Blu-ray charts on the same week and it has sold 2,381,657 Blu-ray units (earning $50,934,911) by October 23, 2011.[112] The Blu-ray 3D release of the film was released on January 31, 2012, in NTSC regions and on February 13, 2012, in PAL regions.[113]

Transformers: Dark of the Moon was released on 4K UHD Blu-ray on October 30, 2017, in PAL regions and December 5, 2017, in NTSC regions.[114]

The film grossed $113.8 million in home sales.[115]

Reception

Box office

Worldwide

Transformers: Dark of the Moon had grossed $352.3 million in North America, and $771.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $1.123 billion.[116] It was the fifth highest-grossing film of all time and the second-highest-grossing film of 2011.[117] On August 3, 2011, the film crossed the $1 billion mark,[118] making it the second Paramount Pictures film to do so, along with Titanic. Its worldwide opening weekend ($382.4 million) is the fourth-largest ever and the largest for Paramount[119] It set an IMAX worldwide opening-weekend record with $23.1 million (first surpassed by Deathly Hallows – Part 2).[120] It reached $400 million (6 days), $500 million (9 days), $600 million (12 days) and $700 million (16 days) in record time, but lost all records to Deathly Hallows – Part 2.[121]

North America

The film opened in 4,088 theaters including a then-record total of 2,789 3-D locations. It made $5.5 million during Tuesday 9 p.m. showings, $8 million during midnight showings[122] and $37.7 million on its opening day (Wednesday)—including Tuesday showings. This was the sixth-best opening Wednesday.[123] However, all these figures were lower than Revenge of the Fallen.[124] On Thursday, it earned $21.5 million, falling 43%, an improvement from its predecessor's Wednesday-to-Thursday decline. It grossed $33.0 million on Friday totaling $97.8 million. Its 3-D share accounted for 60% of its gross, which was atypical due to the downturn in 3D attendance in North America. For its three-day opening weekend (Friday-to-Sunday), it grossed $97.9 million, topping the box office ahead of Cars 2.[125] It achieved the third-largest opening weekend of 2011,[126] the fourth-largest opening weekend in July,[127] the fifth-largest opening weekend for a film not released on Friday[128] and the second-largest five-day gross for a film opening on Wednesday.[116] It set records for the 3-day ($97.9 million)[129] and 4-day ($115.9 million) Independence Day weekend, surpassing Spider-Man 2's record in both cases ($88.2 million and $115.8 million, respectively) until both records were broken with the release of Minions: The Rise of Gru in 2022.[130][131] It retained first place on its second weekend, dropping 52% to $47.1 million.[132] Closing on October 13, 2011, with $352.4 million, it is the second-highest-grossing film of 2011[133] and the second-highest-grossing film in the franchise.[134][135]

Outside North America

The film grossed $32.5 million on its opening day, pacing 38% ahead of its predecessor. Including some early Tuesday previews, it earned $36.6 million in one-and-a-half days,[136] and by Thursday its international total reached $66 million.[137] By the end of its first weekend, it had earned $219.8 million, which stands as the fifth-largest opening weekend of all time overseas and the largest for Paramount.[138] Its foreign launch was 57% ahead of that of Revenge of the Fallen ($139.6 million). 70% of its grosses came from 3-D (a higher 3-D share than Pirates 4's 66%).[139] Don Harris, general manager of distribution for Paramount, commented on the results of Dark of the Moon: "If we hadn't chosen to debut the movie later in Japan and China, we probably would have had the all-time record."[140] The film topped the box office outside North America for two weekends in a row.[141]

In China, its highest-grossing market after North America, the film set records for an opening day with $15.9 million, a single day with $17.4 million (overtaken by Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons)[142] and an opening weekend with $46.8 million ($62.7 million with previews).[143] The latter was taken from Avatar ($42.0 million).[144] The opening weekend record, when including previews, was surpassed by Titanic 3D ($74.2 million).[145] Dark of the Moon ended its run with $167.95 million, marking the second-highest-grossing film of 2011 (after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2).[146] Besides China, it broke the opening-day record in Russia and South Korea;[136] the single-day record in Hong Kong;[147] and the opening-weekend record in South Korea,[148] Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, the UAE, the Philippines and Peru (the last three records were surpassed by The Avengers).[139][149][150] Following China in total earnings were South Korea ($69.1 million) and Japan ($54.2 million).[151]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 35% based on reviews from 263 critics and an average rating of 5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Its special effects—and 3D shots—are undeniably impressive, but they aren't enough to fill up its loud, bloated running time, or mask its thin, indifferent script."[8] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 42 out of 100 based on 37 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[152] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[153][154]

Roger Ebert gave the film one out of four stars, criticizing its visuals, plot, characters, and dialogue.[155] Richard Roeper likewise panned the film, giving it a D and responded that "rarely has a movie had less of a soul and less interesting characters."[156] A.O. Scott in The New York Times wrote "I can't decide if this movie is so spectacularly, breathtakingly dumb as to induce stupidity in anyone who watches, or so brutally brilliant that it disarms all reason. What's the difference?"[157]

Several critics felt that Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's performances were ineffective. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film 0 stars, the same rating that he had given to Revenge of the Fallen, and stated the two actors "couldn't be duller".[158] Tirdad Derakhshani of The Philadelphia Inquirer stated that LaBeouf "plays Witwicky as if he had a ferocious case of attention deficit disorder. After two films, his fidgeting isn't cute anymore."[159] James Berardinelli of ReelViews wrote that LaBeouf "has sunk to greater levels of incompetence here. It's hard to call his posturing and screaming 'acting'."[160] Jason Solomons of The Observer wrote "[W]e're first introduced to [Huntington-Whiteley] via a close-up of her bum, segueing straight from the film's opening sequence and titles on to the pert buttocks and underwear of our heroine", and that her English posh girl accent "renders her practically unintelligible when surrounded by American accents and falling masonry."[161] Much of the criticism towards Rosie Huntington-Whiteley compared her in an unfavorable light to Megan Fox. Lou Lumenick of the New York Post wrote that her "'acting' makes ... Megan Fox look like Meryl Streep in comparison."[162] Huntington-Whitely was later nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress for her performance, but lost to David Spade for Jack and Jill.[163]

For good or ill, Bay is the soul of a new machine, the poet of post-human cinema, the CEO of Hollywood's military-entertainment complex.

Richard Corliss, in his review of the film for Time magazine[164]

Steve Prokopy of Ain't It Cool News found the film to be better than the first two.[165] Jim Vejvoda of IGN gave the film a score of seven out of ten, also stating that it was the best of the franchise.[166] E! Online graded the film a B+ while noting if this film is truly the end of a trilogy, its main antagonists should have played more of a part.[167] Website Daily Bhaskar also praised the film, rating it three and a half out of five stars, citing it as an improvement on the previous film, and writing that it "gives fans something to cheer about."[168]

Many reviews praised the film's special effects and aggressive use of 3-D. After previewing a partial, unfinished cut of the film, Kofi Outlaw of Screen Rant declared that Bay had created the best 3-D experience since James Cameron's Avatar.[169] Neil Schneider of Meant to be Seen, a website focused on stereoscopic 3-D gaming and entertainment, remarked that "while Transformers: Dark of the Moon had the scrapings of a really good story, this 3-D movie was shot with a 2-D script." On the topic of 3-D, Schneider said "Transformers 3 was a mix of native stereoscopic 3-D camera capturing and 2-D/3-D conversion (as a 3-D tool), and most was done very well." He added, "At a minimum, Transformers 3 demonstrates that fast cutting sequences are indeed possible and practical in stereoscopic 3-D. More than that, it was a comfortable experience and helped exemplify great use of stereoscopic 3-D with CGI live-action and CGI digital characters. That said, I think they still could have taken it much further."[170]

Charlie Jane Anders of Jezebel believed that some elements of the film were deliberate self-references to Michael Bay's own sense of under-appreciation after the backlash to the second film: "After a few hours of seeing Shia get dissed, overlooked and mistreated, the message becomes clear: Shia, as always, is a stand-in for Michael Bay. And Bay is showing us just what it felt like to deal with the ocean of Haterade—the snarking, the Razzie Award, the mean reviews—that Revenge of the Fallen unleashed." She went on to say that the film's frequent, often jarring shifts in tone were an intentional endorsement of Michael Bay's own filmmaking style. "Tone is for single-purpose machines. Consistency is for Decepticons. Michael Bay's ideal movie shifts from action movie to teen comedy to political drama with the same well-lubricated ease that his cars become men. By the time you've finished watching, you will speak Michael Bay's cinematic language."[171]

Accolades

Accolades received by Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards February 26, 2012 Best Sound Editing Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl Nominated [172]
[173]
Best Sound Mixing Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Peter J. Devlin Nominated
Best Visual Effects Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler, and John Frazier Nominated
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards January 10, 2012 Sequel or Remake That Shouldn't Have Been Made Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated [174]
[175]
Annie Awards February 4, 2012 Animated Effects in a Live Action Production Florent Andarra Won [176]
BMI Film & TV Awards May 17, 2012 BMI Film Music Awards Steve Jablonsky Won [177]
British Academy Children's Awards November 27, 2011 Kid's Vote — Film Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated [178]
Empire Awards March 25, 2012 Best 3D Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated [179]
Golden Raspberry Awards April 1, 2012 Worst Picture Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated [180]
Worst Director Michael Bay Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor Patrick Dempsey Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor Ken Jeong Nominated
Worst Supporting Actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley Nominated
Worst Screenplay Ehren Kruger Nominated
Worst Screen Couple Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley Nominated
Worst Screen Ensemble Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated
Golden Reel Awards February 19, 2012 Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Underscore Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated [181]
[182]
Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Sound Effects and Foley for Feature Film Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated
Golden Trailer Awards June 29, 2011 Summer 2011 Blockbuster "Alien Secret" (Wild Card) Won [183]
Best Sound Editing "Alien Secret" (Wild Card) Nominated
Best Summer Blockbuster 2011 TV Spot "Dark" (Ignition Creative) Nominated
Hollywood Film Awards October 24, 2011 Hollywood Movie Award Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated [184]
[185]
Hollywood Visual Effects Award Scott Farrar Won
Hollywood Post Alliance Awards November 10, 2011 Outstanding Color Grading – Feature Film Stefan Sonnenfeld Nominated [186]
[187]
Outstanding Compositing – Feature Film Jeff Sutherland, Jason Billington, Chris Balog, and Ben O'Brien Won
People's Choice Awards January 11, 2012 Favorite Movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated [188]
Favorite Action Movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated
Favorite Action Movie Star Shia LaBeouf Nominated
Satellite Awards December 18, 2011 Best Visual Effects Scott Benza, John Frazier, Matthew Butler, and Scott Farrar Nominated [189]
[190]
Best Sound Peter J. Devlin, Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl, Gary Summers, Greg P. Russell, and Jeffrey J. Haboush Nominated
Saturn Awards July 26, 2012 Best Special Effects Scott Benza, John Frazier, Matthew Butler, and Scott Farar Nominated [191]
[192]
Scream Awards October 15, 2011 Best Science Fiction Movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated [193]
[194]
Best Cameo Buzz Aldrin Nominated [193]
[195]
Holy Sh*t Scene of the Year "Escape From Collapsing Building" Nominated [193]
[196]
Best 3D Movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon Won [193]
Best F/X Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated [193]
[197]
Screen Actors Guild Awards January 29, 2012 Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated [198]
Teen Choice Awards August 7, 2011 Choice Summer Movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated [199]
[200]
Choice Summer Movie Actor Shia LaBeouf Nominated
Choice Summer Movie Actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley Nominated
Visual Effects Society Awards February 7, 2012 Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Feature Motion Picture Scott Benza, Wayne Billheimer, Matthew E. Butler, and Scott Farrar Nominated [201]
[202]
Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture Chris Balog, Ben O'Brien, Amy Shepard, and Jeff Sutherland Nominated
Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture Giles Hancock, John Hansen, Tom Martinek, and Scott Younkin for "155 Wacker Drive" Won
Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture Tim Brakensiek, Kelvin Chu, David Fogler, and Rene Garcia for "Driller" Won
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture Michael Balog, Richard Bluff, Shawn Kelly, and Jeff White Nominated

Sequels

Further information: Transformers (film series)

Despite previous discussions regarding Bay's departure of the Transformers film series, he returned to direct a sequel, and development of the follow-up began afterward.[203] Di Bonaventura described the project as an "evolution", with another set of cast members and a different story.[204] Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) received a less enthusiastic response and achieved similar financial success as Dark of the Moon, becoming the highest-grossing film of 2014.[205][206][207] It was followed by Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), which became a box-office bomb and lost the studio an estimated $100 million.[208][209] The series narrative was expanded in three films that preceded the first five: Bumblebee (2018) shows the title character arriving on Earth;[210] Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023) focuses on the conflict between the Autobots and the Maximals,[211] and the Terrorcons; and the animated Transformers One (2024) centers on the relationship between Optimus and Megatron.[212]

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