Movie review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Movie reviews

Good morning/day/evening!

Another YA adaptation from a once visionary director has hit theaters, so, let’s take it apart! This is the review of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children!

IMDb summary: When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

Allow me to begin by saying that I think that this movie (and the book) has one of the coolest names ever. Yes, it is quite long, weird, and hard to remember, but that’s what makes it special. Just the name alone tells you a lot about the story, but, at the same time, doesn’t give anything away. I wanted to start this review with a compliment because I imagine I will be quite hard on the film in the following paragraphs since I had a number of problem with it.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The narrative: the book, the changes, and the screenplay

The trilogy of books by Ransom Riggs that inspired this film was one of the two YA series that I checked out this year, other being the Engelsfors series by M.Strandberg and S.Bergmark Elfgren. I have always been a fan of fantasy, so I knew that I would enjoy the novels. I also really liked the role that the old vintage photographs played in the making of the books and how they were used in the final product. Those pictures really made the series stand out from the other numerous YA franchises out there.

However, before going to see this film, I questioned whether it can become a successful cinematic trilogy since YA adaptations have been going down both in quality and in the box office numbers. Mockingjay Part 2 was a disappointing finale that didn’t earn as much as expected, Allegiant absolutely crashed and burn – didn’t even earn enough to get the final entry in the franchise made into a film and the release of The Maze Runner‘s final movie had to be postponed due to Dylan O’Brien’s injury on set. Will the audiences still want to see The Death Cure a year later? Will they show up to support an altogether new franchise? I guess, we’ll have to wait and see.

The film’s script was written by Jane Goldman – a long time co-writing partner of Matthew Vaughn. Together, they have worked on movies such as Kingsmen: The Secret Service, X-Men: First Class, Stardust and Kick-Ass. Miss Peregrine Home for Peculiar Children was her second solo writing project, first being the period horror picture The Woman in Black.

As usual, when adapting a piece of literature to the big screen, some (or a lot) of details of the narrative are changed. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was no exception. For the first two acts, the film followed the book pretty closely but it did create a completely new and different 3rd act. Concerning the smaller alterations, I’ll try to list as much of them as I could spot:

  1. Emma’s and Olive’s abilities were switched. Emma had the power of air instead of fire, while Olive controlled fire rather than being able to float.
  2. Bronwyn was aged down, while Olive aged up. I understand why they did this: Regarding Bronwyn –  it is more striking to see a little girl lift huge weight rather than a teenager, whereas Olive had to be a teenager for them to have a second romantic couple in the film.
  3. The underwater ship scene went down a different way in the book. They probably wanted to make it more visually interesting in the film and I also think that this scene was the reason they switched Emma’s and Olive’s peculiarities.
  4. Miss Avocet’s involvement in the main narrative was altered.
  5. Jacob’s only normal human friend was cut from the beginning of the story and, in general, in the picture, Jacob was made into an even more of a social outcast than he was in the book.
  6. The hollows were eating the eyes of the peculiars instead of their souls. Since eyes are the window to the soul, this might have been the filmmakers’ attempt to visualize a soul as something material.
  7. Miss Peregrine’s kidnapping was altered and basically, all the 3rd act, which followed the kidnapping, went completely away from the book. The film’s final act had different locations than the book’s (the action happened in the house, on a big ship and in the circus, rather than on a small boat on a sea) and it was also more action-y in the cliche Hollywood way. The decision to use the ship allowed Emma to do more stuff and was a cool effect, but everything that happened after that fell flat. Personally, I think that the modern setting and fantasy don’t mix well, so the whole sequence in the circus in 2016 just seemed ridiculous. It might have looked cool and clever on paper but it appeared childish and stupid on screen. I also get why some people complain that the plot was hard to follow during the 3rd act because it actually was a jumbled mess.

A few other points on the script of the feature. To begin with, the film had an awful amount of obvious exposition. The characters would just sit around listening to each other tell important points of the backstory. Half of that exposition could have been incorporated more organically. Secondly, the writing for Jacob was quite awful – he mostly stood around asking questions or reacting to stuff. He was quite a useless hero – it there will be a sequel, I want him to take charge of his situation much more. Actually, he kinda did that at the end of the film, although we didn’t see it because they just montaged through his individual travels. Thirdly, the writing for Jacob’s parents was paper-thin. They were super one dimensional – their one character trait was the fact that they don’t really care about their son. Lastly, gonna end on a positive note and praise the picture for adding a couple of interesting moments to the story: one, Peregrine shooting the hollow was a cool scene and, two, young Abraham’s call was a nice emotional detail.

Although I try my best to always allow the movie to stand on its own, this time, I’m just gonna come out and say that I liked the book’s story better. I’d love to see a sequel that is closer to the second book’s (Hollow City) plot but I doubt it’s possible since the narrative has gone into a way different direction.

Directing

Tim Burton used to be an imaginary and fantastic director but he seems to have run out of steam lately. I have even done a separate post on his filmography before Alice 2 came out earlier this year. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Tim Burton seemed like a match made in heaven between the source material and the director, however, the movie was just fine. Nothing spectacular or special. The visuals were great, I liked how the film opened with the photos and the letters – it was a nice optical callback to the photographs in the book. The CGI and the design of the monsters were cool too. The slight steampunk vibes were also appreciated. However, the decision to allow (or make) the actors overdramatize some line and scenes, the awkward and choppy editing and the pacing problems (rushing through the setup, dragging in the middle, rushing in the end) were just a few of the flaws of the flick that Burton should have fixed.

Acting

  • Eva Green (Casino Royale, Dark Shadows, 300: Rise of an Empire) as Miss Peregrine. Green is a fabulous actress and she should have been great as Peregrine but her whole performance seemed a bit off to me. She was younger than I imagined Peregrine to be in the book and she also portrayed the character more as a quirky but cool aunt, rather than strict but caring grandma. Nevertheless, she did seem more friendly and open in the movie, which I liked, though, her shaky introduction and the signature Tim Burton crazy/dead eyes weren’t great.
  • Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game, Hugo, X+Y) as JacobButterfield is one of the most promising young actors working today but his performance here was a bit stiff and low energy. The writing for Jacob was problematic and the performance didn’t save the character either.
  • Ella Purnell (Maleficient) as Emma was good. She and Butterfield did have some chemistry, although, I still think that their love story was creepy and forced. Grandad and grandchild having the same girlfriend. Really!? It is kinda a Twilight type of a coupling, just with switched genders.
  • Lauren McCrostie as Olive was good. She didn’t have much to do, but I’d like to see more of her. Since they aged up the character, they should’ve used her more.
  • Finlay MacMillan as Enoch. Enoch was one of my favorite parts of the books. He could have been such a cool sarcastic character on screen but the actor just portrayed him as super annoying, which was a disappointment.
  • Samuel L. Jackson (Kingsman, The Hateful Eight, Marvel) as Mr. Barron. Jackson is a great actor but here he was kinda a caricature. He was funny and his portrayal of the character did work for the film, but, on its own, the performance would be considered a complete parody.

In summary, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was promising but didn’t really fulfill any of the promises as much as it could have. The story started out good but fell flat in the 3rd act, the directing was disjointed and the acting – only so-so.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children trailer

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Movie PREVIEW: Alice Through The Looking Glass

Movie previews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie preview, this time for a live-action fairytale sequel – Alice Through The Looking Glass. At first, I conceived the following passages as parts of the film review but then the draft became too long, so I decided to publish it separately. So, let’s discuss Tim Burton’s previous work as well as Alice’s story in various mediums.

Burton’s filmography

Tim Burton is known for working with certain actors again and again, including Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Coen, Alan Rickman and, of course, Johnny Depp (all of these actors will also be part of Alice 2). He is also one of the most distinct filmmakers/auteurs when it comes to style (which can only be described as cartoonish yet dark, cook-y, theatrical, over-the-top and plain weird). Let’s do single sentence reviews of his previous films:

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Edward Scissorhands (1990): a sweet love story (+), that explores people’s differences and our need for home (++), and stars Anthony Michael Hall in his most annoying role (-).

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Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992): Burton’s Batman and its sequel paved the way for the modern superhero movies (+). Although both films are full of 90s cliches, they are still enjoyable and fun to watch (-/+). Their mise-en-scene and style resemble the Gotham TV series, which, most likely, was inspired by Burton’s films (+). Speaking about acting, the role of Batman helped Keaton a lot and is still positively affecting his career to this day – Birdman would not have been that successful of a film without the real life similarities between the character and the actor (+).

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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) : Halloween/Christmas classic and a musical (+), a stop-motion animation – the hardest to create but the most spectacular to watch (++). I can’t believe that it wasn’t directed by Burton, only produced by him (!).
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Planet of the Apes (2001) : I watched this movie way too young and had a lot of nightmares afterwards (same with 1997’s Mars Attacks!) (-), nowadays, it doesn’t really stand up to rewatching (-), but at least this film’s lack of success inspired a great reboot franchise (+).

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Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (2005): childhood favorite (+), has a wide appeal –  who doesn’t love sweets? (++), and one of more colorful films by Burton (+++).

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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): bloody musical – literally (+), Victorian gothic/steampunk-ish (++) and stars Jamie Campbell Bower – one of my favorite musicians/actors (+++).

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Big Eyes (2014): one of the most interesting biographical films when it comes to the subject matter (+), features amazing performances by Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz (++), and is also the most ‘normal’ film by Burton (+/-).

Alice in Wonderland: 1951 and 2010

1951’s Alice in Wonderland is a classic example of old school Disney: the movie has a simple story, runtime of a little over an hour, colorful hand-drawn graphics, catchy songs, talking animals (and plants) and tons of pure childish wonder.

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The 2010 version is way darker and much more adult. It’s also more modern in that the visuals were created with CGI. The story also received an update in a form of additional plotlines. Sadly, this did not make the movie better or more original. I can’t believe that the feature premiered 6 years ago and I also don’t understand how the Hollywood took so long to make the 2nd film, especially when the sequel’s sole purpose was/is to capitalize on the first film’s success a.k.a. the box office haul of 1 billion dollars. The only thing that I remember from the first movie is actually the theme song by Avril Lavigne. Don’t think that that’s a good thing.Alice_in_wonderland_poster_2_1_original1

Alice Through The Looking Glass

From the trailer, the movie seems fine – more of the same stuff that we saw in the first film, although the sequel seems even darker. I, once again, like the theme song from the trailer – White Rabbit by Pink. The inclusion of Sascha Baron Cohen is also an interesting choice – it reminds me of Scorsese’s Hugo. I really like Baron Cohen in theatrical roles like this one, but I can’t stand him in comedies like Bruno or Borat. Burton will only be producing Alice’s sequel, but his creative influences will definitely be felt. In September, Burton’s directorial work for 2016 – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – will premiere

Books

Back in the 19th century, Lewis Carroll published two books about Alice:  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. Although the movies share their names with the books, the motion pictures are not direct adaptations of these stories. Both films have taken bits and pieces from the two books while also adding some original material. As a child, I remember reading Carroll’s first story and I still have my edition of Alice in Wonderland.

What are your hopes for the film? Are you even going to see it? Is the market over-saturated with live-action fairytales?

Bye!