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You need to watch most underrated sci-fi blockbuster sequel on Netflix ASAP

Robot aliens on the moon. What more do you want?

A robot that broke down in a cave, 3D illustration.

The only flaw of most Transformers movies is that they are, by their very nature, Transformers movies. For those who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the Michael Bay version of this universe has always felt slightly foreign to the cartoon. But for whatever reason the third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, manages to capture the flavor of the classic cartoons and also deliver a hilariously compelling sci-fi premise at the same time. Here’s why it’s worth another look.

The question that Dark of the Moon asks in the first five minutes is surprisingly fresh: What if the Apollo 11 moon landing was a conspiracy, but not the fake kind? It turns out a giant robot starship crashed on the moon, and the whole reason Kennedy wanted American boots on lunar soil was to gather intel. The notion that all of contemporary 20th-century history has actually been informed by a derelict ship containing transforming robots is the prologue for Dark of the Moon.

This is not smart writing, but it’s so hilariously over-the-top that it works. The idea that NASA’s history was secretly influenced by the Transformers is so ridiculous that it crosses over from bad taste to kind of fun. In fact, if you jettison your ideas about the continuity of the Transformers movies or the franchise’s various other incarnations, Dark of the Moon is like a B-movie made for a 2011 audience.

At the time, critics lambasted the performances of both Shia Labeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, which woefully missed what this movie was going for. Are they stiff? Do they lack chemistry? Sure! But have we mentioned the rest of the cast? Let’s talk about everyone else.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon wants to entertain you so badly that the following actors are somehow a part of it: Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Alan Tudyk, Andy Daly, and, in a wonderful comeback, Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime.

Leonard Nimoy, is that you?


For ‘80s kids, the casting of Nimoy as a Transformers villain is even more meta than Marky Mark appearing in the subsequent sequel, Age of Extinction. In 1987, Nimoy voiced the villainous Galvatron, a reincarnated Megatron, briefly proving that, like Mark Hamill, Nimoy had an acting range that included cartoon villains.

What makes the stacked cast of Dark of the Moon so fun is that you can actually just put it on in the background and listen. Veteran Transformers voice actor Peter Cullen is on fire as Optimus Prime, but even if you’re not sold on Nimoy versus Cullen there’s one more trick Dark of the Moon has up its sleeve. In an attempt to own its absurd premise, the film also boasts a cameo from none other than Buzz Aldrin. Just when you think the bad taste of sullying our memory of the moon landing can’t get worse, Transformers owns it by getting Aldrin to appear.

Does the involvement of Frances McDormand, Leonard Nimoy, or Buzz Aldrin legitimatize the film? Do they elevate the material to a point beyond that of an over-the-top Michael Bay movie? No, absolutely not. But while watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon you’ll almost certainly have one reaction: You won’t be able to believe this movie exists. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is streaming on Netflix.

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