This doesn’t happen often to me. Usually, when it comes to book adaptations, I never become inspired to read the original source material, since it’s rare that I’ve managed to read the book prior to seeing the movie. Now, having seen Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I have to admit, I’m intrigued. Even now I’m trying to figure out the best way to get my hands on copies of the books just to see what it’s really all about.
Now, this is not a type of movie that typically appeals to me. I’ve only managed to see 8 Tim Burton films in my life, mostly because I have an aversion to the creepy and that seems to be his bread and butter. That and involving both Johnny Depp and Helena-Bonham Carter as his primary actors. This movie had neither actor and it still managed to be amazing.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s Tim Burton. There was creepy. There were tentacles. Lots and lots of eyeballs. Plenty of things to make you jump. But the surrounding story was beautiful, magical, and very nicely woven together. The actors were adorable in their peculiarity and like so many other movies had the Tim Burton touch of macabre humor. The sweet little girl with the wicked set of teeth in the back of her head. The not quite man, but no longer a boy who could control the dead. There was plenty of humor to be found not only in the irony of opposites but in the battles and the quips traded between villain and heroes.
Character-wise, there are quite a few to cover. I’ve come to adore Eva Green’s work. Everything from the witch Serafina in The Golden Compass to the devastating beauty of a Bond Girl. Here she turns her unique voice and sharp cheekbones to the Headmistress charged with keeping her peculiar children safe. Her character encourages children to embrace their gifts and she works tirelessly at protecting them from everything from German bombs to the Hollow men (more on them later) using her own gift of the manipulation of time.
To help her in her endeavor, she has Jake, played by Asa Butterfield. Butterfield has had a string of good movies, including Ender’s Game (yet another adaptation). His character spends a good deal of the movie doubting his own peculiarity and bravery and instead tries to figure out who he is and what happened to his beloved grandfather. However, he eventually finds his place and inspires the courage of the other Peculiar children to fight for their beloved Miss Peregrine, thereby finding their place in the world.
In a switch from playing the dubious good-guy Nick Fury in the Avengers world, Samuel L. Jackson becomes a white-eyed, shapeshifting demon-esque type figure that uses the Peculiars to aid in his quest for immortality. At his command are the Hollows. Hollows are 20 foot tall, tentacle waving, eye-ball eating monsters that are unfortunately invisible. They look like a more gruesome version of Slenderman who kill at will and are nearly unstoppable. It is through them that Tim Burton wields his creepy factor, along with Barron and his crew of psychotic Peculiars.
Take away the creepy Hollows and this story would be a heartwarming tale about a boy trying to learn about his grandfather’s past by visiting the places he’d been to before. Instead, what you get is a mash of time and space; with fighting skeletons, killing machines, bird cages, and some truly creative fight scenes from WWII to 2016 and everywhere in between.
Like most Tim Burton movies, this is an unusual movie with a very common message about embracing who you are. It’s sets are meticulously designed and tie-in nicely with plenty of foreshadowing to be found if you look carefully. Things are rarely as they seem in a time loop so watch carefully!
Adults: Not creepy enough for a date-night (no reason to bury your head in your partner’s shoulder), but a good solid story with a decent amount of action and some truly amusing parts. Worth watching, even if you haven’t read the books. A fun way to start off the Halloween season.
Children: Big sharp shiny teeth. Waving tentacles coming out of the dark. Eyes being ripped from their sockets and devoured. I’m sorry, did you say you wanted nightmares? If so, by all means, come on in. Otherwise, wait a few years till you aren’t scared of the dark anymore, kay? Kay.