Am I heartbroken that Guillermo del Toro is no longer directing The Hobbit series? As a Lord of the Rings fanatic maybe I should be, but, no, I’m actually not. Why? Because I actually think there’s a better man for the job. His buddy and fellow Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón is the best director — besides Peter Jackson, who won’t direct the series no matter what — to bring us the story of Bilbo Baggins.
Ang Lee intrigues me. But, damn, The Hulk was a ginormous misfire. I don’t think you can give him another crack at a huge American blockbuster, even a fantasy epic that’s closer in scope to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon than The Hulk.
Sam Raimi working off the existing script could certainly work. Spider-Man 3 definitely delivered a blow to his credibility, though. I’m not sure he’d take the gig anyway after practically begging for the gig once before and being passed over.
David Fincher is an interesting choice. Before The Curious Case of Benjamin Button I would have said no, but now I’m not so sure. The look and feel of that film, plus its effects, certainly makes him a candidate. His last two outings definitely put the film world on notice that he’s more than just a dark, stylish music video director. He keeps on getting better — and bolder.
Neil Marshall and Timur Bekmambetov remind me a little of the pre-LOTR Peter Jackson, and I really have enjoyed several of both filmmakers’ projects. With a fantastic script and Jackson’s guidance, I’m sure either director could step in and do a fine job of matching what effectively amounts to a prequel for P.J.’s earlier work. I highly doubt either gets chance.
P.T. Anderson sounds like a wacky choice. Stylistically Middle-earth isn’t really in his wheelhouse. But he’s better than just about anybody with ensemble casts, just directed a sweeping period epic and was at least willing to step in and ghost direct for Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion. Would he not only be willing to direct but also able to deliver Tolkien and the screenwriters’ vision? Sure, it would be a departure film for the Boogie Nights auteur, but so was There Will Be Blood to some extent. Still, something just feels off here.
Tim Burton would be an awful choice. The Hobbit’s director will need to swallow a lot of his pride, be flexible, trust the script’s writers and depend on an army of a cast and crew on the way to delivering Tolkien’s vision. I see Burton trying to force Tolkien’s world try inside his own and not the other way around. That would be an ugly mistake. The right director will need to possess just as much versatility as vision. That’s not Burton.
Steven Spielberg is not going to do it. No way. He’s not going to take the time. He’s not going to do it for another company. He’s not moving to New Zealand. Just do what you did after Indiana Jones 4 and forget about it for good. Block it out of your brains.
Andrew Adamson of Narnia/Shrek fame would be a safe choice. Too safe, if you ask me. But he is a Kiwi who would use WETA and worships Jackson, so you know he wouldn’t jack with the formula.
Robert Zemeckis, hmmm, would he have anyone besides Gollum and Smaug in his version? The guy probably has a motion-captured family.
Neill Blomkamp is an option since he’s Jackson’s extremely talented apprentice, but I haven’t seen enough of him yet to comfortably sign off on him directing possibly the most important film of the century. I’m guessing the producers will feel the exacts same way.
Zack Snyder definitely has the vision, but I wonder if he could tone down his style enough to make Mirkwood and the Lonely Mountain feel authentic and not overcooked.
Darren Aronofsky is yet another enticing choice. But after what went down with The Fountain — with it being postponed for about three-four years and then it flopping commercially — he’ll likely never even be considered for the director’s chair. Nonetheless, the film was pretty brilliant and looked gorgeous despite its original budget being chopped in half.
Julie Taymor might make The Hobbit flicks look like the greatest god damn things we’ve ever seen, but would they be any good? And would anybody be able to control her notoriously strong personality?
I could keep going on and on here, and believe me in my head I have. But the right choice is Cuarón. Why? He’s not particularly busy. He apparently has Gravity lined up with Robert Downey Jr., but that doesn’t matter — any director in their right mind would jump ship for this project. Remember when Bryan Singer abandoned the X-Men franchise for the Superman one? Well, this is an even better opportunity. The fit goes way beyond his availability, though.
As mentioned above, Cuarón’s very close with del Toro and they even produce together from time to time. That relationship would be able to serve as a bridge between Cuarón and Jackson, allowing the production’s early, yet pivotal, process to not skip a beat. I also believe that because of this relationship and Cuarón’s experience working in foreign, Indie and studio films, that he’d easily be able to adapt to an obviously difficult situation. Other directors without the same ties and experiences might really struggle. Moving to New Zealand and taking over a legendary project for not one but two renowned directors with all kinds of studio meddling is an intense scenario. He’s shown he can handle this level of pressure.
Cuarón directed a fantastic road movie, Y tu mamá también. Essentially, that’s what at least the first installment of The Hobbit will be. He’s also directed a fantasy franchise film for a major studio, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. That was easily the best one in the series, by the way. If that’s not already enough, he also directed Children of Men, possibly last decade’s best film. He co-wrote that script, which was loosely based on the 1992 novel of the same name. Pair that with his work on the Potter series, Great Expectations and the magical A Little Princess, and its obvious the man knows how to bring great literary works to life on the silver screen.
As much as I love Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón is rivaled by probably only Anderson, Chan-wook Park, Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino right now when we’re talking directors under 5o in their prime. I’m not sure why he hasn’t received the proper credit yet, or the chance to direct a film or franchise like The Hobbit, but it’s definitely time for him to get this well-deserved shot. Especially when he’s so perfect for the gig. If this film happens, and it better, MGM, Warner Bros. and everybody else involved would almost be foolish to hire anybody else than Cuarón.