Article By: Alice-Ginevra Micheli
If you were to combine the powers from X-Men, the school from Harry Potter and the creepy nature of Beetlejuice, and throw it back to World War II, you would happen upon something very similar to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Based on Ransom Riggs’ best selling novel of the same name, the story follows Jake (Asa Butterfield) where he travels through time and happens upon a home full of children with strange powers. As he learns about them he begins to discover his own connection to their world and his place within it.
Returning to form, this film evokes all the Tim Burton-y elements that people have come to expect from his films. It has magic, intrigue, creepy characters as well as a wonderfully convoluted concept. Straight away the film draws you in, provoking a sense of history and unease through its some artful opening titles only to land on a rather bland image of Florida where the story officially begins. It then takes hold, travelling from a normal aesthetic to one of isolation and mystery, allowing the discovery of a new world opening right in front of your very eyes.
Tim Burton’s influence is evident straight away, from the character’s costumes to the looks of the monsters, allowing fan’s to feel like they’re experiencing something tactile and real. The conscious choice by Burton to avoid CGI as much as possible pays off, giving a third dimension to the film that otherwise might not be possible. There is a sense of expansion from his earlier work that will intrigue newcomers and excite established fans. In addition to this, the images are beautiful, each scene seemingly put together to make way for the possibility of a still photograph.
The acting is also decent, where each character is given a depth that isn’t normally present in children, let alone a film full of them.
Asa Butterfield delivers a solid portrayal as Jake; acting as the gateway for the audience to understand this peculiar world they have entered into. However, there are times where his reactions and behaviour come across as forced rather than genuine, impeding any connection that might be felt for the character. His static movements and passive face were at times confusing and frustrating which took away from his overall performance, whether that was an acting choice or a directorial suggestion is yet to be seen.
Ella Purnell, also does an adequate job as Emma, the airy love interest. She acts exactly as she’s supposed to in every scene, taking on the role of Jake’s guide. Whenever she evokes her powers there is a sense of wonder about her which is propelled by her graceful nature, however at the end of the day she didn’t deliver a performance that would be considered or even remembered once leaving the cinema.
The two main adults in the film, however, both deliver performances that at once steal the scene, and intrigue, with their characterisations and personalities.
Eva Green as Miss Peregrine is described by Burton as a “scary Mary Poppins”, and it’s not difficult to see where this parallel exists. From her dramatic makeup to her particular movements, Green constantly draws the eye whenever she appears on screen. Acting as the protective, “practically perfect” matriarch, she is a showstopper leaving audiences wanting more whenever her part is done.
Adding charisma and humour is Samuel L. Jackson as the villainous Barron. While he doesn’t make a solid appearance until the final act of the film, he adds much needed variety to the current cast of characters. Free from the chains of morality and fuelled by his evil plan, Jackson evokes the traditional Bond-esque villains that both terrify and entertain with his witty retorts and viable threats.
While Burton’s eye is fascinating and the performances, on the whole, are perfectly satisfactory, the whole film is relatively let down by it’s final climax, throwing it into a sense of calamity and confusion that even this director found difficult to climb out of it. The story turns, suddenly, from a slow burning mystery and origin story into a crazy sequence of events that barely gives the audience a chance to breathe, which isn’t always a good thing. There’s intense action, too-quick plot progression and an overall loss of personality that isn’t entirely regained once the film comes to a close.
Furthermore, the obvious desire that writer, Jane Goldman, had to conclude every storyline ended in a relatively unnecessary and unwanted end for the two protagonists that left me cringing rather than feeling satisfied.
For a film that presented itself as different and “peculiar”, it ended up playing to a lot of conventional beats that have been seen many a time before now.
In comparison to the book, the film does keep its overall tone alive throughout tis runtime, making sure to hit all the important aspects and events that drew in audiences from the first place. However, the end is significantly changed from the novel, which might leave book fans feeling some whiplash as they try to piece together what has happened, and what that might mean for the story going forward. The film also lacks passion in characters, such as Emma, who was more emotive and layered throughout its pages, than what is delivered on the screen. Furthermore, the character of Jake was given a lot more depth through his insatiable curiosity and intense desire to involve himself in the world of the peculiars, that is just not present throughout the film.
Although the slight disappointments, however, the film is perfectly enjoyable, acting as an introduction to a world and a story that could potentially continue for a years to come. With a relatively solid script, traditional Burton direction and a slew of interesting characters, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a relatively faithful adaptation of the novel, as well as a solid origin story for its characters. If you go in wanting to experience magic, mystery and a good time, you will discover it and be brought into this peculiar story where, as the trailer says, ‘there’s a new world coming’.