USAToday ‘Transformers’ Article

Posted on Mar 27, 2007

Read “Transformers: Good Knight vs Bad.

‘Transformers’: Good knight vs. bad

By Anthony Breznican, USA TODAY

The writers of the new Transformers movie thought of the shape-shifting robot characters as giant, mechanical knights.

So it’s fitting the first images of Optimus Prime and Megatron — the posters go online Wednesday — reveal armor and faceplates that look medieval by way of Star Wars.

“We always modeled Optimus Prime after King Arthur,” says Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote the film with Roberto Orci. “His design (from the ’80s toys and cartoon) was so iconic we couldn’t make too many changes.”

Transformers opens July 4, a release date generally set aside for movies expected to be summer blockbusters.

Kurtzman and Orci worked on TV’s Alias, Mission: Impossible III and the upcoming Star Trek remake directed by J.J. Abrams.

While doing an uncredited rewrite on Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, the director, who is executive producer of Transformers, talked them into crafting the script for the warring-robots adventure by Michael Bay.

The writers said the concept of alien robots who are able to change into ordinary-looking Earth vehicles was an intriguing premise. A darker parallel to contemporary times: The robots destroyed their home planet in a war over energy.

“The Transformers as a race are sentient emotional beings, and they share our characteristics,” Orci says. “They arrived on our planet when we face similar kinds of wars and are able to say, ‘We are not that different from the humans.’ ”

Prime (voiced in the movie by original cartoon actor Peter Cullen) is the leader of the Autobots, protector robots from the alien planet Cybertron, where mechanisms evolved into living beings.

On Earth, Prime changes from a robot into a thundering big rig to disguise his identity. The smooth curves of his red, white and blue façade suggest a kind of solid comfort.

In contrast, his nemesis Megatron — a fascist politician on his home world whose motto was “Peace through tyranny” — has a jagged, colorless metal face with a covering that suggests the exposed jaw of a skull or insectlike pincers.

The Matrix’s Hugo Weaving will voice Megatron.

“He’s very dangerous-looking,” says Kurtzman, noting the character had a more humanoid face in the cartoon.

The writers don’t want to reveal yet what machine Megatron becomes.

But the gun that Megatron used to transform into had to go. Says Orci, “That would be the equivalent of Darth Vader turning into his own lightsaber and someone else swinging him around.”