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SANTA MONICA, California — As far as summer 2009 is concerned, the red-hot writing pair behind “Star Trek” aren’t finished with us yet. Their second strike hits soon with the June 24 blockbuster “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and these days the screenwriting duo are dreaming about further blurring the lines of pop-culture.
“I guess we did,” his partner Roberto Orci revealed, making reference to the “Transformers” character who uses TV and radio signals to speak. “Because at one point we have Bumblebee [in the new film] using audio from ‘Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.’ “
It’s a sly follow-up to Bumblebee’s sampling of “Trek” actress Nichelle Nichols in the original “Transformers” film — and one of many pop-culture touchstones the duo had in mind while constructing the eagerly anticipated film.
“We actually really hesitated on doing the sequel, because when the movie came out and was a success, there was a real mandate to get the movie out quickly — and we felt like we didn’t have a story to tell yet,” Kurtzman remembered of the second chapter in Michael Bay’s robots-in-disguise franchise. “We didn’t have a reason to do it that we connected to personally. So we took some time to think about what were the sequels that we loved, and why did we love them. ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ ‘Superman II,’ ‘Aliens,’ ‘Terminator 2’ — all amazing movies … ‘Wrath of Khan,’ what do those movies have in common?
“They stand on their own — you don’t have to see anything that came before for that movie to be a great movie,” he continued. “And there was always some massive emotional test that the lead character had to go through and come out the other side of.”
And so, in “Fallen,” Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky undergoes a challenge similar to the adversities famously faced by Superman, Luke Skywalker, John Connor and Captain Kirk.
“The big themes of the movie have to do with leaving home,” explained Kurtzman. “Shia is leaving home for the first time to go off to college, because he just wants to be a normal kid. The Autobots — because the Allspark was destroyed at the end of the first movie — have basically been stranded on Earth, so they are away from their home, and they may no longer be welcome here. … Even though you might have a hero’s calling, what are the consequences of not listening to that hero’s calling?”
Another thing that films like “Khan,” “Empire Strikes Back” and “Terminator 2” have in common is that the hero gets beaten up really, really badly. “The good guys get their asses kicked,” Kurtzman agreed. “Superman gives up his powers for love, or Kirk loses Spock … you need that darker idea that tests your hero, to really make the sequel sing.”
But whereas “Empire” ends with Vader suggesting that he might be Luke’s father and “Khan” concludes with the possibility that Spock may be dead, “Revenge of the Fallen” will break with those predecessors by not insisting that a third “Transformers” film be necessary.
“We wanted this movie to stand on its own — even though things are set up, it’s not exactly a cliff-hanger,” explained Orci. “You’re going to get the whole movie.”