When New Line said they were making Journey 2: The Mysterious Island we were (understandably) skeptical. The first film - a.k.a. the Brendan Fraser-starring Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D - might've been a financial success ($240 million on a $60 million budget), but it wasn't exactly adored by critics, and if history was any indicator, the sequel was likely to pale in comparison. However, Journey 2 managed to surprise us (read our fairly positive review) and has gone on to become a hit at the worldwide box office ($271 million on a $79 million budget - and climbing).
With that kind of track record, it's not at all surprising that Journey 3 is on the way.
THR reports that the Journey threequel is already pushing forward, with Journey 2 director Brad Peyton and co-writers/cousins Mark and Brian Gunn all closing deals to return for the next installment. This should be welcome news for those who generally appreciated the fun adventure of the second film more than the somewhat cheesy antics of its predecessor (I know I'm happy about it). For those who care: the producers of the second film are also shepherding the third, which will once again be a 3D, Jules Verne-inspired, family-friendly adventure tale.
For the general public, however, the question at hand is: will the cast of Journey 2 be back for Journey 3?
Actor Josh Hutcherson has starred in both Journey films so far - but with a major role in The Hunger Games this month (and contractual obligations for that film's almost-certain sequels), Hutcherson could be too busy - not to mention too grown up - for a third Journey (unless he's already signed for it, which we're not certain of at this point).
More importantly, though, is the question of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The action star was undoubtedly a big draw for Journey 2, and like Hutcherson, Johnson is only gaining fame at the moment, with a starring role in this summer's blockbuster sequel G.I. Joe 2, a role in Michael Bay's Pain and Gain, and a commitment to Fast and the Furious 6, which is currently in pre-production. Journey 3 would be much better off with The Rock in it, but it would be understandable why the actor might want to continue leaving his family-friendly phase behind (see: The Game Plan, Tooth Fairy) and stay in the action lane. Without Johnson, the franchise would need a new box office draw - we leave it to you to debate whether having Fraser back, or tapping a new face would be the better "Plan B".
New Line wants to get the ball rolling on Journey 3 to make a 2014 release date. That deadline makes it even more tricky for busy actors like Johnson and/or Hutcherson to be available for a return. We should hear something on the casting front sooner before later.
Look for Journey 3 in 2014.