Should “Fantastic Beasts” Be Directed by Alfonso Cuarón? We Battle It Out Here!
by Keith Hawk · Published · Updated
Two of our most opinionated writers, Caleb Graves of MuggleNet and Alohomora!, and Irvin K. – who is best known as hpboy13 of the Three Broomsticks – decided to provide their individual viewpoints on the rumors of Alfonso Cuarón directing the new Fantastic Beasts movie. While each of them agrees that Cuarón provided Harry Potter fans with an extremely poor adaptation of the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film, their agreement ends there.
Here is Caleb’s point of view as to why he feels Cuarón is the RIGHT choice:
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 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.
And here is Irvin K. with his thoughts as to why Cuarón is the WRONG choice:
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 heartbreaking 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 of 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 about this film than just about anything. But I would rather pretend it does not exist than to watch Cuarón further bastardize the Potterverse.
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 your opinion in the comments below and share your thoughts on the subject.