Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Eva Green, Samuel L Jackson, Asa Butterfield
Running Time: 3hr 26m
As an avid Tim Burton fan, having grown up in the age of Big Fish, Corpse Bride, and the romantic legacy of Edward Scissorhands, I approached Burton’s latest release with excitement. I carried with me a fervid yearning to observe though in an intrinsically different story and narrative, the curious and, for lack of a better word, peculiar characteristics that so consistently dominate Burton’s work.
In this adaption of the popular 2011 bestseller by Ransom Riggs, Tim Burton creates an aesthetic that most certainly resonates with a familiar realm, an engaging visual conflict between the lugubrious and the magical. Burton’s imaginative yet dark charm is thoroughly reflected through the film’s surreal, colourful, and eerie tone, which truly engages the audience. We follow the character of Jake (Asa Butterfield) who discovers the mystical world of ‘peculiarities’ through his grandfather’s old stories and letters. During this journey, Jake encounters a group of children with various peculiar abilities: invisibility, controlling air, extreme strength, and exhaling bees. Soon after meeting these children, Jake finds himself involved in the fight against a dark and sinister plot that wishes to obliterate the world of peculiarities.
Aided by a chilling score, curious costumes, and a melancholic tone, Burton excels in claiming Riggs’ story as his own. Moreover, Burton’s choice of visual effects is, as ever, one of the most captivatingly dark sources of the film – particularly with regard to the monstrous and freakish creatures named Hollows, which are somewhat reminiscent of the Ood in Doctor Who. Though the aesthetic of the film constitutes one of its most distinctive features, its most striking element is Eva Green’s portrayal of the kind, yet sharp and protective Ladyhawke-esque character Miss Peregrine. Through her subtle yet sinister bird-like nuances, Green’s half-bird half-woman character is completely captivating and certainly dominates the story.
That said, although the film excels in aesthetic and visual effects, it lacks consistency in its approach to suspense. During the latter half of the film in particular, the strength of the narrative is lost, the pace regressed in favour of developing more detailed threads of action and visual effects. Moreover, one must draw attention to the lack of diversity amongst the cast; which is ominously ironic for a film that passionately aims to promote the ideal that everyone should accept themselves for who they are and “embrace their peculiarity”.
Overall, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a thrilling film. It offers a charming yet other-worldly cinematic experience for children and adults alike. Whilst it may not be Tim Burton’s best work, the film represents all that is Burton, without losing the childish essence of Ransom Riggs’ popular teenage fiction.