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Exclusive Interview: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman Talk Transformers Revenge Of The Fallen (and Trek Too) June 23, 2009

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Interview,Orci/Kurtzman,Sci-Fi , trackback

Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are being called the ‘boys of Summer’ for their involvement in this season’s Star Trek, The Proposal, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which opens tomorrow. TrekMovie check in with the pair to talk bout their Transformers follow-up (and to get a little update on what’s next for Star Trek).

 

INTERVIEW: ROBERTO ORCI & ALEX KURTZMAN ON TRANSFORMERS (AND TREK TOO)

TrekMovie.com: You guys initially resisted doing a sequel for Transformers, what changed your mind?

Alex Kurtzman: We never want to do a movie just because the movie that came before it was successful. We only want to do a movie when we feel we have a story to tell and I think we invest so much of ourselves in the film making process, from the beginning to the end, that we have to love it on every level, in order to do that. We didn’t immediately see what the sequel idea was. We took some time to think about our favorite sequels, and why we love them. Some of the movies that came up were Empire Strikes Back, Superman II, Aliens, Terminator 2, Wrath of Khan of course, and when we started looking at the common denominators, all the movies stood on their own, apart from the first one. You didn’t have to see any of the first movies, to see how good the sequels were. And number two, there was some very intense emotional trial that the main character goes through in those movies, be it: Superman gives up his powers for love, Kirk losing Spock, "Luke, I am your father", Ripley being driven by motherhood in Aliens…until we had that key emotional idea that we felt we could hang the movie on, we didn’t want to do it. And when found it, we knew we would have the confidence to build on it.

TrekMovie.com: You threw out some names of a lot of big movies. There is a kind of a meme that second entries for genre and comic book movies are often the better movies, did you feel that pressure to one up yourselves?

Alex Kurtzman: Definitely. But you have to one up it in story, and not just in spectacle. We rely on Michael [Bay] for the spectacle. We know he will push the technology even further than the first and be a genius at that. But for us it was: what is the truly emotional trial we can put Sam through.


Bob and Alex wanted Transformers 2 to have an emotional key like other sequels

Roberto Orci: In additional to all of that was working with Ehren Kruger, who was so excited to come in and brought a fresh energy, that it got exciting again and got our creative juices flowing.

TrekMovie.com: How did working with a third writer work with your process?

Roberto Orci: We have done it before, we wrote Mission 3 with JJ [Abrams] and obviously with TV, you are always collaborating. We always use musical analogies and while it is usually me and Alex on guitar and drums, when we write with someone else it is guitar, drums and a keyboard, it doesn’t change what we are doing.  

TrekMovie: What did Ehren bring to the sequel

Alex Kurtzman: Ehren is a fantastic writer on his own and has made ten movies. We knew that we would have to dig deeper into the Transformers mythology in this one and there would be an expectation, certainly from fans, that we would know more about the robots. And Ehren had been pouring through Transformers lore and had culled the right ideas and so we took the big emotional idea that we had and a lot of the plotting that Ehren had and found a way to marry them.

TrekMovie.com: Speaking about that mythology, the first film felt like it was about a war amongst alien robots playing out on Earth. This time there are links to ancient Egypt and more. Is there an attempt to make this more about us Earthlings, with the mythology tied to our history?

Roberto Orci: Yes. That was always part of the G1 (Transformers Generation 1) idea, that Transformers had crash-landed here in prehistoric time. We didn’t exactly stick to that, but there is a rich history of they’ve been here a long time and they are somehow wrapped up in our ancient history.

Alex Kurtzman: We are trying to stay true to the spirit of a story that delves into the idea of going beneath the surface of both the history of the Transformers and our own race. The thing Optimus Prime is always talking about is how similar our races are, and the idea is that there is a reason for that.


Transformers 2 ties the mythology to ancient Earth history

TrekMovie.com: For these movies, there seems to be a big amount of fan interest in what Transformers make it in and which ones don’t. How do you make that cut?

Alex Kurtzman: It is a mix actually. Our side of it is that we end up putting in Transformers that fit into the story. Certainly there some that we wanted in the first that we couldn’t put in, that we ended up getting in the second. The decision is about how we can do it organically. There is also a mandate from both Hasbro and the car companies to put certain robots in. What we say to them is ‘great, if we can find a way to do that in a way that makes sense, then let’s do it.’ And Michael certainly is very specific about the kind of cars he likes to put on screen and how he wants to use them.

TrekMovie.com: You guys are also creating a lot more of your own new Transformers for this one. Is it more fun for you to branch out and create your own characters instead of just using the original characters?

Roberto Orci: Not particularly.

Alex Kurtzman: I think weirdly we always find a way to love who ever we are writing about. Certainly, it was not hard to find ways to love Bumblebee and Optimus Prime. So we feel a lot of ownership over the direction of those characters already. So we don’t make a huge distinction between them and the new ones, but that said, Optimus has a voice that was distinct and pre-established that we did not want to veer away from.

Roberto Orci: Michael also pushed us to do new things. He feels he wants to surprise people.

TrekMovie.com: The Fallen is a character from the Transformer mythos. How does The Fallen play into this film?

Alex Kurtzman: I think we always saw The Fallen as a Lucifer story. He was an angel who fell and turned against the others, and that is how we reflected him in the movie.

TrekMovie.com: In the first film the human characters are much more in the forefront than they were in the 80s cartoons. But in this one you promised more robots. So are the human characters moving to the background? How do you keep the right mix to keep it a human story?

Roberto Orci: There is less human characters in this one, but those that are there are still important. Sam Witwicky and Mikaela are still the key part of it, but it is a more balanced thing because we don’t have as many human stories than we did in the first one because it was predicated on it being a mystery, with various people reacting to the secret of the Transformers. Now we know who they are from the beginning, so the robots are a bigger part of the story.

Alex Kurtzman: Even though they are robots in disguise, you can’t hide them from the audience, because they have seen it. It is still very much Sam Witwicky’s story and our reason for doing it has to do with that, but there is more to it.


Transformers 2, still Sam and Mikeala’s story

TrekMovie.com: Well getting to that, in the first film, I felt that only Bumblebee and Optimus Prime felt fleshed out as characters, for the robots. Is there an attempt in this one, as much as you can in a summer movie about giant robots, do robot character development?

Roberto Orci: Yes, as a function of there being more time with and we didn’t have to convince the studio that you can have scenes with Transformers without any humans in them.

TrekMovie.com: Looking back at the first film, there was a lot of broad humor, like the robot peeing lubricant. I note this time you guys have Rainn Wilson from The Office playing a part. Does this film have a more high-brow kind of humor in it?

Roberto Orci: It is the most sophisticated low-brow humor there is.

TrekMovie.com: The first Transformers had lots of little bits of continuity in it tied to Transformers history. Is there more or less of that in the second?

Roberto Orci: I think this one goes much deeper going back into Transformers continuity, again going back into how Transformers may have had minglings with human history before.

TrekMovie: How is your approach towards the source material with Transformers different than with Star Trek?

Roberto Orci: Well there had never been a live-action Transformers movie. So that simple fact meant more inventing had to go on to create the kind of movie the first one had to be, to create that paradigm. Whereas you have seen Kirk and Spock, including six movies. You’ve seen a lot of that stuff. You approach it differently because there is a more of a continuity reference guide for Star Trek. And yet, because of that you are more shackled by it, because everyone knows exactly what it is, and everyone knows what the canon is, whereas that was not as clearly defined or as reverentially held up in Transformers.


Revenge of the Fallen – goes deeper into Transformers lore

TrekMovie: You guys, especially you Bob, are very clued into the fan community with Trek and Transformers…

Roberto Orci: Alex is too, he gets daily reports, he just doesn’t like to read the negative stuff [laughs]

TrekMovie: Is there anything you can point to in Transformers 2 that is a result of that feedback?

Roberto Orci: Sure, specific suggestions from fans early on…”why can’t we have any scenes with Transformers, without humans in them?" Check. A lot of people felt that Optimus Prime didn’t show off a lot of his fighting, we cover that. Soundwave didn’t make it in to the first one, kids wouldn’t even know what a boombox is, but we found a way for the second movie. Some fans felt that Optimus Prime’s voice was too casual, we heard it loud and clear, so this time he is much more true to his eloquence. The list goes on and on.

TrekMovie: So in the end, what is the biggest difference between the first and second films?

Roberto Orci: Obviously the theme is different. The first one was about stepping into adulthood by getting your first car and how that leads to sexuality and freedom. This one is more about being away from home, with Sam going away to college, while the Transformers are away from their home, and what are the responsibilities as you leave your nest. Cosmetically, this one is bigger. I think it is more tightly plotted, just as a result of getting better at it and understanding the universe better, and it benefits from the lessons of the first movie, both from fan interactions, and our own interactions of seeing what we thought worked and what different.

TrekMovie: Switching back to Star Trek, can you give us an update on the Star Trek: Something Something sequel?

Roberto Orci: We are reading all the posts on TrekMovie–so many smart posts! Fans are truly being heard. We are purposefully taking a moment of Zen to just breathe, watch the old episodes again, and read some of the novels and fan fiction we never got to.

TrekMovie: What did you guys learn from writing the sequel to Transformers that can apply to the Star Trek sequel?

Roberto Orci: Nothing. They are totally different franchises with different rules.


Alex and Bob at the Transformers 2 premiere in Hollywood yesterday – taking a break to reflect before starting Star Trek sequel

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opens wide tomorrow June 24th. Here is the trailer.

 

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
tholianhata
June 23, 2009 9:15 pm

Already have my Transformers tickets.

Buzz Cagney
June 23, 2009 9:16 pm

Good luck with Transformers, guys. Not that you will need it- its gona be huge!

stallion
June 23, 2009 9:16 pm

First.

Great interview. Can’t wait to see the movie.

Bunk
June 23, 2009 9:17 pm

My favorite part is at the end when Orci says they learn nothing from writing Transformers.

Brett Campbell
June 23, 2009 9:17 pm

Cool that they are reading fans’ posts for feedback for the next Trek.

JimJ
June 23, 2009 9:28 pm

#4-WHich is probably a good thing, judging from the way it’s getting hammered by reviewers. LOL Anyway, I vowed I’d never even watch the first Transformers movie, but after seeing Star Trek 7 times, I broke down tonight and rented the DVD. Our family ended up actually enjoying it. Fascinating!

Harry Ballz
June 23, 2009 9:28 pm

The next Trek film should have a Gorn in it! M’yeah!

Brett Campbell
June 23, 2009 9:33 pm

7 – Harry –

The Gorn could ride on top of a horta:

Gorn on the Gob! Ba-da-boom!

Gary Seven
June 23, 2009 9:35 pm

CHMMMMMMM ….AAAAAAAHELLLL!….CHAAAA!!!!!!!!

That’s my Gorn impression. What do you think?

Bunk
June 23, 2009 9:35 pm

#6 – It certainly is a good thing.

Go make your Transformers money, guys; when you done, come back with your “A” game and write us an intelligent kick ass Trek sequel.

Spock's Uncle
June 23, 2009 9:47 pm
Just returned from another viewing of Trek in the theater, and it holds up well. If the boys do decide to tweak things based on fan comments, I suspect we’ll seen an improved engineering set, amongst other details. The core of the film, the interaction between Kirk, Spock (and to a lesser degree) McCoy holds up so well, and rings so true. I can’t wait for the next adventure. As the Enterprise shot into warp at the end of the film, I so wanted to go with them to see where they went next and what they did… Bring on… Read more »
Brett Campbell
June 23, 2009 9:51 pm

Thanks for clearing that up, Anthony. I was wondering what had happened to two of them from another poster and one of mine. Mine was just wondering why Sarah’s had disappeared.

Thanks for the explanation!

June 23, 2009 9:53 pm

Bob and Alex, if you’re reading this: create your own story.

While I’m sure you’d write a great update to “The Doomsday Machine” or “WNMHGB” or “The Cage” or any one of a dozen other iconic episodes of the classic series, this is your big chance to take the franchise in a whole new direction of your own invention. Explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no “Star Trek” has not gone before!

June 23, 2009 9:55 pm

agrh, damn double negatives… go where no “Star Trek” HAS gone before!

DiDi
June 23, 2009 10:02 pm

Poor guys. This whole press tour they’ll get asked about Trek sequel this, sequel that. Not that I’m complaining. I don’t give a flying anything about Transformers.

Though I do think it’s great that (I think Orci) mentioned that they will get “this Transformers press tour done” and then get focused on writing the sequel, you know, like it’s just an obstacle in the way of getting back to Trek.

Brett Campbell
June 23, 2009 10:04 pm

Messrs. Kurtzman and Orci,

Please give us some strange alien life forms — non-humanoid in any way shape or form — with a way of interacting with each other that baffles the crew and our sensibilities and expectations of what life is like on another planet.

Buzz Cagney
June 23, 2009 10:09 pm

#17 absolutely spot on. As long as it doesn’t drag the film down as regards pacing. I’ve said before that exploration and wonderment at nature was handled so well in Master and Commander but at the same time it helped drive the story. Imagine that done with the benefit of CGI and in a SciFi framework. Could be quite brilliant!

Brett Campbell
June 23, 2009 10:14 pm

#18 – “Could be quite brilliant!”

I certainly would hope so. One can only imagine what intelligent life would be like on other planets, and now that the special effects people do have the CGI that you mention, it seems that the only limit is our imagination. It’s time to give that a good stretch and give us something we’ve never seen in Trek before.

TrekTwenty
June 23, 2009 10:23 pm

@8

I literally laughed out loud when I read that

Optimus Prime Despiser
June 23, 2009 10:28 pm

Well, at least you two can be proud of your work on Star Trek. I absolutely hate the first Transformers movie, and will do everything I can to avoid the sequel, which is being panned.

Please try to make the Star Trek sequel a little more coherent and more focused on the exploration of new worlds and new civilisations.

Buzz Cagney
June 23, 2009 10:29 pm

#19 Brett, its still going to be very tough for the guys to come up with something that hasn’t been done before in Trek or elsewhere. I don’t envy them the task they face. But I’m sure they’ll go at it with gusto.

Brett Campbell
June 23, 2009 10:36 pm

22 – Buzz,

Not an easy task for anyone, certainly. But I think that you’re right that these guys would love to tackle that challenge.

I agree with you about that spirit of exploration in “M&C” and I hope that Trek can capture that spirit of frontier exploration and finding truly unique worlds and life forms somewhere out there in this vast galaxy or even beyond it.

Brett Campbell
June 23, 2009 10:38 pm

20 – Glad you got a laugh. I couldn’t resist such a “gorny” pun.

Trekkie369
June 23, 2009 10:40 pm
To Bob and Alex, If you read this–LOVED Star Trek! Saw it 20 times, and I have the ticket stubs to prove it!! A few ideas for Star Trek: Something Something, a REAL engineering set this time, and try to curb JJ’s love of lights and flashes. Also have some continuity and follow-through with the destruction of Vulcan. Maybe see the location of the Vulcan settlement that Spock Prime mentioned. All IMHO. LOVE YOU GUYS!! YOU BROUGHT BACK STAR TREK!! P.S. Please come to the Las Vegas convention, all of us fans would love to see you guys in person.… Read more »
Buzz Cagney
June 23, 2009 10:42 pm

#22 yes indeed, Brett, there certainly seems to be a consensus on here that people want to see a return to having some degree of exploration involved. That, as you say, certainly gives the boys a large, colourful palette to work from!.
Bob and Alex- I’m absolutely certain you’ve seem Master and Commander- if not check it out. If you have seen it already- watch it again! ;-)

Brett Campbell
June 23, 2009 10:45 pm

26 – And all kinds of options for true adventure and intellectual engagement and intrigue. Whet our appetite and curiosity for what just might be out there.

June 23, 2009 10:57 pm

11. Spock’s Uncle
& 25. Trekkie369

Bob and Alex didn’t design engineering or pick the location.

Trekman Dave
June 23, 2009 11:02 pm

saw transformers last night and it was sooooo much better then the reviews let on.

DeafPoet
June 23, 2009 11:15 pm
boborci – if you’re reading, you seriously didn’t learn anything from making a Transformers sequel that would apply to Trek XII? I realize they’re very different animals. Given that you clearly learned a thing or two from TF1 that went into TF2, I’m wondering what things, be it fan reaction or personal reaction that you would use for Trek XII. Naturally, you’re not going to get specific. I realize the story’s still in its infancy, if it’s even that far. I’m more curious as to whether there’s anything from the fans or something you saw on the screen that would… Read more »
Harry Ballz
June 23, 2009 11:26 pm

#8-Brett

I still say it should involve flatulant lizards……….in other words:

GORN WITH THE WIND!

Ba-dum-bum!!

Buzz Cagney
June 23, 2009 11:29 pm

#27 I’d love to see Bones and Chekov in a landing party visiting a mysterious planet. The wide-eyed young Chekov and the slightly more world weary Bones sharing wonder at the incredible life-forms they see and discover. I’d enjoy seeing Bones becoming something of a mentor/teacher for Pavel.

Sebi
June 23, 2009 11:31 pm

And let Kirk teach alien women how to make love!!!!!

Bill Peters
June 23, 2009 11:37 pm

More Klingon’s and Gorn in the next film mr. Orci and Co. Also put Chapel in there on Screen?

Buzz Cagney
June 23, 2009 11:44 pm

#33 lol of course. But those scene’s write themselves.!

Penhall99
June 23, 2009 11:47 pm

Can’t wait for Transformers 2. And just to let you all know, Bob Orci is being bashed and personally attacked by the morons at Aint it Cool news talk-back, under Harry’s (negative) Transformers 2 review. Orci posted a few comments and the morons there proceeded to be the rude and vile people that they are. Anyway, head over and defend Mr. Orci if you get a chance. Its just so embarrassing. The guy tries to interact with fans and gets bashed for it.

Sci-Fi Bri
June 24, 2009 12:16 am

in trek 12 please please PLEASE have spock say “Its life, jim, but not as we know it”

that would be awesome… if you put that in you could have a federation civil war for all i care

Saji No Kami
June 24, 2009 12:19 am

Enjoyed Star Trek.
so many places they can go with it…
so so many…. just re-watched the
first 8 movies,
some of the OS: Naked time, Mirror Mirror,
know TNG well…
there is just so much story out there…
then yet it is another reality… so even more options.
Q?

i hope they make a few of them..

Boborci
June 24, 2009 12:25 am

25. Trekkie369 – June 23, 2009

20 times. Holy Moly. Bless you!

June 24, 2009 12:37 am

Now this site is very interesting:

The Unseen Elements of TOS:

http://www.fastcopyinc.com/orionpress/articles/unseen.htm

Not sure of the accuracy but great reading material nontheless.

Trekwebmaster

Penhall99
June 24, 2009 1:00 am

Anyone else feel the marketing for Transformers 2 has been a little weak? Where’s the hype?

Anyway, I feel bad about the stuff Bob Orci puts up with at Aint it Cool News. Those people are out of control. Anyway, I’m glad he’s shown some respect here, at least.

Matt D
June 24, 2009 1:11 am

Bob Orci –

2 questions if you’ll permit me.

1. Do you see yourself and Alex returning for Transformers 3?

2. When sizing up the Trek sequel, how much will your writing process be affected by the director? I(if JJ doesn’t return) and how much involvement will Damon Lindelof havein the screenplay (‘cos I guess he’ll be balls deep in Lost’s final season)

June 24, 2009 1:16 am

Well, morons and idiots not-withstanding, Bob will always be treated with respect from myself here on TrekMovie. It is VERY refreshing to have someone of his (and Alex’s) talent interacting with the forum members.

Bob and Alex (I know Alex hates negative stuff,) don’t worry, you guys simply ROCK!

Thank you both for being YOURSELVES!

Trekwebmaster

Matt D
June 24, 2009 1:20 am

I can’t believe Bob posts at Aint it cool. The talk backs there can be an absolute calderon of needless hatred and negativity, and I genuinely believe that true opinions on the topics under discussion have no relation to what they want to write. It seems to be a herd of fanboys each trying to make the funniest, most offensive post possible.

Kudos Bob.

Boborci
June 24, 2009 1:22 am

Matt D – June 24, 2009

I go in there occasionally to practice sparring and taking punches, you know?

Boborci
June 24, 2009 1:24 am

43. Trekwebmaster – June 24, 2009

Thanks!! Love your site.

Matt D
June 24, 2009 1:26 am

Well, I hope it works Bob. I used to post there more often, (actually you answered by question there this morning (evening for you)) but generally, it seems that a love of film takes a back seat to showing off and seeing how many ways there are to swear in a post.

Penhall99
June 24, 2009 1:26 am

Yeah, its pretty ridiculous over there. I guess you’ve gotta have a thick skin. I just get so annoyed and worked up over that stuff sometimes, but I guess its counter-productive to argue with unreasonable and vile people hiding behind their keyboards. But that doesnt stop me from still getting into it with them sometimes! lol

Jim Nightshade
June 24, 2009 1:31 am
Hey bob orci-ive only seen it six times but i took family/friends with me every time–also my niece a month ago told us all how she hates star trek-so boring and stupid blah blah she would never see the new movie-i tried to tell her that jj and the writers made this movie for everyone and give it a try–well a couple weeks later her hubbys friend wants to see it before going back to Iraq–she is muttering to herself how much she doesnt want to see it and how she cant believe shes driving to see it now-haha well… Read more »
Boborci
June 24, 2009 1:34 am

49. Jim Nightshade – June 24, 2009

HA! Thank her for going and having an open mind! And thank you.

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