Afro Commentary: In Defense of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci

gsb_kurtzman-orci-headerOriginally published 2014.08.23

Lately I have been seeing a lot more vitriol towards one of Hollywood’s hottest writing and producing tag teams. A team that is responsible for bringing some of the current mega franchises to the big screen while giving us some of our favorite series to TV. So in light of the hate that has been expressed towards these two, I will be defending Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.

Love their work or hate it, the pair has not only made an indelible mark on Hollywood, but in geek culture as well. They were responsible for bringing two controversial movie franchises to a wide audience with Transformers and a rebooted Star Trek. They also were not only involved with bringing Fringe to television – a show that will always be a favorite to Geek Soul Brother and the Five Nerdy Venoms – but Alias and Transformers Prime as well. They have written and produced episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the fan favorite Xena: Warrior Princess. They even brought Ender’s Game to the theaters; a story that many critics have regarded as “unfilmable.” Whatever your stance on these two, many geek properties have been made over the last seven years due to them. Properties that we never thought would be made.

Yet, more and more of us in the community downright hate these two; some of it warranted I admit. Some blame them for turning the original Star Trek franchise from what everyone remembers into yet another dumbed-down action adventure blockbuster. Others despise them for what they did to their beloved transforming robots, especially with Transformers: Revenger of the Fallen. Some would even call them no talent hacks, pointing to Cowboys & Aliens, The Island and the Legend of Zorro as examples of this. A lot of people within our community just simply have issues with what they have written and/or produced since their stint on Hercules.

Despite what people have said, you have to give these two a certain amount of credit for what they have done for geekdom. Long time ago I voiced similar hatred towards Andy Warhol to a good friend of mine in college; that he was a hack of an artist and the work he produced was garbage. He simply retorted with “if it weren’t for him, the graphic arts would not be where they are today.” After days of pondering this, I had to admit my friend was right and eventually came to appreciate Warhol’s work. I feel a similar, fundamental hindsight can be applied here as well.

You may hate their involvement in these properties, but you have to admit that without them the geek culture wouldn’t have as much exposure as it does today. Yes, we would have comic book movies and Doctor Who, but the current movie and TV landscape would be quite different. A rebooted Star Trek based on the original series would not have been attempted, and even if it had it would not have had J.J. Abrams attached. We would not have a live action Transformers movie, which many of you would happily reply with an emphatic “good!” However, without their efforts to even get it on screen, it would never have been made. Also, I highly doubt that without these two successful franchises other science fiction films that have been released since 2006, as well as others coming out, would not have been made. We would not have seen movies like Tron Legacy, Pacific Rim, Moon or District 9, nor be getting a Godzilla remake, Edge of Tomorrow or even Guardians of the Galaxy.

Without them, we also would not have had Fringe. We wouldn’t have experienced the genius performances from Anna Torv, Jasika Nicole, Joshua Jackson or the great John Noble over the shows five season run. We would not had Leonard Nimoy playing William Bell, nor would we have gotten the best side character, Gene the cow! More importantly, without Fringe much of the programming like Orphan Black, Almost Human, Intelligence and Helix would not have been made. Many fans and geeks have taken these observations for granted, that without these two pushing these projects through to completion, geek culture would be seriously lacking science fiction.

The other part of this argument is that the movies were not made just for us. Star Trek may have been a pioneering television show, inspiring many to enter the sciences or the arts. Yet, it was a show developed in the 60’s with many flaws, so it was imperative to revamp much of it for today’s mass audience. Transformers was my favorite cartoon growing up, but it was still a vehicle to sell toys. Considering it was a Michael Bay film – with all the splodey splodey and the hot but talent deficient lead actresses – it did what it set out to do. It was a fun blockbuster film that brought us transforming robots fighting for the fate of Earth, while selling toys. We geeks always seem to forget that Hollywood doesn’t make movie just for us, but for a much large audience in order to generate the best return in their investment.

Ultimately, I am not saying Kurtzman and Orci’s  stuff is “good” or that you should like it. Deeming a film “good” and liking it is subjective to the individual, the time period, the phases of the moon, when your third cousin was married and etc. Instead, I am only suggesting that we, as a community, should give them some respect and credit, while toning down the “Their stuff f’n sucks” rhetoric. Besides, the Nerdy Venoms prefer you save your hatred for such people as Uwe Bol and M. Night Shyamalan.

Leave a Reply