There was a 30 Rock joke once where the characters inspected a poster for the latest Transformers movie, and noted that in the credits it said “Written By: No One.” While that may feel true, the reality is that a stable of writers were recently brought together and paid something in the low seven-figures to emulate a TV writers room, essentially brainstorming ideas with ways to make sure that Transformers will never, ever die. Ever. (You can read more about the specifics of the writers room idea here). But, that’s what happens when a franchise clocks in over $1.4 billion worldwide on its fourth installment. Your hate only makes it stronger.
These writers — Zak Penn (The Incredible Hulk), Jeff Pinker (Lost), Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Iron Man), The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari (Ant-Man), Christina Hodson (Shut In), Lindsey Beer, Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down) , Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Steven S. DeKnight (Daredevil) — overseen by Akiva Goldsman (Winter’s Tale), worked for two weeks on ways to expand the Transformers universe. The headline for their work, though, is that Goldsman now has his blueprint for the next Transformers film, which Deadline confirms Mark Wahlberg will star in, with Michael Bay directing. (Bay’s presence was somewhat in doubt for the fifth installment, but Wahlberg said in December of last year he had a feeling he would be back).
Update: Michael Bay is apparently not yet confirmed to direct:
Re: directing TF5. No, it’s not official. I have not committed to any idea as of yet. Just met with Steven and we are discussing.
— Michael Bay (@michaelbay) September 17, 2015
The other writers brought a list of ideas for prequels, spinoffs, sequels, and other unholy iterations of the Hasbro toy line that can be turned into movies, much in the same way that Marvel has done with its franchise, Star Wars as well, and Universal with its old catalogue of monster movies. But back to Transformers, these ideas were pitched to Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay, Paramount, Hasbro’s Brian Goldner and producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian and Don Murphy for approval regarding viability.
Though many of the ideas were apparently not useful as features, Spielberg reportedly felt there is a potential for five films. (My favorite line from Deadline is, “maybe the [Transformers] universe wasn’t as big as suspected.” Seriously, it’s a miracle they’ve stretched it this far). The seeds for these ideas will be planted into Goldsman’s next installment (which starts production in June), with those potential films ready to fly with or without Bay.
But, the main takeaway is that it took that entire list of writers and tens of millions of dollars to scrape together enough of an idea to help Goldsman write one Transformers movie. Also, it’s worth noting that Ant-Man writers Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari are heading off on their own to write an animated origin story about Cybertron. Frankly, this is more where the Transformers “universe” should be headed.
To throw some tautology at it, it is what it is. But what do you guys think of the Transformers “brain trust” (used very liberally here) experiment? Could you have come up with a script for $10 million? A better one, probably? And do you think this TV writers-room model will start expanding to every Hollywood franchise? Plus, are you glad Wahlberg is back (and probably Bay), or were you hoping for some fresh blood?