By Nick Erickson, Staff writer
Devoted fans of author Ransom Riggs’ popular young-adult novel “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” might be hard to sway at first. Yet, from an aesthetic and acting standpoint, the new film portraying the book is phenomenal and will grasp the attention of all audiences.
Directed by the legendary Tim Burton, fans would’ve already guessed that this film would have a certain charm to its cinematic elements. Anyone who is familiar with Burton’s previous endeavors, from 1993’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas” to 2012’s “Dark Shadows,” knows that there is a distinctive, darker-than-most style to his art. Woven within the plot and narrative of the movie is Burton’s signature twist of melancholy and shiver-inducing tension.
The film follows the story of a teenage boy, Jake (Asa Butterfield), who, after his grandfather (Terence Stamp) mysteriously dies, travels through a time loop to an island off the coast of Wales to investigate his grandfather’s past at the titular home for children, led by the warm Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). Jake learns that one of the children there, Victor Buntley (Louis Davison) lived at the home until he was killed by “Hollow,” one of several Peculiars who were transformed into vicious, invisible monsters trying to become immortal. Led by the milky-eyed shapeshifter Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), the Hollows have been hunting other Peculiars, consuming their eyeballs (a trait in which Burton depicts well). Jake discovers that he is a Peculiar and one of the few people who can see Hollows, much like his late grandfather. Jake promises that he will protect the children from the dementor-esque creatures, in an arguably generic, yet enticing battle between the forces of good and evil.
The plot may appear rehashed, and strikingly similar to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters from the “X-Men” series. On should not let this deter them though; there is plenty of substance within this film. Looking past the supernatural elements, it’s clear to see at its heart, “Miss Peregrine’s” is a coming-of-age story of sorts. Jack comes from a reserved life in a Florida suburb, and dreaming of being an explorer, he truly gets the adventure of a lifetime. Behind the countless CGI effects, the common theme is the bittersweetness of growing older, attributed to the time travel within the film, although this can be confusing to follow at times if one is not paying close attention.
A kid’s movie at its core, there is one thing that separates this film from being completely G-rated: the aforementioned incorporation of an eyeball-eating antagonist. It’s surely grotesque enough to appeal to fans of horror flicks, yet not enough to deter adolescents and their parents. On top of all of this, there’s a fight scene involving animated skeletons battling an army of giants at a boardwalk amusement park, and it’s downright humorous.
The development of the main characters is strong within this film. Jake serves as a solid protagonist, although monotonous at times. There’s the “love interest” Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell), who would float away without her lead boots. There’s Miss Peregrine, who is inviting, yet strict and Jackson’s portrayal of Mr. Barron is both chilling and sincere.
However, there are all the other children in the house. All possessing their own abilities, from creating air bubbles underwater to having a beehive for a stomach. Besides their quirky, sometimes unsettling gifts, the film does not involve these characters as much, which perhaps is to prevent even more confusion among the cluster of things being introduced and going on.
With so much going on, this story is one that gets busy. One may forget whether the scene in front of them takes place in 1943 or present day. Regardless, Burton captures the essence of the original novel, used his natural touch to embellish the tone of the film, being a conglomerate of eerie, funny and heartwarming. From the adorable, innocent children to the gruesomeness of the Hollows, there is enough to be found within the 127-minute runtime to keep even the lowest of attention spans. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” lives up to be as peculiar as what it’s about and is one of the most colorful films Burton has put out in years.