There are certain movies whose box office successes are practically preordained. We knew The Force Awakens would breach the top tier of highest grossing films, and there’s little doubt that every major Marvel event picture will do gangbusters. But nobody expected Jurassic World, inheriting a lineage that hasn’t always proved critically or commercially fortuitous, to do quite as well as it did. No doubt interested in raking in similar stacks with Jurassic World 2, Universal Pictures is one again employing a relatively unknown filmmaker for the gambit: Variety reports that the studio has brought on J.A. Bayona.
We can assume that Colin Trevorrow, the indie veteran and film purist who couriered Jurassic World to its $1.67 billion worldwide gross, was Universal’s first choice for the sequel. However, Trevorrow recently nabbed the coveted honor of directing a Star Wars movie—he’ll be handling Episode IX, taking the reins after Rian Johnson’s eagerly anticipated (and, likely, rather doom-addled) Episode VIII.
As such, Universal is roping in another newbie to the studio system. Bayona has directed two feature films to date: the Spanish mystery-thriller The Orphanage and the tsunami picture The Impossible, along with a slew of short-form projects. If any recent movie may serve as an example of how to handle the unusual genre hybrid that Jurassic Park belongs to—adventure, horror, disaster, and science fiction all meld together in unique harmony in the franchise’s inceptive chapter—it’s The Impossible.
Though packaged more along the lines of the “true story of strength and adversity” that you’re bound to see hit theaters around any holiday season, Bayona actually designed his movie with abject horror and thriller conceits, making it not simply inspiring but invigorating. And, duly and genuinely, terrifying. All characteristics that’d be welcome in a Jurassic Park flick.
While I cannot say that I loved Jurassic World, I do harbor hope for the delivery of its sequel into Bayona’s hands. Embedded in the fibers of his film work is a signifier of the kind of optimism and whimsy that was missing from Trevorrow’s 2014 film, one that seemed at times to castigate its own existence as a piece of franchise fare. Even those of us with an especially fondness for the sort of smaller movies on which Trevorrow cut his teeth can find magic and joy in something like a Jurassic World—hell, Steven Spielberg’s original is one of the most magical movies to hit theaters in the past few decades. Bayona might just be the kind of filmmaker who can bring that back to life. The way you would with, say, an allosaurus.
Before Jurassic World 2, Bayona will direct the fantasy feature A Monster Calls, starring Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones, and Sigourney Weaver.
Images: Universal Pictures; Summit Entertainment
Michael Arbeiter is the East Coast Editor of Nerdist. Find him on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.