I have already made clear my thoughts on Tim Burton when he is great he is one of the best directors that ever lived, and even when he is off the mark he seems to at least create something interesting and as I mentioned in my Big Eyes review, he has only really made 2 complete disasters, that being his adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and Planet of the Apes. So, it’s rather worrying for fans that he is going back to adaptations this year with his latest movie which is based upon a series of novels written by Ransom Riggs that the film shares the title with. Burton has been on pretty decent form lately, I really enjoyed his last film Big Eyes, but I think that was down to the fact that it was so against type for Burton that it made us see him in a whole new light. Judging by the trailers for this film, it looked like this would be a decent middle ground of the two. Lets face it, Burton is at his best when he has the perfect balance of style and substance which made him popular. His films miss the mark when he lets that style overtake the substance, however, for this adaptation the screenplay has not been written by the books Author, but by Jane Goldman who works as a collaborator with Matthew Bourne on Kick Ass and Kingsman The Secret Service, 2 films I absolutely loved. So I was really excited to learn she was working on this film, though I haven’t actually seen any film she has worked on where she hasn’t collaborated with Matthew Bourne. Now I haven’t actually read the books that this film is based on, though judging by the trailers, I probably should have, but Dr Buchan who is the Director of Axia has read the first book in the series, so when this eventually comes out on DVD, she will be giving her thoughts on it as an adaptation. Because I haven’t read the book, I will be judging the film purely on its own merits, so if I have a complaint about something it won’t be because it was or wasn’t included in the book, or a slight change from the book, it will be purely on what I see with the film. Has this been one of Burtons successful adaptations like Batman, Big Fish and Sweeney Tod, or is this one of his lame ducks, like Alice in Wonderland or Planet of the Apes.
Miss Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is actually the story of Jake (played by Asa Butterfield) who comes home one night to discover that his grandfather Abe (played by Terence Stamp) has been killed and his eyes removed. His Therapist Dr Golan (played by Allison Janney) recommends that he follow the map left by his grandfather to his old children’s home in Wales. He travels there with his father Franklin (played by Chris O’Dowd) only to discover that the children’s home has been bombed and the eponymous Miss Peregrine is nowhere to be found, however, through some circumstances he discovers that the children and the home are kept in a time loop that only people with peculiar abilities can access. Through there he discovers the home has been kept in the permanent state of September 1943 and the home, overseen by Miss Perigrine (played by Eva Green) is the home for children with extraordinary abilities that the outside world is not familiar with. However, their peace is threatened by monsters called The Hollows led by the Barron (played by Samuel L Jackson).
The film is really aiming to be a film of rather universal appeal, which is definitely something I would agree with because I think there is a lot here for different age groups, something that I feel Tim Burton is very good at. If anyone is worried that his style has overtaken the substance of the film, thankfully, that is not the case. Burton is really an excellent choice for Director of this film because he really embraces the weird and wonderful nature of the origin story in a way that I feel other directors may have restrained on, whereas Burton goes all out with it. He absolutely embraces the mad cap nature of the story and its themes of embracing one’s peculiarities. There is a reason the film’s hashtag on twitter is ‘stay peculiar’. The film is an excellent allegory for various mental health issues and not in a way that feels so overtly prominent that they are throwing it straight in your face. The film also has a very distinctive cast of characters with all varying abilities, so as a result we can really tell the various members apart from one another, including the invisible boy, the boy with bee’s in his mouth, the girl who can make giant vegetables come out of the ground, the super strong one and the girl who has fire hands. That being said, as a result there are a lot of characters and while most films would have them fighting for screen time this film understands that they are not the main characters, they are the side characters so while they may not get too much development, they at least feel necessary to the plot and not just thrown in to make up the numbers. I did enjoy most of the characters, but not all of them. For example, one of the children is Enoch, played by Finlay MacMillan and his peculiarity is putting hearts into innate objects, which actually is an interesting concept, the problem is he is actually a rather dull character who seems to only exist to be an antagonist rather than by necessity to the plot, and even then he is not a complete antagonist and as a result, he comes off as a bit of a jerk. I would be fine with that if they kept him like that throughout the film, but he then has 180 turn in the second half that is so abrupt it feels like a switch was turned on!
It’s also rather bizarre I think, that for a film that is all about peculiar children Jake, who is our main lead can actually be rather generic when you really think about it, he is not that different to a lot of protagonists in children’s and young adult books, he is not a bad character in any stretch of the imagination in fact he serves his purpose as the lead quite well, it’s just he isn’t a character you haven’t seen before. The same goes for the main female lead Emma Bloom (played by Ella Purnell) who you have most likely seen in the trailers and on the posters as the girl in the lead shoes who floats.
I won’t give away exactly how, but let’s just say the film ‘has its cake and eats it’!!!
The other nitpick I have, which I was initially going to place into this category is the fact that there was a plot twist towards the third act of the film, which initially I thought came out of nowhere and didn’t leave enough clues to establish it, again, a good plot twist can come out of nowhere as long as there is something in there that allows repeat viewings for you to catch a little hint that the directors and writers left, fortunately, however, when I did think over it, there are a couple of hints to it, though I suspect these hints were a lot more prominent in the book. Which is something I could say about the entire film, I suspect a lot of these elements were a lot more prominent in the book, such as various character development, and various things about the world and setting, which are explained but not to absurd degrees. That being said, however, a good adaptation is not just in the films accuracy, as the Don mentioned in his review of Watchman, sometimes knowing what to cut and to change is necessary, hence why each of the Lord of the Rings films actually only really contained a third of each book, and if anyone puts anything in the comments section, I am going by that on second hand information because I haven’t actually read Lord of the Rings because I haven’t got 3 months of my life to set aside in order to read them!
This is where I feel being a reviewer is actually hindering me in giving my thoughts on the film, because in reality I’m making it sound like I am a lot harsher on the film than I really was. I did like this film. For one thing, they really nail the relationship between Jake and his grandfather, even though most of it is told in flashbacks. I am aware that a couple of characters have been cut from the film, though from what I have heard, this is to the film’s benefit because most of them don’t really serve much of a purpose. For example, Jake’s aunt is reduced to a cameo and his Uncle, who I am aware was in the book, is nowhere to be found. I also appreciated the fact that the film knew who the main characters were and who were the side characters and didn’t try to blur the line. I didn’t appreciate Jake’s father as a character since I felt that his character was slightly poor written, though not to a degree that I didn’t understand the character and from what I understand, he is like this in the book. They also don’t over play Judy Dench’s role in the film as another caretaker, Miss Avocet although having Judy Dench just a cameo should really be a crime. The film also has a tendency to have characters just exit the plot for no real reason, however, this is not to the film’s detriment since I thought the film’s pacing was pretty damn good and the film runs at just over 2 hours, plus for a film based on a book series, I am relieved that the film did not spend a ton of time sequel bating at the end. I also suspect these characters will get a lot more exploration into them in the sequels, if the film makes enough money at the Box Office to warrant it. Seriously, go and see it, I actually do want to see some sequels to this film, so please go out and see it.
Overall the plot is pretty good. Jane Goldman appears to have done a decent job adapting the book to the film and despite the fact that she is forced to carry a few elements from what I have heard, didn’t really work in the book, such as the godawful romances which really don’t work and really don’t display much chemistry between the characters, in fact one of them comes really far out of nowhere and seems to contradict things we saw earlier in the film, she does manage to adapt the film to be a decent story that I kind of liked, I just wish she had stuck the landing of the climax. Overall though, I can say I was thoroughly engaged with this film which is not something I can say for a lot of the films I saw in September and there wasn’t anything that completely ruined the film for me and I really relish seeing these characters explored further.
As for the cast, well, Asa Butterfield, who many of you will recognise playing the title role in the film Enders Game plays another decent role here. His American accent is actually quite good which is why I was initially interested that he was rumoured to be playing Spiderman at one point, that being said, I am quite glad that we got Tom Holland in the end because as we saw in Civil War, he was damn perfect for the role. Asa gives one hell of a brilliant performance once again, and that’s a great job considering he is a young actor and is happy to be on screen with a lot of giants of the industry. Eva Green also plays a very good Miss Perigrine, even though her part is written so a few of her actions probably make the situation a little bit worse than it need be, she plays the role pretty well and she plays a very nice mother figure, something that will come as a bit of a shock to anyone who saw her in Sin City 2. Samuel L Jackson really hams it up as the film’s villain, now we are not talking Jeremy Irons in Dungeons and Dragons hammy, but he is still having a ball, this is how his character should have been in The Spirit, but the less said about that godawful Frank Miller film, the better. Rupert Everett is rather good as the Ornithologist and Allison Janney does a decent job as Dr Golan. I really liked Terence Stamp as Abe who is probably in one of his best roles in years and considering his last two roles have been Burton films, I am hoping he turns up in some future projects with him. Chris O’Dowd is a rather interesting choice to play Jakes father, which again feels rather weird that the two title roles which are both American characters are being played by a British and Irish actor. While Asa Butterfield’s American accent is pretty good for most of the film, Chris’s one is rather ropey at times, though he does manage to nail if for most part, that being said, however, anyone who is used to his Irish accent from shows like Mock The Weak, will be rather take aback by it and for a while I actually thought his voice was dubbed in.
The kids are actually all pretty good, especially for young actors and it’s also a big deal considering they are having to work without knowing how they are going to look on camera since most of their peculiarities will be added as special effects later on down the line. For example, the kid with Bees in his mouth isn’t going to be able to see the Bees coming out of his mouth and there are other examples like the girl with an extra mouth in the back of her head who again is not going to know what that is going to look like until she sees it on screen. If there is one performance that I think could have been slightly better, its Finlay MacMillan as Enoch, who does a good job for the most part, but he comes off as a bit dull at times, especially thanks to his 180 turn half way through the film. Ella Purnell actually is given one of her best roles in ages in this film and actually delivers a pretty good performance. If there is one thing I had a complaint about, it’s that I’m not sure she is entirely aware of some of the effects on camera, she does, however, deliver one of her best performances in ages so I have to give credit where credit is due. I had written her off as an actress and she pulled it back for me. Overall the cast is pretty damn good, I have already mentioned Judy Dench who is basically an extended cameo, but she does a decent job, but that is because she is ‘Judy Dench’, the woman could act her way out of a rap battle in the toughest crowd.
Now time for the effects. The effects are pretty damn good. Some of the ideas are a bit lazy, like the Hollows look like they are a rip off of the Slender Man but the villains are given very devious designs and there are some good practical effects to help that out especially the blanky shot eyes and the almost untoned hair, goodness knows how long Samuel L Jackson had to spend in the make-up chair in the morning. The kids also get excellent designs and the costume department really stick to the time period well, most of the film taking place in 1943. The special effects also do a good job, bad effects would have screwed the film. The cinematography is also excellent in this film, producing some excellent result. I saw the film in 3D and its a bit of a mixed bag. The 3D is actually excellent in certain parts and I think Tim Burton knows how the shoot it, the problem is that several of the scenes take place in dark environments or at night, so as a result, the darkening effect that the glasses have, make those scenes harder to see. For that reason alone, I would recommend the 2D version. If you enjoy seeing 3D though, you will enjoy this one.
If there is one thing I can say about Miss Perigrines Home For Peculiar Children, it’s that I like it. Most of my knowledge of the book is coming from second hand information, so I really can’t judge it as an adaptation, but as it stands, it was pretty good. I had some good characters, good writing for the most part and it had some pretty good effects. It kind of fails at sticking to some of the rules it establishes and it has an ending that I didn’t feel completely worked, but as it stands, those are nit picks and I would really recommend seeing the film. I really hope it gets some sequels based on the rest of the books. This isn’t one of Tim Burton’s classics like Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman, Big Fish, Edward Scissorhands or Beetlejuice but it’s a good film nonetheless. It’s a nice film and I can really see it being a future Halloween classic.
I saw two other films this week, the Zombie movie The Girl With all the Gifts and I caught up on DVD with a film released earlier this year, Jane Austen’s Love and Friendship, based on the book, Miss Susan.
The Girl With all the Gifts: This is an example of a film that doesn’t cross the finish line. It’s adapted from a book,whose author is also the screenplay writer, but he was writing the book and the screenplay at the same time. This was going to be an excellent film that I would highly recommend for most of the first half of the film, in fact the film has some excellent ideas and excellent concepts, especially with how much we are seeing of Zombie films, however, the ending completely screwed the film. Apparently it’s the same ending as the book, but a lot of the plot points to get to that ending were left out of the film. As a result it didn’t really make a lot of sense and it left me feeling confused. The second half screws the film over. If you are a Zombie fan then you should give this one a go, I’m just not going to completely recommend it, it’s one disappointing film.
Love and Friendship: This similarly has an issue. This is a film that was drastically oversold by the critics. It’s a film where very little to nothing happens. Kate Beckinsale tries her best with it but ultimately it’s a flawed film. There is very little that happens in the film and when things do start getting going, the film ends!!! Admittedly I am not the target audience for this film, I am not a fan of period dramas, especially the Jane Austen period dramas as I think they are often stuck in a formula that is tired and old and they don’t try to do anything contemporary with it, the trailer for this film alluded they were going to to that with this film, however, it doesn’t fully commit to that. The film is not really funny, not very interesting, I would skip it.
So what were your thoughts on any of the films I have talked about this week. Leave something in the comments section and I will try to reply to as many as I can.
Now it’s time to move on and I am going to be continuing with my reviews of book adaptations because on 14 October I will be giving my review of the film adaptation of the thriller that flew off bookshelves, The Girl On The Train.
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Embrace the Peculiar.
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