Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Review
Masterpieces of imagination and visual prowess have continuously been a staple of Tim Burton’s filmmaking style. As a director, he has created inventive and fresh cinematic experiences in the forms of Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, and 1989’s Batman, and as a producer, The Nightmare Before Christmas and even more. So, it was no surprise that some genuine excitement had built around his latest feature, an adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ Young Adult novel, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. With a steadily dropping rate of success for Burton’s recent directorial endeavors, many longtime fans were skeptical of the film’s ability to reach audiences. Some of his followers were even enraged at his crossing over into a much younger territory. So, does Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children prove the naysayers wrong, or does it continue the downward spiral of a director well past his prime?
The film tells the story of a social pariah named Jake (Asa Butterfield), who has just witnessed a vicious attack on his eccentric grandfather just outside his home. After his grandpa’s deathbed prompt to find the “loop”, Jake hesitantly decides to visit the island, on which his grandfather spent many years living under the roof of the elusive Miss Peregrine. Once on the island, Jake ditches his chaperoning father in pursuit of his grandfather’s secrets, and it is only when he finds a mysterious girl that he is able to enter the loop and go back to the 1940s. Jake meets all of his grandfather’s “peculiar” friends, and he begins his fight alongside Miss Peregrine and company to stop the onslaught of the vile Barron (Samuel L. Jackson).
The plot is diabolically dense and at times it became difficult to even discern what was going on in both the present and past storylines. It also became disconcerting when at every obstacle Jake faced there seemed to be a conveniently placed escape route with no real effort exerted in the end. These conventions of convenience all stem from a poorly written screenplay by the reliably rote Jane Goldman. With her claims to fame being Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service, it was no surprise that Goldman had no legs when it came to a youthful and incredibly imaginative story. Her writing lacked all subtext and the characters never truly seemed peculiar, as the title suggests. Each person said exactly what they meant and everything worked out perfectly in the end, which left the film lacking in depth and any truly interesting moments. Likewise, it felt as though Burton had disappeared into the background of this film’s 127-minute duration. Miss Peregrine’s felt unenthusiastically directed, leaving it with no signature Burton style or any thoughtful substance.
To say that this film is purely filled with missteps would be dishonest, because it truly does have marvelously inventive visuals and some much needed imagination left over from the novel. With images of a young girl flying into the sky with nothing but a rope keeping her grounded, or the sight of a Nazi bomb stopping mid-air as time reverses, Miss Peregrine’s is able to stimulate the imagination and keep viewers engaged. The story, while convoluted throughout, does indeed have many great ideas, including time traveling and loop hunting, that were memorably different. The score, by Michael Higham and Matthew Margeson, is another positive piece of the film, and it was full of beautifully blissful moments which occasionally made the worst of scenes feel magically adventurous. Sadly, the film squanders its potential due to the exceedingly poor acting by Asa Butterfield and the bland direction and writing.
In the end, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children plummets into obscurity due to the same tropes and monotony that Burton’s Dark Shadows fell victim to in 2012. The film, while imaginative and peculiar at first glance, shows its tedious nature far too often and unfortunately becomes immediately forgettable. With yet another disappointment in his repertoire of films, Tim Burton has steadily become one of the least exciting names to see on the screen. As Beetlejuice 2 looms on the horizon, Burton will eventually complete the task of tarnishing his name through a painstakingly continued compliance towards mediocrity.