Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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A stunning film. Absolutely belongs on everyone's movie bucket list.
Tim Burton's interpretation of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children manages to express the beauty and wonder of the books while also highlighting the macabre in a way the books were unable to capture. Unfortunately the spots of poor humour and unlikeability of several characters left something to be desired.
(This review will spoil several important plot points in both the books and movies.)
In Tim Burton's interpretation of Ransom Riggs' series it's unclear whether he was going for a kid's funny fantasy adventure or a young adult's dark, yet beautiful coming of age. The addition of Enoch's living puppets fighting to the death and gruesome revival of one of the children is definitely not a child friendly set up. Several lines, including a poorly delivered one about bad breath, seem to be a desperate attempt at a lighter mood.
The end of the movie completely deviates from the original plot of the first novel. It's unclear whether Tim Burton wants to continue with the series as he's wrapped it up rather well with the defeat of the villains and safe return of all the Ymbryne. There doesn't seem to be any coming back to the original plot from this tidy ending.
Burton did surprisingly well with his alternate ending if you don't mind a bit of change. A final battle ensues with skeletons fighting giant creatures and the children each utilizing their own powers. For those who haven't read or can't remember the original books, it might seem this was this original end to the series.
In typical Tim Burton fashion, no expense is spared on famous actors, well-thought sets, or visual effects. In a behind the scenes interview with one of the crew it's revealed how much time Burton wanted to put into the house that the children live in; this time spent is clear in the movie. With hedges that were obviously grown and trimmed on set and fully grown vegetable gardens, as well as an entire addition of a conservatory to the house they spent month finding, it'd be hard to imagine the house from the novel looking any more extravagant than it did in the movie.
The dialogue feels realistic with the exception of a few lines. The interactions between the children never feel forced and it's obvious Burton wasn't relying on this being a period piece by forcing with language that would have been hard for younger modern actors/actresses. The flow of the movie was unpretentious and charming. None of protagonists stood out as saying something that seemed unlikely for their characters.
The movie boasts Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Judi Dench, Samuel Jackson and many more famous faces. Eva Green plays a similar character to her other acting jobs including Vanessa in Penny Dreadful and Angelique in Dark Shadows. Her acting is a mix of brooding and mysterious sophistication, adding her own layer to the character of motherly Miss Peregrine. Unfortunately this character came off a bit harsher than in the novels, possibly due more to Burton's directing, as she scolds the children for almost everything and can't seem to decide what she wants from Jake.
Asa Butterfield plays the typical suburban children well, starting with a few poorly delivered lines and developing into a character that works for the role of Jake. Jake really doesn't have much depth to him, something that comes later in the novels and not at all in the movie. This lack of development is so much so that when he finally accepts himself at the end of the movie I felt a noticeable lack of empathy. The idea that he couldn't accept the world he was thrust into and powers he now has was only slightly more well developed in the first novel.
This too is true of all of the young actors of the movie. Where the books give us depth to the despair of these children stuck in time for decades as young as they are and desperate to escape their reality, the movie gave mere hints at this. The true pain of these children to hear about the world that has moved on without them is given to the viewer once. There is in a scene where Eva Green shines more as the harsh Miss Peregrine desperate to protect the children from the truth of what they've lost, then the children do in their roles as lost souls trapped in time.
As the villain of the movie Samuel L. Jackson played the least threatening part of this eerie movie, mostly being the source of the forced humor. Between his uninspired one liners and entirely boring capture of Miss Peregrine, I was honestly more scared of the child Enoch then I was of him. The novel provided a ruthless and desperate man, willing to do anything he could for the hollowgasts he served. Tim Burton's direction of Barron's character had him dressed in terrifying makeup as he delivered lines that didn't once make me laugh. I honestly couldn't tell if it was Jackson's delivery of the lines or the lines themselves that weren't funny.
For all of my problems with the characters, I didn't find any of them truly off putting. The character of Miss Peregrine was harsh, but played by an actress as full of hidden depth and a raspy voice as Eva Green I didn't find her character absurdly harsh. The character of Olive was switched with that of Emma from the novels and made into a pinning young girl. Still, Olive's character protected her friends in the end and gave a glimpse of personality. It's hard to understand how creepy Enoch is in the novel, but the way that actor Finlay MacMillan portrayed him in the movie was volatile, cynical, and still with a sweet side when it came down to caring for the other children.
Emma, the swap for Olive's character from the book, was played by a less-known actress named Ella Purnell. Like the rest of the children Emma is sullen and underdeveloped, but Ella manages to add an inexplicable charm to her character. The romance between Jake and Emma had the problem of seemingly random teen hormones similar to book, but I still managed to feel excited when Jake catches up to Emma at the end of the movie. There is a certain youthful optimism to their relationship.
Overall the movie was a gorgeous adventure and decent portrayal of the book Ransom Riggs wrote. The movie is considerably emptier in character development and depth then that is in the novel, but brings to life the images a reader may have had difficulty conjuring. If you can get past the bad jokes and deviated storyline, the movie is a satisfying visual portrayal of the novel with fantastic scenery.