[Update: One last addition has been made to the writer’s room in the form of Daredevil and Spartacus showrunner Steven S. DeKnight, per Deadline. This is possibly the reason DeKnight wasn’t able to return for Daredevil Season 2.]
The Transformers franchise, the toxic waste dump of the blockbuster movie landscape, has put together a writers room led by Akiva Goldsman, the man who brought you Winter’s Tale. Like other studios trying to emulate the Marvel, Paramount wants to pull together an interconnected universe and do it through a system similar to a television model instead of a screenplay getting passed down from writer to writer until it lands in the hands of Michael Bay and becomes a stack of paper on which he can put his coffee.
Per Forbes, the current Transformers writers room consists of 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) and Geneva Robertson-Dworet. Goldsman told Deadline their approach for the expanded Transformers cinematic universe (ugh):
“We’ve got a work space that is beautifully production designed to be immersive with a strong sense of the franchise history…We will look at the toys, the TV shows, the merchandise, everything that has been generated Hasbro, from popular to forgotten iterations, and establish a mythological time line. It has been designed with a lot of visual help, toys, robots, sketches and writers and artists. After that super saturation, the writers will figure out not one, but numerous films that will extend the universe.”
This “mythological time line” could stretch as far as 12 movies if every writer comes up with their own script, but right now the priority is Transformers 5, which will have Bay returning to direct once he finishes his Benghazi movie, 13 Hours. To create a script for a movie where the script is a total afterthought, every writer will come up with a treatment, and then they’ll Frankenstein it into one treatment that will be presented for the “approval of Paramount, Bay, [Steven] Spielberg, Hasbro and the producers.”
The writers will also have the privilege of following their Transformers passion. Goldsman provides the example, “If one of the writers discovers an affinity for Beast Wars, they can drive forward on treatments that will have been fleshed out by the whole room.” At least one person in that room is going to realize they’re indulging someone’s Beast Wars fandom and start to reconsider their life choices or remember how much money they’re being paid to engage in this farce.
Because Transformers isn’t about storytelling. It’s about merchandising, and that’s fine. All major blockbusters are about merchandise. It’s just that the Transformers franchise is the most cynical about it. And in the current blockbuster climate, waiting years between sequels isn’t going to cut it anymore for Paramount and Hasbro. The companies need content because that content leads to action figures, video games, etc. The mythology isn’t to create a rich experience for the viewer. It’s about making movies that go “boom” and letting the shockwaves send kids out to buy t-shirts, bedspreads, and other stuff.
It’s possible that there won’t be twelve Transformers movies generated by this writers room, but they’ll certainly churn out more than one sequel. They’re going to build something, and it will likely be as cheap and easily broken as the plastic toys those movies are intended to create.