When talking about the fantasy genre in movies, the first thing that comes to my mind is probably the quality of the special effects. If the special effects in a movie aren’t good enough, then, no matter if the plot or acting are masterpieces, I wouldn’t call that a good movie. Today, there is this trend in which every bestseller has to be turned into a movie. But with fantasy books, things are more delicate, because there are usually fantastical worlds and characters that are very easy described in words, but hardly portrayed correctly in movies. From my experience with such films, which is quite extensive, I found a pattern: the directors rely on the fact that the fans of the books will be drawn to watch the movies too, so they don’t put too much effort and money into these movies, and they create bad movies, just for the sake of being done.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a New York Times Bestseller, has been on my to-be-read list for a long time now, I’ve heard so many good things about it and I’ve been spoiled so many times about it, that I could say I actually read the book. I have a very good opinion about it, so when I’ve heard that a movie will be made after this book, even though directed by Tim Burton, my first thought was ‘Please, don’t let this be another good book turned into a bad movie’. This is why I walked into the cinema a bit uncertain of what to expect, but I was more and more relieved as the film unfolded and by the end of it, I was eager to go back home and start writing the review on it.
So, what is it about? Let’s see! We have this boy who discovers he has a special ability and is introduced to a whole new magical world. We have many children with special abilities like his. There’s a special place where these children are gathered. Of course, we have the bad guys who want to harm these children, but mostly they have a keen interest in harming the boy mentioned above. And let’s not forget about the mentor, the one the boy can trust and the one who teaches him about this new world. It sounds pretty familiar, don’t you think? A lot like mostly every other fantasy story nowadays. Just give the characters new names and use new words to name their powers and you have created a new story! For instance, let’s name the boy Jake, Miss Peregrine could be the name of the mentor and let’s call the special abilities ‘peculiarities’. There! A new story! I bet this is going to be a box-office movie! Now, I know it sounds a lot like I’m dissing this movie, but allow me to explain. I don’t have a problem with this movie in particular. My problem is that fantasy genre in general has been lacking originality lately. Other than that, I think this story has a few particularities – ‘peculiarities’, to cite the movie and book – that make it pretty interesting and worth watching.
I think the actors were chosen very well for each character, especially Eva Green as Miss Peregrine, but I will come back to that in a second. Overall, the acting was smooth and nice, although, at the beginning, I think there was something wrong with Asa Butterfield, who plays Jack, the main character. I can’t really put the finger on it, but in a few scenes, he looked like he didn’t know what to do with his hands, like he was not comfortable acting, like he wasn’t completely immersed in the character’s skin. I wanted to mention this because I found it annoying, even though it happened only in a few scenes. The characters were really interesting, and I think this movie sends a clear message that everyone is special in their own way. In my opinion, that was clearly seen at the end, when particular situations emphasise children’s peculiarities. Coming back to Miss Peregrine, I have to say that this character was the cherry on top of the cake for this movie. I loved every inch of it: from the outside look – nails, hair, makeup and clothes to her way of talking, her twitches, her confidence and her grace. I couldn’t have thought about a better actress to play this character. Her acting was impeccable.
Now, in terms of visual effects, if you’ve seen other works of Burton and you enjoyed them, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. His signature use of bright colours, contrasts, darkness and shadows weren’t missed in this movie. And, boy, how perfectly and harmoniously combined they were. I was completely captivated by this world. The contrast between the pale skin of Miss Peregrine and her dark blue clothes and hair, the lights so perfectly positioned on characters’ faces whenever there was a dark scene, the shadows and the mist in every dark place, the bright colours from the garden in the daylight. Ah, totally gripping! Seriously, if you’re not usually into fantasy stuff, at least watch the movie for the visual effects, Burton did a great job with them. I was quite pleased with the special effects as well. Everything seemed pretty natural. However, I wasn’t very pleased with the aspect of the monsters – the Hollows. Long legs, arms and body (long everything – no pun intended), no features of the face, dressed in elegant ripped clothes. By the way, this is not a spoiler, you can see a Hollow in one of the trailers. And if you haven’t figured out yet what I’m trying to say, I’ll say it for you: the Hollows looked like a version of Slender Man. I won’t explain who that guy is for those who don’t know, because this is not the point. My point is that the Hollows were not original creations. I don’t know how they are described in the books, but the movie didn’t bring anything new to the ‘monsters’ section, to call it this way. Also, I’m getting bored of these American created monsters with multiple sharp tongues. They’re everywhere these days. But then again, at least, the ones from this movie looked natural.
As I said earlier in the article, the story that the movie follows is no innovation. The plot was predictable most of the time, even for those who hadn’t read the book, like myself. For instance, I could tell who was going to be Jake’s love interest from the first time I saw her. What am I saying? I could tell that from the first seconds of the trailer. As I see things, this predictability usually comes in the same package with clichés, so, yes, there were quite a few clichés in this movie as well. What I liked was that the story had a nice flow and it was fast-paced. I think that went very well in combination with the visual effects. Although, at the beginning of the movie, there were a few scenes that I think were too fast-paced, and I think it was because they tried to fit a lot of information in only a few minutes, which, in my opinion, is never a good thing.
There’s one aspect that I found very interesting in this movie and that is time and how important it is. These ‘peculiars’ are protected by time-loops. I don’t want to say too much about this because I don’t want to spoil you, but as soon as we learn about these loops, the movie is sprinkled with a few beautiful key scenes that emphasise how vital every second is. And yet, I think Miss Peregrine is the best token to represent time in this movie. From her ability to the way she knows the exact time without looking at a watch. I don’t know about you, but I find this very fine and I appreciate the attention to detail.
The last thing I’m going to talk about is the end of the movie. From the information that I gathered about the book, I can say there is a slight difference between the two endings. Comparing them, I think the book has a more abrupt end than the movie. And I think that having an abrupt ending is very important if you want to continue the series. Therefore, I wasn’t too pleased about the end of the movie. I don’t know if Burton has a plan to continue with this series, but if a second movie was released now, I wouldn’t watch it because I desperately want to know what happens next with the characters. No, I’d watch it because I want to see more of this world and maybe because I feel the responsibility to watch the second movie in a series.
That being said, let’s summarise what we’ve discussed here. The movie has a weak plot, it’s predictable and lacks originality. On the other hand, it’s directed by Tim Burton, which automatically means nice visual effects, it has interesting characters, good acting and Eva Green stars as Miss Peregrine (well, I know the last one is not that relevant, but I think you can tell by now that I’m a bit obsessed with her character, therefore I felt the need to mention her for the fourth time). So we have a list of strengths and weaknesses and I guess whether you’d like the movie or not depends on what you think is more important from this list. Obviously, I can’t promise you’ll love this movie, but if you think your opinions coincide with mine, then you might enjoy the movie as I did. If I were to rate it on IMDB, I’d give it 8 and a half stars, although I see the average is 7.1/10. I hope this review was helpful and if you decide you want to watch the movie because of this article, all I can say is: grab some popcorn, sit back, relax and be prepared to be transported to the Peculiar World of Burton’s.