Should ‘Fantastic Beasts’ be directed by Alfonso Cuarón? We battle it out here!

Two of our most opinionated writers, Caleb Graves of MuggleNet and Alohomora!, and Irvin K. – who is best known as hpboy13 over in The Three Broomsticks editorials – decided to provide their individual viewpoints on the rumors of Alfonso Cuarón directing the new Fantastic Beasts movie. While each of them agree that Cuarón provided Harry Potter fans with an extremely poor adaptation to the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film, their agreement ends there.

Caleb and Irvin provide sound reasoning on each side of the discussion as to why and why not Alfonso Cuarón should direct Fantastic Beasts. But we want to know how you feel. Write in your opinion in our comments area below and share your thoughts on the subject.

Here is Caleb’s point of view as to why he feels Cuarón is the RIGHT choice:

[toggle title=”Caleb Graves” state=”close” ]

I can still remember walking out of the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. After a couple of hours of extreme frustration, I forced my way out of the movie theater, desperate for fresh air. I turned to my nearest friend and bluntly declared, “Alfonso Cuarón ruined that movie.”

The third Harry Potter book was my favorite to that point in the series, and I was furious with this new director who had taken over for Chris Columbus. He had completely botched the story! No Marauders?! Come on.

Despite this dreadful memory, I think Alfonso Cuarón is the perfect director for Fantastic Beasts, as new rumors suggest might just be a possibility.

While I still argue that it was the worst adapted film of the entire film series, I have now come to appreciate Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban as a film on its own, rather than solely a book adaptation. This was heavily influenced by the director later making films that made him one of my favorite directors. He was behind the very wonderful Children of Men in 2006 and also worked as a producer on Pan’s Labyrinth from that same year, two films that brought a beautiful and unique story to the screen.

Then came Gravity just last year, that reunited the director with Potter producer David Heyman. The result was the most incredible cinematic experience through which I have ever sat. Cuarón has proven himself as one of Hollywood’s frontrunners – the frontrunner I would argue – in achieving unparalleled wonder on the big screen.

So I think it is fantastic that the director might just sit lead chair for the Fantastic Beasts adaptation out in 2016. It’s not a sure bet – early rumors rarely land true – but it’s possible!

While I think he did a poor job in adapting Rowling’s third Harry Potter novel, a similar risk does not exist with the new film. Sure, there is the Hogwarts textbook, but that is not the full source material Rowling will use when she pens the screenplay. Instead, it will be something completely original, and she and Cuarón would be able to collaborate terrifically on that front.

He would be able to bring a stunning beauty to Scamander’s adventures with the many magical creatures. We are sure to see some pretty impressive landscapes and environments through these quests, and Cuarón has shown his mastery of such in films like Pan’s Labyrinth. He also does an incredible job of capturing a powerful mood throughout a film. The mood through Prisoner of Azkaban may have not lined up with the book in some ways, but as an actual film, it was powerfully gripping. He did more of the same in his other works, including Gravity.

Rowling will bring to life a completely new section of her massive world with this script and film, and that is going to be the most important part of making the movie. Cuarón did this so well in the dystopian world of Children of Men; the attention to detail was everywhere. His talents are hardly limited to any “type” of movie, so he should be just as masterful with Scamander’s story.

Warner Bros. will want to attract the same fans that made the eight Harry Potter films into huge blockbusters, but they will also want something fresh and unique. This film will open a new chapter into the Wizarding universe, and Cuarón has constantly proven himself to be one of the most talented and innovative filmmakers in the business.

Even if you hated Prisoner of Azkaban as an adaptation – just like I did – do not jump to write him off here. He would do Fantastic Beasts an excellent service.[/toggle]

And here is Irvin K. with his thoughts as to why Cuarón is the WRONG choice:

[toggle title=”Irvin K.” state=”close” ]

The day the Harry Potter movies went to hell can very easily be traced back to one key moment: when Chris Columbus left the reins of the franchise to be picked up by Alfonso Cuarón.  Cuarón single-handedly ruined the rest of the film franchise.  Which is why him directing Fantastic Beasts is pretty much the worst thing that could happen to the Potter fandom right now.

Other writers have talked at length about how completely Сuarón butchered Prisoner of Azkaban.  He chopped and trimmed the story until it was barely recognizable.  Who were the Marauders?  What was with the map?  And so on and so forth.  Frankly, I have not watched my VHS copy of Prisoner of Azkaban in almost a decade because it was so terrible.  What I remember is that Cuarón made arguably the best Potter book into the absolute worst Potter film by making the story unrecognizable, all in favor of including things like talking shrunken heads and a masturbation metaphor (“Lumos maxima!” – really?).

“But wait!” the supporters cry, “There is no source material to butcher this time!  So why shouldn’t Cuarón direct a brand new Potterverse film?”

I’m so glad you asked.

Cuarón’s biggest crime in my book is not his flagrant disregard for the story he was telling.  No, it is the fact that he ruined the feel of the stories for the rest of the films.  Watching the first two movies, there is a sense of magic and warmth that pervades them, that indefinable something that makes us fall in love with the wizarding world.  There is a feeling of wonder that makes eleven-year-olds wait for their Hogwarts letter, and makes the rest of us wish we could visit Hogwarts.  And that is what Cuarón took away.

For starters, he ruined the visual aesthetic of the films.  Suddenly, our favorite wizards were traipsing around in jeans.  Professor Flitwick transformed into a miniature Hitler.  It no longer looked like we were in an otherworldly magic school, just in a school very much of our world with a few fantastic elements.

Cuarón also destroyed the characters.  Ron became useless as all of his lines were fed to Hermione.  Hermione went from bookish nerd to some bizarre form of action heroine.  Since when does Hermione dodge violent tree branches like Angelina Jolie, or punch people like a karate master?  Moreover, in the middle of the climax when Hermione is on an incredibly dangerous time-travel mission, she’s going to take a minute to criticize her hair?!  Give me a break – this is the girl who proclaims in Book 4 that it’s too much bother to use Sleakeazy’s Hair Potion every day (GF433), who never once considers her appearance out loud until the Yule Ball.  Not to mention Prisoner of Azkaban first gave us Anger Management Dumbledore, who plagued the rest of the films.

As Cuarón ruined the characters, he ruined the creatures too – the focal point of Fantastic Beasts!  I give him a pass on the Hippogriff.  The werewolf looked absurd – it was some freaky hairless humanoid, not a wolf!  If Cuarón cannot deliver an adequate werewolf, what hope is there for the other seventy-two fantastic beasts?

But worst of all is what he did with the dementors, which proves he has no understanding of the wizarding world whatsoever.  Dementors are terrifying because they are a physical embodiment of depression.  Harry fears them because they drain all happiness out of a person, and they can suck out a person’s soul.  Their eerie gliding movements only serve to heighten the creepiness factor.

Cuarón’s version is a bunch of flying monsters with ice powers.  Sure, the freezing window is a nifty visual.  But this reduces dementors to just another superpowered obstacle, like a dragon or a basilisk.  One breathes fire, one is venomous, one has ice powers.  It completely disregards what dementors are supposed to be about, and the message Jo is trying to make about depression.

Worse, this causes the film to miss perhaps the biggest emotional beat of the first three books – Harry’s stag Patronus.  That stag ties into the central arc of the series, of Harry attempting to find a connection to his dead parents.  How heart-breaking is it to read about Harry realizing that he did not see his dad alive at the lake, but that his dad is still protecting him in a way?  And then Dumbledore delivers one of those ten-hanky lines: “Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him.  How else could you produce that particular Patronus?  Prongs rode again last night. […] You know, Harry, in a way, you did see your father last night….  You found him inside yourself.” (PA427-428)  Cuarón disposes with all of that, in favor of a cool-looking silvery shield holding a bunch of flying wraiths at bay.  How can we entrust him with any more of Rowling’s precious words after that?

Instead, Cuarón’s version of emotional moments comes in the form of “HE WAS THEIR FRIEND!!!”  I didn’t exactly see anyone crying into their popcorn at that moment.

So, if Cuarón is terrible at visually realizing the wizarding world, terrible at doing characters justice, terrible at presenting magical creatures, and terrible at emotional moments… what possible benefit could there be to him directing Fantastic Beasts?

This is why I declare here and now that if he does, I will not go see that film.  I am more excited for this film than just about anything.  But I would rather pretend it does not exist than watch Cuarón further bastardize the Potterverse.[/toggle]

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  • Kat

    Said it before and I will say it again – we CANNOT criticize Cauron for what was and wasn’t cut out of the script! HE DIDN’T WRITE THE SCRIPT. That fell to Steve Kloves. J.K. Rowling herself approved the story line AND the cuts. So why aren’t we mad at them?

    • Caleb

      Oh they are to blame for sure. But Cuarón still got a lot wrong with the overall film.

      • Exactly. And I am very mad at Steve Kloves – when I saw him at a red carpet, I yelled, “Harry/Hermione is never gonna happen!”

        As for JKR, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking she gave a damn about the movies. The only thing she ever disapproved of film-wise is Dumbledore’s line about a girl from his past.

  • Sierra

    I think Cauron would be a great choice for FB. It’s a movie that is going to focus on showcasing the creatures of the magical world and if there is one thing Cuaron absolutely got right in PoA, it was that gorgeous scene of Harry flying on Buckbeak. I think he’s a very visual director and that’s a talent that’s going to be totally key in pulling this film off right.

    • Caleb

      Yes, totally!

    • I think we owe the Buckbeak scene to Nick Dudman who created the masterpiece that is Buckbeak (almost impossible to screw up that beautiful creature). While there are certain aspects of POA I liked (a direction of darkness, Knight Bus, and first look at Hogsmeade) there are MANY things I hate about POA (Dumbledore’s direction, talking heads, loss of Marauders and meaning of the map) to name only a few for which IS the fault of the Director.

    • ProfWimsey

      If the movie is going to work, then it has to tell a story. Just showcasing stuff from a magical world will bore people and kill the series in it’s infancy.

  • Leanne Yau

    I don’t have much of an opinion on whether the Prisoner of Azkaban film was good or bad, but what I did like about it is that it was funny. Despite the fact that the ‘magic’ of Hogwarts had been somewhat dulled compared to what Columbus had done with the first two movies, it was able to capture the dangers lying outside the walls of Hogwarts, threatening to enter the seemingly calm place. Cuaron didn’t write the script, so about what hpboy13 said – you can blame Steve Kloves. Yes, the characters were butchered and some completely made up spells were almost laughable (Bombarda, anyone?) but let us not forget that Newt Scamander will be very different from Harry Potter. With JKR in charge of the screenplay, and Cuaron having hands-on experience with the magical world, I believe they would be able to work brilliantly together. The comic element to Cuaron’s rendition of Harry Potter that I mentioned earlier would also come into play, which I imagine would be quite excellent, since Newt Scamander in my head is a rather eccentric person.

    So, all in all, I think Cuaron directing Fantastic Beasts would be a great idea.

  • Badass Extraordinaire

    If this movie is going to include a bunch of the creatures from FB&WTFT then I think Guillermo del Toro would be a good choice. The creatures in Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies were out of this world amazing. And he helped with The Hobbit movies so he has experience working with book-to-movie adaptations.

  • REM

    The thing that drives me crazy about Cauron’s direction is that it is obvious that HE NEVER READ THE BOOK. When Harry saw the “grim” during the quidditch match it was actually Sirius in dog form, there to watch Harry play. Cauron’s direction depicted Harry seeing a shape in the storm clouds that looked like a dog’s head. I think he took the Steve Kloves script, which already left out too much information and plot, and without ever checking the source material (THE BOOK) he created a stereotypical black magic world (shrunken heads, creepy gross looking peripheral characters) that was the opposite of the funny HUMAN elements that make Harry Potter so appealing. Cauron’s personal vision of darkness (like the day of the dead festivals in his native Mexico) is just inconsistent with the books.

  • Sirius Black

    Okay, as much as I want Alfonso to make the first Fantastic Beasts movie, I won’t talk about whether he should or shouldn’t make the movie. I want to point out what so many have missed from their discussions about Alfonso.
    Alfonso himself is a masterful storyteller and his stories are not restricted to any one genre. He is more a master in motion picture than he is in words.
    He is a perfectionist who does not shy away from giving his own interpretation to a previously told story. His adaptation of POA was his interpretation of the book. While the essential storyline was the same, his interpretation/adaptation provided SO MUCH MORE to the story, so much so that the movie shines out on its own. It gave a life to the movie independently from the book. Save for Chris Columbus, none of the other Potter directors came even close to making a movie that stood out on its own. Those movies were made ONLY for fans of the books.
    I believe it’s Alfonso’s style of ‘adding some and subtracting some and providing some perspective’, in other words, his interpretation, that many hardcore fans have a serious problem with. Partly because that had never been done on a Potter movie adaptation before. It’s an interpretation. Movie adaptation Can Not Be and it Should Not Be be just “Cut-Copy-Paste” from book to screen. Because that would be just SO boring. Think of it as a complex translation process.
    I think Alfonso was the best thing that happened to Potter movie franchise. But sadly this thing ended when Alfonso left the Potter set.
    You see a similar fan reaction to his adaptation of Great Expectations (1998). Why? “Oh, because that’s totally not how I imagined that book to be like. It’s in New York and he even changed character names. That is just something else.”
    YES, he brings “something else” to the table. Something new and fresh that oozes originality. He likes to tell the story from his own point of view. And as a storyteller he needs to be creative and original in his own way. And Alfonso likes to grip you like a vice (his signature long shots).
    So, why can’t we look at Fantastic Beasts movie(s) as two master storytellers coming together to tell a completely new story set in a familiar world? Forget that it’s an adaptation. Because that’s exactly what it is not.

  • Toni Cooper

    I’m kinda in two minds about this – on the one hand, I really liked PoA. I know that it is no way in comparison to the book because of how much was changed but I still really enjoyed it. There are some truly beautiful visual moments throughout & as it was pointed out already, I think his abilities lie in how he can he visually bring something to life on screen. On the other hand however – & I know a lot of people will probably wonder “what is wrong with her?” – I wasn’t exactly fond of “Gravity”. To be honest, it bored me and I thought it was a waste of a couple of hours. The fault probably lies with me as I never saw it on the big screen & I think it’s a film you probably have to watch in the cinema to get the full effect of it. I think if I had seen it in the cinema, I would most likely feel a tad differently because I’ve heard everyone brag about how physically beautiful it was, but other than the effects, I don’t think it had a lot else going for it. Keeping this in mind, I worrying a little if it’ll be a similar situation if he does direct “Fantastic Beasts,” but I’m hoping it won’t be. I guess only time will tell.

  • ProfWimsey

    PoA was the first HP film that told a story. It also told the same story as the book did. This is a hallmark of Cuarón’s films: they always tell tell a story brilliantly. (I know that fans like hpboy13 are oblivious to the entire concept of story, but the general movie-going public is not: they want a story, not a bunch of trivial details.)

    Now, I have no idea what kind of story Rowling will devise for this: my big concern is that, like most prequels, it will just be a lot of stuff happening for no apparent reason: i.e., similar to a Chris Columbus film. However, *if* Rowling does make it a story about X, then Cuarón will do a great job at communicating X. After all, he communicated hard vs. easy choices concerning ironic truths with PoA: oh, and if you don’t understand that that was the story told by the book, then you don’t get “story.”

  • Fawkes The Phoenix

    I agree and disagree with Irvin, because the film wasn’t as bad as he says. And by the way Jo Rowling actually wished afterwards that she had included the shrunken head in the actual book. I must say that I agree more with Caleb, but to be honest I’m not really sure wether or not Alfonso Cuarón is the best choice.

  • Jacob De Paz

    Wow, what’s with all the hate for PoA? It was arguably the best film in the series!