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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Hollywood's new bulked-up superhero is ... Moses

October 12, 2009 | 12:23 pm

If you were ever looking for a deeply influential signal of where Hollywood is going with its movie tentpole priorities, look no further than this morning's story in Variety about ex-News Corp chief Peter Chernin's first significant film project acquisition. It's not a "Ten Commandments"-style religious drama, it's not a teen comedy, it's not a Marvel comic (because they're all already being made at every studio in town).

Peterchernin It's the story of Moses, but told in the action-packed super-realistic effects style of "300," with Moses as the original obstacle-overcoming superhero, cleverly avoiding death as a tiny infant, boldly defying the tyrannical pharaoh, ingeniously surviving a plague of locusts and adroitly delivering the Hebrews from cruel enslavement.

Variety says that in addition to the popular mythical elements from the book of Exodus, the movie will draw on new elements of Moses' life culled from the rabbinical midrash and other historical sources, which is surely, if nothing else, the first time we've seen the rabbinical midrash and "300" used in the same Hollywood announcement story. (If Chernin is willing to expand Moses' historical turf in the interests of modern obstacle-hurdling storytelling, maybe Moses can also knock out an Iranian nuclear reactor in the third act.)

The clearest sign of where the movie is going comes from the screenwriters hired to pen the script. In the old days -- meaning if this were 2005 -- Chernin and his producing partner, Dylan Clark, would have hired the likes to Gary Ross or Steve Zaillian to write a big, emotionally sweeping version of Moses' life. Instead, the gig is going to Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, best known for writing "Accepted," a fluffy 2006 teen comedy about a scrum of college rejects who create a phony university to fool their parents into thinking they actually are attending college.

The writer duo have become the go-to guys for what Variety calls the "tentpole re-tellings of classics," having also been at work reinventing "Moby-Dick" as a graphic-novel style special effects thriller at Universal. No casting has been announced, but I'm thinking that Moses could be a perfect part for Adrien Brody, who's already bulking up to play a heroic mercenary in "Predators," Fox's new reboot of the "Predator" franchise. But "Moses" is no joke. It's what Hollywood is spending most of its creative energy on these days, taking a familiar character and re-branding him as an action figure whose heroics will appeal to audiences all around the globe.  

Photo: Peter Chernin. Credit: Scott Eells / Bloomberg News