Interpreted from the widely popular young adult fantasy novel by Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is home to the latest magical world from the mind of Tim Burton.
Alas, there is no appearance from Johnny Depp or Helena Boham Carter, yet there is no doubt that the somewhat creepy, dire visuals on-screen belong to a Tim Burton film. Aside from the visuals and construction of characters, though, there isn’t much more to this book adaptation.
We begin with our protagonist Jake (Asa Butterfield), a young wide-eyed teenager with a boundless imagination for the supernatural and fantasy worlds. Influenced by stories told by his grandfather, and following the unusual death of his relative, Jake finds himself on an island off the coast of Wales, in search for a home for peculiar individuals. Following his grandfather’s dying wish, he pursues the headmistress, a shape-shifting protector and time manipulator, who took residence in 1943. Jake soon discovers the truth about his grandfather’s death, and his family’s connection to the world of the peculiars. Coming into acquaintance with the villainous Baron, Jake must now fight for the protection of the children.
The setup of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is fairly muddled, to say the least. As someone that has read the book previous to viewing the adapted feature, it still comes across as jolty and uneven at points. The introduction to Jake and his grandfather is somewhat inconsistent in terms of the instigation of their relationship. The phone call scene in particular was dry and lacked any kind of connection between the two relatives. In fact, watching this scene, particularly as an introductory segment, is incredibly uncomfortable.
In terms of what is expected from a Tim Burton film, the visuals in Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children do deliver. There are large quantities of eerie dark environments coupled with creepy characters that appear beyond ordinary. Watching inanimate puppets battle through the power of one of the children displays his unique style particularly well. Overall, though, the plot possesses the capabilities to become a lot darker and more involving. Attempting to maintain a child-friendly persona doesn’t quite succeed, as the uneasy visuals are evident yet also very infrequent and scattered. It’s soon apparent that Tim Burton himself was holding back when in development processes.
The cast of characters in Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children are diverse and interesting when their abilities are evident, from an invisible boy to two disturbing twins. Whether or not this is enough to fully create a diverse and engrossing cinema experience can be subject to opinion, as the characters are never fully explored. There isn’t much that stands out in terms of cast performances, especially regarding the children. The establishment of Victor, a young peculiar who resides in the house attic, seems futile to the story-line. Even Jake’s character remains flat, with a lacklustre love interest with Emma, who withholds the ability to have control of air.
The main highlight of the film is Eva Green’s portrayal of the curious Miss Peregrine. Although lacking in screen time, her appearances do contribute a certain stability to the jumbled story line. She explains the facts surrounding the loops and peculiarities that could come across as complex to the audience. All of this is exhibited through a witty and quirky exterior, and she wants nothing more than to care for the children she’s bound to. There is a strong motherly charm to her, with strict sense of routine that keeps the house in line.
Eva Green brilliantly balances these two strong characteristics confidently, a true role model to the children she protects. Her clockwork routines appear incredibly natural, which displays a satisfying impression on screen. It’s a shame we only glimpsed briefly into her character before she gave up herself to the enemy.
A Different Kind of Adaptation
The final scenes of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children were ridden with plot holes that may only make sense to a viewer that has previously read the books and is already familiar with the world. The ending plot was altered from the original text, presumably to become acceptable for cinematic release. For a large portion of the film, the plot does indeed stick incredibly faithfully to the book, yet quickly goes off course during the second hour. What began as gorgeous visual elegance seemed to drift aimlessly into disheveled chaos, which doesn’t really please.
The final scene in particular made next to no sense, with Jake’s character suddenly appearing back at his grandfather’s house all the way from Blackpool. There may be a magical explanation which would simply brush past a younger viewer, yet it still seems illogical.
Already at a lengthy two hours, the feature still doesn’t warrant enough time for the chronicle to be fully explained, therefore rushing at certain points. The original book was indeed released as a trilogy, exploring different points in the sequels (if you read the books, you get what I’m aiming at here). The books do have further capabilities to explain the logistics behind the world and how it works, which wasn’t portrayed sufficiently in the feature. It seems that this particular world requires much more than a single film in order to fully become immersed in the wonderful peculiarity.
All in all, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is fairly average at best. There are glimpses of a brilliant vision once the initial bumpy stages are out the way, yet it continues to fall flat when the ending arises. Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of disappointment that arises with the film. There is an admiration for it, yet this doesn’t quite override the sluggish development.
What book adaptations would you want to see portrayed in cinemas in the future?
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is out in cinemas across the US and UK. For all international release dates see here.
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