Orci & Kurtzman Talk Trek v Transformers & Future Prime Universe + more

In yet another interview for Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, Star Trek scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman opine on the differences between working on Trek and Transformers fans and what could be next in the Star Trek sequel. We have excerpts below, plus details on a new project for Bob and Alex. .   


Bob and Alex on Trek v Transformers & Trek’s Prime universe
Excerpts from AMC.com

AMC: Do you write a screenplay differently for a director like Michael Bay than you would for J.J. Abrams?

Alex Kurtzman: Absolutely.

Bob Orci: It’s half that, and half you’re writing to what the franchise is. We’re not writing big because it’s Michael Bay; Michael Bay is right for Transformers.

Alex Kurtzman: With a director like Michael, who’s extremely specific about what he does and does not like to do, our job is to backstop him to a large degree and keep on him about plot and logic and emotion. We very rarely get resistance on that. He has such an innate understanding of what audiences want to see — where he’ll push back is if he thinks logic is somehow overriding the fun for the audience.

Bob Orci: You’ve gotta have a pretty damn good reason to tell him why he’s gotta lose one of his awesome sequences.

AMC: Did you learn anything from writing Transformers 2 that’s been helpful in formulating Trek 2?

Alex Kurtzman: They’re so different. You’re putting on a different hat. And the choices that you make in Transformers with Michael as the director versus Star Trek with J.J. couldn’t be more 180 degrees in the opposite direction. So I don’t know that for me there’s a natural corollary between them.

On going back into the prime universe for Trek

AMC: Would you ever again want to draw characters from the "Prime" universe in the sequel, like you did for Spock?

Bob Orci: We can’t be done with it completely. But I would start with what’s happening to the crew now, and if that became a great thing organic to the momentum of where the first movie is going, then maybe. Anything is possible right now. That’s really the juice and the curse of this path.

More on Trek, Transformers and Fringe from Bob and Alex at AMCtv.com.

Orci and Kurtzman now have a ‘License to Steal’
Looks like we can add another high profile Paramount project to the Orci and Kurtzman plate. Variety reports that the pair have inked a deal to produce "License to Steal", an action-comedy based on a recent Salon.com article about high end repo men. The script will be written by Shane Salerno (AVPR). 

Transformers 2 = ginormous global hit
Speaking of Bob and Alex and business, their latest movie, Transformers Revenge of the Fallen is making money faster than any film since The Dark Knight. Based on estimates, the film did $112M domestically this weekend, with even more overseas. Variety and  Box Office Mojo estimate Transformers 2 five-day global total sales at $387.3M. By contrast, Star Trek just hit around $370M this weekend (Star Trek still had a good hold for the weekend, estimated to come in at 8th place). When the final numbers come in we will have more analysis of Star Trek’s eighth weekend. But bottom line is that Transformers Revenge of the Fallen is on track to be even bigger than its predecessor (Transformers, which made over $700M worldwide in 2007).

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They should leave the Prime universe out of it really.

They’ve got a fresh new crew and an awesome new universe to work with, don’t be bogged down too much.


I wonder how far they have gotten with sequel-talk. It’s probably just a bunch of “what-if” discussions. I hope the loss of Vulcan is a big presence in the new movie.

When I saw the headline I thought “oh no, crossover!!!!”

My relief is immense…

Imo, Transformers 2 is actually a good movie. Funny and entertaining. A movie for kids based on toys, so I was not expecting another 2001 ;)

Mr. Orci and Kurtzmann: Please God, do NOT do Trek 2 like Transformers 2. Trek — beautiful. Perfect balance between action and eggheadedness. ROTF: Oh God. Please no.

I went into Transformers 1 expecting not much in the way of story: “It’s a movie based on a goddamn cartoon designed to sell Japanese toys,” I thought, and Iwas thrilled by the result. Transformers 1 was great, mindless entertainment, I went into Transformers 2 with similiar expectations…

Transformers 2 was like being forced to watch 2 hours of someone else play an Xbox game on a theater screenm while a 5-year-old banged pots and pans around my head and shrieked out his favorite one-liners from Junior’s First Book Of Jokes. It is an unbelievably awful movie, and I look forward to the Rifftrax version if only to lessen the agony of having sat through it. Congratulations, you successfully underestimated the intelligence of the moviegoing public.

I have faith, however. You know how to write a good movie. I forgive you for ROTF. Just please, do not do that to Trek and we can still be friends. OK?


A movie for kids with a body count well into the ten-thousands…


Dear scribes Skid and Mudflap,

Leave the Prime Universe Alone.

You already have a shiny new universe to play with. The prime universe is for the trekkers only. Leave it be! because we all know you are going to screw it up somehow.


Any kid dumb enough to not feel personally insulted by that movie probably lacks the mental capacity to count beyond ten, let alone ten thousand. Don’t worry about it.

For a while, I genuinely felt like I was watching a Team America-style parody of the first movie.

Syd Hughs @ #5 – excellent review sir!


It’s strange how I can the plot in star trek so much, and hate it so much in the transformers movies. They (for the most part) come from the same people!

Interesting, re-visiting the Prime Universe, of course, this dynamic is very intriguing. It would be great to explore the dynamics of both, how do each affect the other? And to what extent.


@ #11

Just think of them both as “Poets” skilled in multiple languages!!!

It is amazing how the synergy works, isn’t it?

#11: You accidentally the whole Prime Universe?

#13: That’s much how I look at it — Trek XI was gloriously well-written, and ROTF was well, um… well.

A good chef (or pair of chefs) should be able to serve up a cheeseburger as well as a steak.


Syd, I love your analogy. Exactly my thoughts, writing just one type of screenplay would make you a “Captain Dunsel,” would it not?

The director makes the movie.

I know they have to write dumber for Micahel Bay, but I still hope that their scritp for Trek XII (Its not Star Trek II, Star Trek II is a classic film called Wrath of Khan) is a lot stronger than the recent Trek movie.

Trek XI was stronger on character (except Nero) than it was on story. Trek XI had one of the thinest plots ever for a Trek movie but they got most of the characters right. I believe they had to dumb Trek down a little to make it appeal to the non fans, which is a shame. Cause like Gene I like to think that the audience has intelligence and not just go to the cinema to see things blow up.

Star Trek was always the meat and potatoes compared to Star Wars which was the popcorn.

Well as long as Michael Bay does not get his hands on Trek then Trek should prosper. I guess that despite ending up liking the new movie I feel sad that part of the Trek I love has gone.

I dont think these writers are as skilled as D C Fontana, Micael Piller, Ronald D Moore, Brannon Braga and Manny Coto, etc.

At least Trek XI had character moments in the midst which I was happy with but Transformers had no character development, no plot, it was just Bay wanting to blow up half of Egypt.

I loved the new movie, I just dont see it as a perfect movie and it was by no menas my favourite Trek movie, TWOK, FC and TUC anre much better films.

Remember I rated Trek XI 8 out of 10

(sigh) The real winner this summer is Star Trek. Hands down. Star Trek was written off as a dead franchise, the word of mouth was incredible, the critical reception was the best any Trek film has ever gotten… suck it, Transformers! LOL.

Something new on TV or DVD set in the Prime Universe for me.

There won’t be any more Prime Universe…. there’s no point because there’s an unlimited potential for new story-telling in the new universe. The Prime Universe is too well known and predictable.

18. captain_neill – June 29, 2009

” …………. Cause like Gene I like to think that the audience has intelligence and not just go to the cinema to see things blow up……”

The sad reality is that Transformers has already made almost as much money in 1 weekend (300+ million) as Star Trek has made in 8 weekends. Proves that the movie-going public really does prefer mindless action and cartoon-quality plots. In order to survive in this environment Star Trek must have a lots of action and top-calibre special effects. I hope that Paramount understands this basic fact of survival and provides the ST sequel with enough cash to compete with monsters like the Transformers franchise. These days, $150 million is the absolute minimum investment required.

23 – I agree it is sad and it is why I have become more cynical of Hollywood cinema theese days. They dumb down films so much that it is an insult to people’s intelligence.

It is a sad reality

I would hate to see Star Trek go down this route. if Star Trek is more dumbed down than it was in the latest film I am not going to be happy.

Its why, although I enjoyed the new movie, I strongly feel that the Trek I loved has gone.

The new movie captured the spirit of Trek but it kinda glazed over the philosophy of it..

Why do the audience prefer mindless action?

Are we that intellectually deficient these days?

Yeah i think they gotta leave the prime universe out of it really and focus on this new universe and these characters.

I thought Transformers was some great summer popcorn movie with very little in the way of story but overloaded (maybe a little too much) with set pieces but i mean what did you want from a franchise based on toys. Great movie.

Star Trek though will be considered by many in the industry and outside the industry as one of the greatest Sci-Fi movies of all time, certainly the best movie of 2009.

I just hope JJ Abrams stays with the project 100% and if he has to give up directing duties, he gives it to someone like “Cloverfield’s” Matt Reeves or someone who gets Star Trek, who has an understanding that Trek is more than just spectacular visuals.

I’m done with the ‘Prime Universe’ (Prime Universe is a silly term anyway, because the new movie’s universe is arguably the ‘prime’ one as it’s the main one in use.)

The new film never specifically stated whether the timeline was a separate reality or an overwrite of the original (in spite of what the writers say outside of the film.) As far as most people in the cinema-going audience are concerned, ST09 is a restart for Trek.

Fans can believe whatever they want, with fancy charts and novels. But, for most of us, we’ve got a shiny new Star Trek and all the old shows on DVD (and all of TOS and the movies on Blu-ray imminently).

A return to the original universe (given the new quantum aspect to time travel, it’s debatable that there is a single coherent previous universe anyway) would be a backward step and would only lead to ‘brand confusion’!

The prime universe is Phase II now!


the new movie will always be an alternate universe to me.

The past 5 shows and 10 movies are all Prime and established lore.

The new movie starts new canon, apart from elder Spock and Nero it has no links to our Trek. It was respectful to our universe but it is different and this will never be the prime universe

#25 “Why do the audience prefer mindless action? Are we that intellectually deficient these days?”

My father, back in the 70s, when I was a kid, used to tell me that his 1950 black and white movies were far better than my 1970 sci-fi. It’s the same story, repeating itself from generation to generation.

Only that he is right about the 50s scifi movies being better than 1970s scifi.

I’ve just seen the new Star Trek movie for the second time (perhaps I would have seen it again sooner, or more times, but my underemployment from the current economic turndown has rendered my wallet quite thin) and I still believe while it is a somewhat interesting and pretty okay movie, it’s NOT Star Trek by any stretch of the imagination.

@captain_neill, 24 &25:

Sadly, moviegoers on the whole ARE INDEED that intellectually deficient these days. The plotless, orgy of violence that is the modern action film (not to mention the pointless, orgy-for-the-eyes that is an “actor” like Megan Fox) MUST be bereft of any and all dependence upon thinking by the audience, because the audience is no longer content with and/or capable of making that leap of logic and cogent thought.

Should the sequel–Star Trek: The Search for More Money (Thanks, Mel!)–end up being even as smart as the first I believe would be its downfall, as modern audiences just aren’t interested in ‘smart’ in their ‘entertainment.’

If you want ‘smart’ in your Star Trek, read the books, and re-watch the old movies & the old series–including Enterprise, because even it was smarter than the current offering–but don’t look for films going forward to capture any of the spark that keeps some of the original stories so engaging, some even after 40+ years.

Be further disquieted by this: after seeing the film “Idiocracy,” I am personally convinced that it won’t take 500 years for some future Star Trek film to be a long series of Jim Kirk kicking someone in the balls.

By the way, no, I don’t think we are intellectually deficient. Blockbuster movies have to appeal masses, big masses, huge masses. Kids, boys, men, women, everyone. You have to go to the lowest common denominator.
For some more brain, you have to narrow down your audience or use other media like books, TV series and so on. It’s a simple, understandable rule.

Good for you. You’re another stubborn trekkie that doesn’t like anything new and cool, until it becomes old, and stereotyped as lame. Every time something new happens in Star Trek then someone always says this isn’t Star Trek just because it’s different. But something tells me this will become a classic like Star Wars 4, 5, and 6.

29. Hear, hear.

29. captain_neill: ‘the new movie will always be an alternate universe to me. The past 5 shows and 10 movies are all Prime and established lore.’

To you maybe, but most people pick and choose what they consider ‘proper’ Trek. Personally, I’m perfectly happy to consider all of TOS, TAS, TWOK to TVH, TUC and ST09 as my personal ‘proper’ Star Trek. I look on TMP and TFF as ‘deuterocanon’ – interesting tales using the characters but too different from anything else to fit in (face, it, TMP and TFF have never been mentioned in any subsequent Trek for good reasons!)

TNG to ENT exist in a separate universe for me. If the the wonderful universe of TOS, which I’m currently rewatching on Blu-ray, really ended up as TNG, I’d be profoundly disappointed. ENT mostly feels like a prequel to TNG, not TOS. TNG used the name and surface level details of Star Trek, but it and its stablemates had nothing else to do with the original Star Trek. At best, its a different TV show disguised as Star Trek; at worst it’s a perversion of everything Star Trek was about!

As far as I’m concerned ‘proper’ Star Trek begins with Kirk and Spock playing chess in Where No Man has Gone Before and ends with the crew sailing off into history at the end of TUC. It then restarts in ST09 with Spock from the future travelling back in time! All that garbage about the Nexus and Kirk dying on Veridian III is just an alternate universe.

That’s just my opinion. You’ll find hundreds of contradictory ones out there!

‘The new movie starts new canon, apart from elder Spock and Nero it has no links to our Trek. It was respectful to our universe but it is different and this will never be the prime universe’

No it won’t be. But for me it’s like I lived in a wonderful place once (TOS) that kept on getting new bits added to it and populated by people I didn’t like and didn’t care about until it fell into burnt-out ruins (TNG-ENT.) Then someone built me a new place to live based on how things were at the beginning. When I look at ST09, I feel like I’ve come home!

The best thing about the quantum mechanics being added to ST09 is that there is no longer any possibility of a single canon.

24. captain_neill: ‘I agree it is sad and it is why I have become more cynical of Hollywood cinema theese days. They dumb down films so much that it is an insult to people’s intelligence.’

Precisely why so much of my film collection comes from Japan, Thailand, China and South Korea!

Untrue! I’m not stubborn at all, and I most assuredly like new and cool. I just prefer my new & cool to also be SMART.

Also, I never said the new film wasn’t Star Trek because IT’S DIFFERENT; I said that it wasn’t Star Trek to me, without a qualifier. I personally believe that it’s not smart enough to be Star Trek, but feel free to infer what you will.

And finally, it IS good for me. Just like your opinion is good for you.

would a crossover be so bad. the enterprise finding cybertron. maybe in this universe they are the machine planet that built vger. of course it
would change first contact

#36: Um, actually TMP was directly referenced in Star Trek XI through the discussion of Kolinahr. And given an homage through the fly by of the new Enterprise. Not to mention sets, props, and ship designs that worked their way into other films. (But I tend to agree with you and Roddenberry on TFF: that much was apochrypha.)

And the reason people rightfully refer to TOS through and including ENT as the “Prime Universe” is that the new film represents but 0.3% of canon. In other words, 99.7% of all canon Trek is something other than this new universe. If we get more than 720 hours or so of playing in the new universe then perhaps the designation of “Prime” can be reexamined, as it would take that long to reach a 50% mark.

As to not having a single canon, the concept of each episode of TOS existing in its own, separate but related universe was tossed around in the 1970s. It is no more satisfactory now as it was then, since consistency among the episodes has been one of the hallmarks and joys of the Trek universe.

The critics hate it, the fanboys love it!

Wow, we all knew “Transformers 2” would kick ass, but wow oh wow, according to reports from the LA Times, T2 took in 201.2 million dollars in domestic sale in just five days ($387 million world-wide gross)! That is freaking amazing. The film is expected to easily rake in 800 million.

This is definitely going to a good summer for Paramount… and Hasbro.

Figured this might be a good spot for a Transformers review, since they do tend to read these posts–

I don’t know if I’m in the majority or minority on this movie, but I thought it was better than the first one. It’s not a MAJOR compliment though since I hated the first one. Well, hate’s a strong word, but the most memorable part of that movie was Megan Fox opening a car hood. That’s not saying much.

The critics are treating this movie horribly. Maybe that’s why I went in with low expectations. Usually when I do that, I walk away feeling the movie wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

A lot of the problems with the movie may have been more Michael Bay than the script. I hate the shuttering camera technique. I want to see the fights better. They’re all over the place. That was an issue in both movies.

You guys did a good job streamlining a bit. It seemed like there were fewer characters, and that was a much needed improvement.

One big issue I had, in both movies, was that it’s very difficult to tell the transformers apart. That’s another issue with Bay and the fast moving photography. With the exceptions of Optimus and Bumblebee, half the time I couldn’t tell if I should be rooting for the robot because he’s an autobot or rooting against him because he’s a decepticon.

Even the voices weren’t that distinctive.

One major improvement, and probably the reason I enjoyed this movie more, was the increased role of the transformers themselves–notably Optimus Prime.

You did a great job showing Prime as the top dog badass that he should be.

I didn’t like that they pulled the kill Optimus/bring him back thing, but at least you got it out of your systems. I hope now, Prime can just be the ultimate badass transformer, and we don’t need to see him die.

It pissed me off when they killed him in the cartoon, but at least they brought the character back. Not having enough of Optimus Prime was one of the bigger flaws in the first movie, and I think you guys went a long way to fixing that.

I think in a third movie, it should be taken even further. My emotional attachment to Prime was due to my familiarity from the cartoon. I’d like to see an even bigger role. He should be the hero.

Other improvements were Sam’s dad, who actually acted like a father in this movie. The whole thing in college with his mom didn’t work for me.

All I know is that I want to go to that college. Every girl is smoking hot, the dorm rooms are unrealistically ass kicking, and every girl is smoking hot.

I could say much more, but this post is long enough. I hope Mr. Orci reads it. More later depending on responses.

40. Randy H.: ‘Um, actually TMP was directly referenced in Star Trek XI through the discussion of Kolinahr.’

I figured I didn’t need to spell it out that I was talking about the story not fussy details! :p ;)

‘And the reason people rightfully refer to TOS through and including ENT as the “Prime Universe” is that the new film represents but 0.3% of canon.’

Canon schmanon! Canon’s something for hardcore fanboys to get their knickers in a twist over when they have nothing better to do! The majority of Trek viewers grab an episode or a film as and when and couldn’t give a toss about making it all fit together. Frankly, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT have about as much to do with TOS as ST09 does. Only difference is I like ST09! ;)

‘consistency among the episodes has been one of the hallmarks and joys of the Trek universe.’

In the TNG-verse maybe. There was precious little consistency in TOS and it didn’t suffer for it. That’s why TOS, especially after its HD makeover, is still the most easily accessible of the Trek shows. Switch on any episode other than The Menagerie Part 2 and you can watch it, easily figuring out who everyone is and what’s going on.

Obsession with canon destroyed ‘Prime universe’ Trek, turning it into a smug little fanboy club that drove anyone else away. Once upon a time, Star Trek was about a possible future for us. By the end, it was about a pompous, self-contained fantasy universe that had about as much relevance to us as the Star Wars universe does!

I don’t mind if they go back to the prime universe. To me, this is exploration of a new time line, where we are boldly going where no man has gone before. And seeing how things are and were.

And the stupid thing is, there are so many alternate time lines in the prime universe, how do we know that the prime universe is the prime universe? Hm?

You have to give credit where credit is due. Great movie Bob!

I got exactly out of Transformers in the same way that my expectations were met by Trek. What were you expecting out of Transformers Syd? They wrote it for their target audience, and they did a fantastic job.

Here’s somethign else to consider, Paramount needs a big, successful cash pig like TF in order to move forward with other projects. Who knows, maybe the cashflow from TF will allow the budget for Trek to make it back to the small screen.

Once again, great job on TF Bob! I loved both movies this summer and can’t wait for your next project!

It’s really a sad state of affairs when a movie that is universally panned by critics (and even by many fans) can make over $200mm in 5 days. Even my 12-year old son’s first comment after the movie was…”that was long.” Have certain franchises/properties found a way to lobotomize audiences into accepting anything? Have they created a hunger that is so powerful their viewers will accept any slop served on their plates? How could the Star Wars prequels make $300-$400mm each? Crystal Skull $300mm+? And now Transformers? Truly sad. If we keep buying the drivel they’re selling, they have no incentive to work harder for our $$$ and the cycle will continue on endlessly.

I saw Transformers 2 yesterday and based on the horrible reviews, I went in thinking I wold hate it but I liked it. I thought it was a bit too long but I thought the writing was good. Lots of humor. No it wasn’t a thought provoking movie but the action was good and I liked all the special effects.

Star Trek connection: Tony Todd was the voice of the Fallen; love that voice, very distinctive.

Honestly, I agree that a lot of movies today are dumbed down a bit, but I also think the movie makers must pander to the audience that they have, otherwise success=ZERO. WAS Star Trek 09 (11, whatever) too dumbed down? No, not really. They did a whole heck of a lot right. Thing is, they just can’t get any “dumber” with it or they will have trouble. I loved this movie, have seen it 7 times, and plan to go back AT LEAST once more. Keep up the good work, especially in the writing of the characters.

#34 “For some more brain, you have to narrow down your audience or use other media like books, TV series and so on. It’s a simple, understandable rule.”

Sorry, I don’t buy into that at all. Look at the old Looney Tunes cartoons. Cartoons for kids, but laced with smart gags for the adults who were savy enough to pick up on them. And those were made 50 years ago. You can play to all audiences if you want to. It’s a little more work, but more and more it seems to be the road less traveled.

“Enterprise’s” 4 seasons are still canon in the Trek09 timeline, for what it’ s worth. That doesn’t give us much except, perhaps to I.D. the elderly Vulcan woman from the Katric Ark as T’Pau (with Surak’s katra), and perhaps a way in for T’Pol.

Showing other NX-01 crewmembers drooling in their cups doesn’t make sense, and there are no real storylines from that series worth expounding upon.