A couple of weeks ago, I finally got to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011); I've been meaning to see it for some time now, especially with the next Transformers film due out this summer. Unfortunately, it's been a while since I've seen it, so it's not entirely fresh in my head; but to be honest, that doesn't really change my outlook on the film. I even missed the first 20 minutes, and I don't feel like I missed out anything. That in itself should probably give you some indication of how good (or bad) the film is.
I recently listened to a podcast reviewing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; in it, the reviewers had the notion that maybe the producers were trying to "forget" The Motion Picture and start fresh with a new movie. Thinking about Dark of the Moon, I really get that same sort of feeling: that the producers were trying to ignore the existence of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Gone are the annoying "twins" (though replaced with equally annoying but less featured smaller Autobots) and Megan Fox. Sam has a new girlfriend - whom apparently he loves and has always loved. Some of the Decepticons are different - Megatron's form is changed, as is Soundwave's (Soundwave is definitely better this time around). I did some reading, and apparently Michael Bay did acknowledge the poorly-received Revenge of the Fallen and made some decisions to reflect that, but in my view, he didn't go far enough. Still, this movie fits the overall feel of the other two movies, so it's definitely not out of place.
Interesting to note - though I'm not sure how I feel about this - the Transformers seemed to be much more "organic" than ever before in that they bleed when injured. It's a little strange - Transformers seem like they should be completely mechanical. However, this helps to illustrate that they are alien beings from another world. I just don't know if it worked for me or not.
Thematically, the connection to NASA here mirrors the first film. I really appreciated that, and thought it added a nice touch to the film. It makes the second film seem even further out of place, which lends more support to my theory that Bay just wanted to move on from the second film.
One of the more interesting aspects of the film's plot line was Sam's apparent existential crisis in the first half of the movie. He's graduating from college and going for his first job - but he's saved the world twice now, so understandably he feels that an entry level position has no meaning for him and is beneath him. It's a little God-complex-ish in the first two films - a coincidence almost - that he is so central to saving the world. In this movie, I feel that he has less to do, and is actually held a little bit helpless / hostage to the Decepticons and can't really do much to affect the outcome of the film. Wisely, it's the Transformers (and military-trained humans) who do the bulk of the saving the world. I honestly forget how Sam figures into the end of the story, but I think he's satisfied or something. Either way it's pretty clear that he's not important for the future of the franchise.
I liked that there were some bad humans in this movie. I don't like that it was obvious who they were, but when you think about it, it makes sense that the Decepticons would coerce some of the less scrupulous members of society to get what they want. After all, aren't the Autobots essentially doing the same thing by having the humans act as support for their fight against the Decepticons? Of course there is a difference - the Autobots feel responsible for the humans, whereas the Decepticons use them as they see fit - and they see them as disposable.
Overall, this isn't a huge thinkpiece of a movie, but Transformers: Dark of the Moon gives you a bit more to chew on than the previous two installments. I don't hold the same expectations for Age of Extinction, but come on - Dinobots!