Release Date – September 30, 2016
Studio – Twentieth Century Fox
Director – Tim Burton
Release Format – Theatrical
Based on the novel by Ransom Riggs, Tim Burton’s dark approach to film fits quite perfectly in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The movie adaptation and the book(s) contain a few inconsistencies. Yet the core of the story remains intriguing and compelling. Burton does a fantastic job of using the photographs and information from Riggs’ work to create this “peculiar” world. Combine Burton’s attention to detail with an excellent cast, not to mention some beautiful cinematography, and you’ve got a great film.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children focuses on Jacob (Asa Butterfield), a teenager who lives a completely typical and lonely life. However, as typical of most films that start out in this manner, Jake is soon thrust into an adventure. He begins following a trail left to him by his grandfather after his mysterious death. Jake travels to find Miss Peregrine and quickly begins to discover more than he bargained for. Complete with time traveling, children with mysterious powers and terrifying monsters, this tale truly has everything.
Before I get more into the review, I should preface with this knowledge – I had not read Ransom Riggs’ story before seeing this film. Long-time fans of the novel may have a different reaction than I did. I saw this film with a friend who was familiar with the story beforehand, and she left the theater more disappointed than I. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie overall. Part of this may have stemmed from my complete ignorance of the story it was based upon. Yet seeing Burton’s work has only made me more eager to pick up the original novel.
That being said, there are a few notable flaws with this film. The plot contains a number of more cliche moments. Jake begins the film portrayed as the most average of teenagers. He later discovers that he is actually quite unique. This trope is fairly common, trying to give the main character common ground with the audience before showing how special he/she is. There is nothing wrong with using this idea. I just found it rather predictable right off the bat.
In addition, the second half of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children seems to lose its way in a mess of time-traveling battles. The first half was nicely paced, adding in the appropriate amount of suspense and awe. Yet as soon as Jake and his friends board a boat to save Miss Peregrine, everything begins to feel rushed. Apparently, the second half of the film is also where Burton starts to veer off the beaten path of the novel as well. Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home ends with the children finding a boat and heading off to save Miss Peregrine. Burton tries to finish his story off in another hour or so. Therefore, the climax has an element of hastiness to it.
Despite these things, the film really impressed in many ways. The cinematography was brilliant. It varied between extremely beautiful, bright scenes and the dark, murky terror that Burton conveys so well. Everything was crisp and able to draw the audience in. Each person’s power came off as entirely believable, even some of the most unbelievable ones like Hugh or Claire. This is certainly difficult to do when you’re telling the fantastic story of Miss Peregrine and her children. Also, the Hollows are a sincerely terrifying combination of the Ood from Doctor Who and a Slenderman-lookalike. Burton definitely knows how to make his monsters horrifying. The Hollows are a great match for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children to fend off.
One of the best things about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the cast. Asa Butterfield is the perfect person to portray Jake. He is able to convey Jake’s growth over the course of the movie. He does especially well in some of the most emotional scenes, such as the phone call from the past with his grandfather. Another standout is Miss Peregrine herself, played by Eva Green. Miss Peregrine is one of the smartest and most powerful of the “peculiars.” She is able to predict events in time down to the exact second. She can also turn back time to create a protective world for her children. Green is flawless in her portrayal of Miss Peregrine. She shows her as a powerful and protective person who has a few vulnerable sides, particularly when it comes to her children.
Each of the children also did quite well in their acting. They make their individual characters come alive on the screen. Of particular note are Ella Purnell, who plays Emma Bloom, and Finlay MacMillan as Enoch O’Connor. The additions of Terence Stamp as Jake’s grandfather Abe and Samuel L. Jackson as the villainous Barron bring this film the professional expertise it deserves. I was also quite happy to see Chris O’Dowd in the movie. While he plays a more background role as Jake’s father, he still gives a great performance.
Burton’s film adaptation impressed with its combination of dark mystery and brief moments of lighthearted humor. A few scenes were more cheesy than others, such as the fight sequence at the carnival between the children and the Hollows. However, these moments bring small reminders that these children, peculiar as they might be, are just children. And in a film that showcases Burton’s dark talents, along with such frightening creatures as the Hollows, the little moments of humor are distinctly needed.
Overall, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a wonderful ride. There may be a few discrepancies with plot choices, but Burton really does a great job of bringing this story to life. The imagery is gorgeous, and the cast is full of great actors/actresses who give compelling performances. If you have enjoyed any of Burton’s other works, you will enjoy this “peculiar” film.
- Burton in his element
- Gorgeous imagery
- Great cast with great characters
- Compelling plot
- A few cliche moments
- Second half feels rushed