By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com March 23, 2012 at 11:56AM
The Pitch: In a future where the United States has been divided into two warring nations, wealthy June crosses paths with street criminal Day when her brother is murdered, and Day becomes the prime suspect.
The Pros: Director Jonathan Levine ("50/50") already has one attempt at a "Twilight"-style franchise on the way with zombie romance "Warm Bodies," but even while that was in production, he also signed on to this, from first-time writer Marie Lu, which is set up at CBS Films. As we've discussed, dystopias are so hot right now, and this seems to hit right in that sweet spot, plus the plot sounds like it could actually be quite involving. That it comes from "Twilight" producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey can't hurt either.
The Cons: The book doesn't seem to have lit the bestseller charts on fire since it hit stores last November, and perhaps because of that, word has been very quiet on the movie. Since the rights were snapped up, CBS Films has shifted to a more acquisitions-based business plan, while Levine has a number of other projects lined up, and probably won't want to go straight into more young adult fare, which suggests that by the time this hits, it could seem like old hat.
Status: In development
"The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones"
The Pitch: An ordinary New York teen discovers she is the latest in a line of Shadowhunters, a secretive society who battle demons. While battling, she falls for another Shadowhunter, Jace.
The Pros: Cassandra Clare's "Mortal Instruments" series is one of the most popular of the post-"Twilight" phenomenons, and a movie has been in the works for a while. Things didn't look good, as a Scott Stewart ("Priest")-directed version of the project was put into turnaround by Sony, but only last week, it was revived by Constantin Films, with "Karate Kid" Harald Zwart at the helm, and original lead Lily Collins still signed on (though it lost potential co-star Jamie Campbell Bower). Clearly someone thinks this has the chance to make a lot of money, and with a seemingly more action-heavy leaning, it could bring in as many as boys as girls, something that "Twilight" struggles with.
The Cons: We're sure fans of the books will put us right, but this doesn't seem to have a particularly unique take on things -- "Twilight" meets "Buffy" maybe? -- but just reading the synopsis makes us think we've seen it before. There must have been a reason Screen Gems pulled the plug on the project, and Harald Zwart doesn't exactly make us think this is going to be something scintillating.
Status: Needs to recast its male lead, but should be before cameras later this year.
The Pitch: After a devestating nuclear disaster, the world has split into two: the "pures," who survived untouched inside The Dome, and the "wretches" who were fused to whatever object they were touching at the moment of detonation. Partridge, a pure, and Pressia, a wretch with a doll's head instead of a hand, are drawn together as the former searches for his mother's killer.
The Pros: Well, if you're going to bring some new life into the post-apocalyptic genre, having characters who are welded to car engines and animals is a pretty great way to do so. The unique pitch has grabbed Julianna Baggott's book a lot of attention since publication last month, not just for its storytelling but also its prose, and this could have the right mix of romance, mystery and spectacle to become a phenomenon. Fox 2000 snapped up the rights before publication
The Cons: It might be original, but we wonder if that premise is simply going to gross people out: are the tweens ready for a heroine with a doll's head for a hand? Even if the story is powerful and engaging, the images might be too gross for wider consumption. Then again, if the book is a hit, that'll be moot.
Status: In development.
"The Scorpio Races"
The Pitch: Once a year, on the island of Thisby, violent, flesh-eating water horses emerge from the sea, and every year, the inhabitants try to tame the beasts and compete in the terrifying Scorpio Races. Two teens, Sean and Puck, are in training and are drawn to each other.
The Pros: Based on Celtic lore, Maggie Steifvater's novel picked up strong reviews and sales when it hit shelves last October, and the film rights were snapped up by Warner Bros and producers David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith, the latter being the so-hot-right-now writer behind "Dark Shadows" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." The premise features the requisite blend of romance and thrills, plus what would presumably a heavy CGI element for the wow factor.
The Cons: Is that "Seabiscuit"-meets-"Lord of the Rings" premise just a little too weird to cross over to huge audiences? For one, we'd assumed it was about people racing giant scorpions rather than water horses (and we sort of feel we'd rather see that...) And it doesn't seem to have the same universal appeal and hook as some of its rivals. Plus the effects involved would mean it'd be far more expensive, and hence less profitable, than the relatively cheap "Hunger Games."
Status: In development