Director J.A. Bayona is going to enter the Hollywood big leagues in a major when now that he's signed on to helm Jurassic World 2, but before he crafts another thrilling adventure with dinosaurs, he has a very different kind of effects-heavy film coming out for this year's awards season. We speak of A Monster Calls, the adaptation of the best selling novel by Patrick Ness. It tells the story of a young boy named Conor (Lewis MacDougall) who seeks the aid of a tree monster (Liam Neeson) to cope with his mother's (Felicity Jones) terminal illness. Originally slated to open in theaters in October, Focus Features pushed A Monster Calls back to December recently in order to make it more awards-friendly.
The early reviews out of the Toronto Film Festival were very positive, with many critics saying the film is a beautifully crafted, tear-jerking fantasy in the vein of Guillermo del Toro. Official trailers released by the studio have certainly lent credence to those statements, as the film looks like it will be heart-wrenching due to the emotional nature of its story. Today, Focus continued the marketing push with a new television spot, which you can watch above.
Featuring no dialogue from the movie, this latest preview relies exclusively on the visuals, and it's clear in that regard A Monster Calls should be stunning on the big screen. In particular, the monster looks extremely photorealistic and bodes well for Bayona's future in Jurassic World. While the trailer is short on plot details, it also hints at a resonant relationship between Conor and Mum that will blend the heavy dramatic elements with moments of levity (see: Mum trying on the wig). If A Monster Calls can pull off that tricky balance, then it should prove to be a winner during the holiday season. The source material is highly popular and many moviegoers are interested in seeing how it translates to the big screen.
Focus was smart about the way they scheduled A Monster Calls, as it will only play in a limited number of theaters in December before going nationwide on January 6, 2017. That allows it to avoid the onslaught of high-profile Christmas releases at the end of the year, which include Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Passengers, and Assassin's Creed. Though word-of-mouth for Monster Calls is strong, a little separation from titles that are arguably more accessible certainly won't hurt. Instead of trying to stand out in a crowd, now Bayona's film will go against the more niche Amityville: The Awakening and Underworld: Blood Wars, neither of which is going after the same demographic.
It's shaping up to be an interesting awards season, and A Monster Calls is one of the bigger wild cards on the docket. The Academy normally strays away from fantasy, but some genre pictures in the past have made a big splash. Even if Monster Calls can't make the cut for Oscar gold, it still looks like it will be worth seeing when it reaches theaters. Bayona has impressed with small-scale works like The Orphanage and The Impossible, and now cinephiles are curious to see what he can do with a larger canvas.
A Monster Calls opens in limited release in the U.S. on December 23, 2016. It will expand nationwide on January 6, 2017.
Source: Focus Features