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The process by which certain properties become movies can be a long, strange one. James Patterson‘s series Maximum Ride (which starts with the novel Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment) was optioned by Columbia and has been in development for the past year at the studio. But Columbia just put the project into turnaround, meaning another studio can step in and pick it up, and now Universal is poised to do just that.

Catherine Hardwicke remains attached to direct, but some other things are going to change.

THR says that a new script is being arranged, and that recent Cowboys and Aliens scribes Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby have been tapped by producers Avi and Ari Arad and Steven Paul.

This would be a new young-adult series in the making for Universal. As the trade says, whether Uni signs on or not, someone will pick up Maximum Ride quick because it is ‘teen-centric’ with supernatural / superhero overtones and, as mentioned, a potential franchise based on a known quantity. That is, it’s exactly the stuff studios love these days. (You should be asking “so why did Sony/Columbia dump it?” THR suggests that between Spider-Man, Ghostbusters and their simmering Goosebumps project, the studio has enough going on right now.)

Patterson’s books follow a kid named Maximum Ride and her five friends who form a group called the Flock. All are the result of a genetic experiment that tweaked their DNA and left them with wings, the ability to fly and a team of scientists on their ass. Tracked by “lupine-human hybrids,” they inevitably stumble upon a mission that might see them saving the world.

The follow-up question: will Catherine Hardwicke remain attached to this one? Universal could use a big hit, but the studio could make this Twilight style — i.e. lower budget, fewer effects, keep it focused on kid actors and conflict that doesn’t need a lot of cash to pull off. Not having read the books, I don’t know if this is material for which Hardwicke is really best suited.

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