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On the surface, the Journey to the Center of the Earth franchise doesn’t appear to be lighting the universe on fire. Reviews were average (43% Fresh for Journey 2, and 61% for its predecessor). But box office has been strong enough that New Line seems ready to move forward on Journey 3.

Journey 2 director Brad Peyton and his screenwriters, Brian and Mark Gunn, have signed on for the second sequel, according to THR. The trade notes the $242M worldwide gross of the sequel, which is performing well in international territories. To capitalize on whatever buzz the franchise has at the moment, THR says Journey 3 will target a 2014 release date and will continue to draw its creative inspirations from the works of Jules Verne.

“I know we've just scratched the surface of what we can do,” Peyton tells the trade. “This one's going to be a lot bigger. We're going to go to a completely different world. It's just going to be a bigger experience, and we're going to grow the mythology. Journey 2 was about rebooting a franchise; now it's about making the seminal work in the franchise."

But with whom? Journey notoriously dumped Brendan Fraser and replaced him with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for the sequel. Josh Hutcherson stuck around for the first two, but his asking price is about to skyrocket once people get a load of him as Peeta in the anticipated Hunger Games. Plus, the Games has a strict shooting schedule. Could that interfere with a third Journey?

Or would producers build on a supporting player and make them the lead, like they did with Hutcherson for Journey 2? I know I’d be more interested in a third Journey if Vanessa Hudgens or Michael Caine were leading the charge. Maybe not if Luis Guzman was tapped to lead. But THR says no casting deals have been set yet, so even though Journey 3 is coming together, it’s destiny – for now – remains a mystery.

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