Most people who know of J.A. Bayona know him from The Orphanage, which was the first film of his to get really big in the U.S. It probably helped that it was a horror film, and that it was produced by Guillermo del Toro, but Bayona is still relatively unknown. That’s all going to change as soon as Jurassic World 2 hits theaters, and he knows it. Colin Trevorrow took on the first Jurassic World after his indie Safety Not Guaranteed made a big splash, and now he’ll be in charge of Star Wars: Episode IX. Bayona’s A Monster Calls is about to open in American theaters within the next few weeks, and he’s excited about his blooming prospects, saying that he’s ready to take on a big blockbuster.
While not quite an award season darling, one of the more anticipated movies of the next two months is Juan Antonio Bayona’s adaptation of A Monster Calls, a movie about a young boy who dives into a fantasy world to deal with the pain of losing his mother. Sitting as a cross between The Iron Giant and Calvin and Hobbes, A Monster Calls is a film about childhood loss; those who saw the film on the festival circuit have already described it as an earnest tearjerker, including our own Erin Whitney at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down was Netflix’s most luxuriously expensive show to date, but didn’t make as many waves during its premiere as it was probably meant to, the buzz trickling away pretty quickly after Part 1 was released earlier this fall. But it did rocket its star, Justice Smith, into the spotlight, as he’s now been cast in J. A. Bayona’s Jurassic World sequel.
One of the peculiarities of the modern studio system is that we often know the date a movie will be released long before we know the date when a movie will actually go into production. For example, we’ve known since last year that Jurassic World 2 would be released in June of 2018, but here it is, the end of 2016, and we’re just now learning the timeline to actually make the darn thing. Production schedules, like box office gross, sometimes have a logic all their own.
We’ve gotten tons of information about the vague feel of J.A. Bayona’s Jurassic World 2 — it’ll deal, metaphorically, with the modern-day treatment of animals — but we haven’t heard much about the actual plot. Today, though, it sounds like Universal is finally getting the ball rolling with news of an open casting call for a child actor. Jurassic World attempted to update the franchise for modern audiences, but at least one tradition has stayed the same: it’s not a Jurassic Park movie without kids running form dinosaurs.
Earlier this year, our own Britt Hayes wrote a brief history of the times when modern filmmakers compared their movies to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It was a pretty revealing trend; as movie studios scrambled to give audiences the dark and gritty franchises they assumed audiences wanted, more and more filmmakers used Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises as a kind of fanboy secret handshake.
The universe that Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg created with 1993’s Jurassic Park is a world ripe with all kinds of possibilities. What would a world in which the resurrection of extinct species is a reality be like? Can an ostensibly foolproof system of controlling these creatures and making sure they don’t escape their enclosures really work? (No.) Does life, uh, find a way? (Yes.) This summer’s Jurassic World chose to tell a simpler, more action-y tale than its predecessors, but from what Colin Trevorrow has said about its sequel, Jurassic World 2 will take a more nuanced approach to the possibilities of genetically resurrected dinosaurs.
About a year ago, Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow went on a Jurassic Park-themed podcast and talked about Universal’s plans to make his film the first in a trilogy of movies about dinosaur-induced mayhem. And while nothing really seemed to indicate that the creative team had switched gears since then, today we did finally get confirmation that a Jurassic World trilogy is still the plan going forward.
With the overwhelmingly positive reception its fantastical trailers have gotten, and the fact that J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls is set to premiere next week at the Toronto International Film Festival, Focus Features has moved the film’s release date from October to December, possibly to give it a better chance at competing during awards season.
In the last couple years Liam Neeson has positioned himself as the scourge of kidnappers, murderers, terrorists, and wolves everywhere. But he still has room in his heart for children, as shown by the latest trailer for A Monster Calls, in which Neeson voices a big friendly giant (hm, where have I seen this concept recently?) who befriends a young boy struggling with his mother’s illness. The mother is played by Felicity Jones, and Sigourney Weaver (who’s actually top-billed in the trailer) stars as the boy’s grandmother.