Tim Burton’s wonderfully weird mind brings us this tale of fantasy and peculiarity
Jake Portman longs to be like this grandfather and, on a trip to a Welsh island, he learns that he has more in common with him than he originally thought.Jake's grandfather, Abe, was always regaling the young man with fantastical stories of monsters and a special home where children with peculiar gifts lived. But for Jake life was far more ordinary, living in Florida and spending his holidays working in a local supermarket. As a child Jake would revel in his grandfather’s bedtime stories but as Jake got older he soon realised that they were just fantasy. That is until the death of his grandfather, when he tells Jake with his last few breathes that he must visit an island where the children’s home is located and something about the 3rd of September 1943. Clearly troubled and upset by the death of his grandfather (Terence Stamp), Jake (Asa Butterfield) is made to see a therapist.It is hoped that these sessions will help him get over his bereavement and the alarming nightmares he’s recently been experiencing. Jake’s therapist, Dr. Golan (Allison Janney), believes that he is mixing his grandfather’s stories up with reality and so she suggests a trip to Wales where this mysterious island lies. There she hopes that Jake can confront whatever it is that’s preventing him from getting over his grandfather’s death and help him separate fact from fiction. And with that Jake and his father Franklin, played well by Chris O'Dowd with a very believable American accent, make their way to Wales where Jake not only finds the answers to his many questions but discovers that perhaps he isn’t that ordinary after all.
Tim Burton is no stranger to the weird and wonderful when it comes to filmmaking, with a body of work that includes Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and Big Fish to name just a few. Now he’s taken the helm of this big screen adaptation of Ransom Rigg’s debut young adult fiction novel Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children with a screenplay by Jane Goldman. Having seen the trailers previously it isn’t something that I would normally associate with Tim Burton, but mark my words, his special charm is all over this film. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children begins with your expected set up which is a tad slow going but is a perfect contrast to the world that lays in wait for our protagonist in Wales. And it’s here that the film really takes off, giving way to all the strange Burton-esque delights you could hope for. The film is a real delight to watch, there is of course a lot of CGI but nothing that feels too forced or too heavy such as the underwater scene, which really is marvellous. The whole film is shot with such attention to detail from the costumes to the scenes where Miss Peregrine winds back time.
It’s the attention to all the small details that make this film a joy to watch
Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) runs a children’s home for those with peculiar gifts, known as peculiars, a trait we learn that is genetic and passed down through families. Green is truly wonderful in this role with black stiletto claws, an eccentric hair do and a pipe in tow, she is as beautiful as she is fierce. Of course Miss Peregrine herself is no ordinary woman, she is a Ymbryne, a peculiar with the ability to transform into a bird and with the power to create a time loop thus allowing herself and her children to live the same day over forever. The resident children are all brilliant in their roles and each has a different gift making them unique. I won’t go into details about each of their gifts as part of the enjoyment of the film is discovering what each of their gifts are and I don’t want to ruin that for anyone. Butterfield’s character does fall somewhat to the background amongst these weird and wonderful children, but that isn’t in any way a fault of his acting, and he does come into his own as the film develops. There are small roles from Dame Judie Dench and Rupert Everett which although somewhat fleeting all contribute to the story as a whole.
No fantasy tale would be complete without a certain element of threat and danger, and this is brought to us through Samuel L. Jackson’s character Barron and his cohorts. Jackson’s character isn’t exactly scary or that threatening, despite having shocking white hair and luminous white eyes, the threat comes from the Hollows; tall, lanky creatures with jagged teeth who along with Barron feed on the eyeballs of peculiars. These creatures are really terrifying, and given the 12A rating for the film I should imagine some young children might find them a bit too much.
The storyline does get a bit confusing with time travel and loops in time at the heart of it, but that shouldn't put you off seeing this film. The ending definitely felt a bit rushed and didn’t go to great lengths to fill in any gaps and a lady commented as I was leaving the cinema that it wasn’t much like the book at all, especially the ending. I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment, but overall I found Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children to be an enjoyable watch with plenty of fun escapism.
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