Book reviews for the trilogy also available on my webpage.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a novel by the same name written by Ransom Riggs. The trilogy grabbed our attentions with the unique and sometimes disturbing addition of these old images. Riggs, as well as many others, have taken to collecting these old photographs from rummage sales even gathering in groups to exchange photos or try to find the original owners or relatives of the photos. Riggs took some of his unique findings and incorporated them into his stories by creating characters based on the images. The characters are what truly make this series. I was very excited when I saw that the book would be turned into a movie, especially when I seen that Tim Burton would be directing the film. When the first trailers for the film were released there were some oddities but I was willing to overlook them until watching the actual film.
As I stated, the books are a trilogy so the tale does extend over the three novels making us wonder how the first film would play out and if there would be any others. Of course that all depends on the financial success of the first film.
Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield) is a young boy from Florida, USA. Although raised by his mother and father, he was fascinated by his grandfather and the stories he would tell of far away places, monsters and peculiar children. As Jacob grew older he was faced with ridicule for believing in his grandfathers wild tales and stopped believing in his grandfather. One night while at work Jacob receives a call that he must go check on his grandfather. After speaking to him on the phone he is warned to stay away, but when Jacob arrives he realizes something is horribly wrong. Jacob finds his grandfather’s home ransacked and the back door and fence damages. When he finally finds his grandfather he is seriously injured and dying. He gives Jacob instructions that he does not understand, that he must visit the island with the peculiar children and Miss Peregrine will explain everything. After receiving a package on his birthday from his grandfather, he finds a postcard from Miss Peregrine herself and a book. Reigniting his belief in his grandfather, Jacob convinces his parents, with the help of his new psychiatrist, to take him to the island where the peculiar children are as a form of saying goodbye. It is there that Jacob discovers that the peculiar children are real and very much alive. There he meets Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), an Imbryne, which is a lady who can transform into a bird. She is able to create what is called a loop where the same day repeats over and over trapping the children in 1943. This creates a safe place for the children to live; however, if they were to leave their loop and go into the present time would catch up with them and they would die. Jacob learns of his grandfathers past and also the dangers that face the peculiars. After a Wight and a Hollowghast break into the loop and kidnap Miss Peregrine, the children led by Jacob must set off to save her and the other Imbrynes and destroy the Wights and Hollowghasts.
The story can seem rather complicated and I probably went into far more detail than was necessary. The characters of the story are both creepy and captivating, each with their own abilities. I really enjoyed the first novel in the trilogy, but as you may read as the books progressed my liking of the story began to waver. The one thing that I was really concerned with was how the film would portray the Wights and Hollowghasts, the monsters of the film. I actually believed that having the book turned into a film may have worked out some of the kinks of the novel and might actually improve the story. There were many adjustments made to the story, but not quite what I had in mind.
The film’s main peculiar actually swapped places with a different peculiar causing confusion as to what exactly was going on. They also decided to make some adjustments to some of the characters abilities throughout the film, obviously to make it more viewer friendly and probably to spice things up a bit. I could have taken or left the Hollowghast portrayal as I was neither horribly disappointed or impressed. This was a hard pill for me to swallow for the entire trilogy. The Wights, their leader played by Samuel L Jackson, wasn’t quite as I expected either, becoming more cartoony than terrifying.
I love Tim Burton and have loved his films for a very long time. If ever you are looking to do something peculiar with a dark side Tim Burton is the guy for the job. This job was perfect for Burton and I was so excited to see what he would do with the film and the characters. I had heard that the film was rather creepy which reinforced my hopes going into the movie, taking advantage of the 3D viewing for an added dimension of the film.
The film came in at two hours and seven minutes long which made it rather long, but did not drag horribly as some movies tend to. Although I had high expectations for Burton I went into the film with a open mind, seeing from the preview that there may have been some character hijacking done. Unfortunately, my mind is very open and it was not enough to save this movie for me.
The film opens with Jacob, played by Asa Butterfield. This is not the first film of Butterfield, but you could have fooled me at times. There is acting awkward and adding to a role, then there is just being awkward and too scripted. The dialogue between all the characters from start to finish was cringe worthy at best and I am glad that the theater was relatively empty as I could barely contain my groans and eye rolling. There is also a character that drives Jacob to his grandfather’s house who is a mess from start to finish and I was so thankful for her to be gone. Jacob’s father (Chris O’Dowd) does not play a major role as he is the distant father, but his role is so scripted it feels jumpy and not intentionally awkward as well. The interactions between the children are also odd, especially one scene where Enoch makes grotesque doll creations come to life only to fight to the death. The scene was fully forced with the intention to be creepy which fell flat and felt even more out of place than everything else in the film. I happen to like Eva Green and felt she portrayed a great Miss Peregrine visually, but there were things she did as Miss Peregrine that felt like she was trying to create a different character that doesn’t have time to be revealed and really just making her seem like a bit of a rhyming with witch. We also get a glimpse of a second Imbryne played by Judi Dench. That’s right, the famous Judi Dench also makes an appearance in the film, but even her character is awkward and out of place. Apparently I just couldn’t win with this one.
Due to the swapping of main female peculiar roles, the relationship between Emma and Jacob felt way too preteen, even moreso than the novels. On one positive note, I did enjoy some of the visuals that the swapping of peculiar skills and addition of other skills brought to the film at times. As I mentioned, Samuel L Jackson’s portrayal of a Wight was too cartoony, becoming over acted and very pre school villain. All of the Wights for that matter were a bit of a mess for me. The villains each had a hundred opportunities to kill at character at any given time, instead opting for minor pushing and practically giggling and chasing the children saying “I’m gonna get you.” Alright so that may not have happened but it sure wasn’t far off. The wrapping up of the film was also very awkward and forced, and the battle scene was a giant guffaw mixed with an eye roll.
As if it wasn’t painstakingly clear to you already, I did not enjoy the film as much as I was hoping I would. I would even go so far as saying I hated it. It was a complete mess, an awkward joke and really just a waste of time. I am horribly disappointed and I am sad to say that the trilogy ended horribly and the film was just as bad completely discrediting anything good that the books may have had going for them. For fans of the books I am sorry if I am the first one to inform you of this sad news. For those who have not read the books, feel free to check out my book reviews, but as for the film feel free to completely disregard this one and not even bother saving it for a rainy day.