[UPDATE: We’ve seen it with our own eyes – check out our Transformers 3 review]

There’s been more than a healthy dose of skepticism on our end whenever we talk about Michael Bay’s trilogy-capper, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Even Bay has come clean about what a mess the second Transformers movie was at this point – and just about everyone involved in the production of this summer’s entry in the giant alien robot series has gone on about what an overall improvement the third film is (enough so that the TF3 entry on this “Honest Summer Movie Posters” list is more than appropriate).

Now that the first “official” review for Dark of the Moon has been released, it begs the question: Is the film actually all that better than Revenge of the Fallen?

According to Capone over at AICN, the answer is definitely “yes.” As he put it:

“I’m genuinely surprised what a strong effort [‘Transformers 3′] is, not just in terms of its scope, but also in its pacing, performances, and ideas. This one dares to go dark from time to time, and that helped me find the often-lacking component of many Bay films: emotion. You probably won’t shed any tears watching DARK OF THE MOON, but you will care when certain lives are lost or in peril. This one might actually rock you a little to your foundation; get excited about that.”

Capone was also keen to emphasize just how awe-inspiring he found the second half of the film, which primarily focuses on the destruction of downtown Chicago – as was featured heavily in the footage from the Transformers 3 trailer. He even praised Megan Fox’s replacement (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), expressing gratitude that “she’s actually got something to do here beyond just looking like a million bucks.”

For more from Capone about Transformers: Dark of the Moon, read his full review (WARNING: It heads into MILD SPOILER territory) HERE.

Obviously, there’s good reason to take all this Transformers 3 praise with a grain of salt. The review was actually of an unfinished 2D cut of the movie, and sometimes early word about how much better a sequel (or threequel) is can be a bit inflated (remember how enthusiastic early reviews for Attack of the Clones were, in the aftermath of The Phantom Menace?). Lastly, considering that Dark of the Moon won’t hit theaters for another six weeks or so, it would’ve been much more shocking had an early negative review of the film been released. You have to imagine that the studio wouldn’t want any bad word of mouth circulating this early.

With all that said: this early review is still a good sign for those hoping that Dark of the Moon could be a great conclusion to possibly the most financially-successful franchise that’s ever been assaulted by critics. The trailer for the film was pretty impressive, there are a number of noteworthy additions to the cast – and, with added bonuses for Transformers fans (like Leonard Nimoy voicing Sentinel Prime) this could actually be a pretty rockin’ finale.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon arrives in theaters this summer on July 1st.