No, Transformers isn't a movie about toys
With the third Transformers nearly upon us in July, it brings me back to when I spoke to the amazing screenwriting duo Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci about the first 2007 film.
They were on the eve of the release of The Island, and the first Transformers script was just coming together. I was gigging for Creative Screenwriting, and asked them if you could make a movie about toys.
Kurtzman answered, "That was obviously the challenge for us. When we sat down with (executive producer) Steven Spielberg to figure out what the story was going to be, the first question we asked him was, 'How do we make this a movie that isn't about the toys?' Because as writers, we don't really understand how to write two hours of toys."
"We said to him, 'At the risk of referencing your own movies back to you, take Close Encounters," Orci explains. "As much as it's about an alien landing, the heart of that story is a family disintegrating. We want to make sure we can find something like that in Transformers."
Then Kurtzman recalled Spielberg telling them, "This is the story of a boy and his car," and as Kurtzman continues, "We instantly knew what that meant, cause when you get your first car, every expectation and hope that you have at that age is wrapped up in it." Orci says, "It means freedom, it means sex, it means everything."
And similar to J.J. Abrams's Super 8, where Spielberg was also on board as executive producer, Kurtzman says he and Orci wanted to "bring back the vibe of the early Amblin movies we all grew up on. Back to the Future, Gremlins, and this is the perfect vehicle to do it. Michael Bay got excited by it because it's the ultimate car movie, and second of all, he really wanted to do a kids movie."
Like the aforementioned Back to the Future, Kurtzman said Transformers was "incredibly family driven," "but with a lot of Close Encounters in there too. We never realized as we were watching all these movies as kids we were doing homework. They all kind of paid off now, and we're really excited to try and bring that stuff back."