REVIEW – My ‘Peculiar’ experience with Tim Burton’s new film

As someone who is viewing the film without knowing much about the books? Sure, it’s not bad…but as a reader…I’m not a fan.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a fantastic series of books (to date, there are three), and I highly recommend you check them out if you’re into the quirky, Gothic, slightly dark sort of stories. Author Ransom Riggs has been on fire with his work, which has sold millions of copies, and been translated into 40 languages. So, it was no surprise when I heard it was going to be picked up for the big screen. I think what really drew me to the book was how different it was: Riggs presents his story with a number of unique photos, that help the story along.

And now the film is out – starring Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Dame Judi Dench and Asa Butterfield. Directed by Tim Burton, Peregrine delves into the story of Jacob Portman, who, after a tough loss, tries to figure out if he’s losing his mind; if he has any purpose. He finds out he has a family link to a place where peculiar children live: think strong children, women who turn into birds – even a child with an extra mouth at the back of her head. Portman visits this place, to not only learn more about them, but himself.

I’ve read the books, and I’m a big fan. What I didn’t appreciate here was the “all-over-the-place” approach the back half of the film took. As someone who has read the books, I’m not impressed with some of the liberties taken. There are some things that did not happen in this first book, which felt like a throw-away move on the part of Burton and company. This is such a shame, because the first half of the film is not bad; they did follow the book, and some of the storytelling is quite good. There are some cases in which certain scenes are drawn out, but Burton misses the mark in capturing the same moody, mysterious darkness Riggs managed to convey so well in the books. To be frank: this visual telling does not do Riggs’s imagination justice.

There are some visual treats; the colours, some of the moments the children have (I really liked most of the projection scene; I thought that was fun), but Burton doesn’t offer anything refreshing to the experience. It was bright, and, in some cases, snappy, but it wasn’t the same sort of fresh look we saw in Alice in Wonderland. As for the story, it can also be a little tough to follow if you haven’t read the books, but most are eventually able to piece together what the story is all about. Oh – and this film is WAY TOO LONG.

I’m not saying to skip it – granted, this is one of the better movies I’ve seen in the last few months, and is probably one of the more mediocre offerings until we get into the real Fall run – but I am cautioning you: if you are someone who loves this franchise, expect to feel the same way a number of A Series of Unfortunate Events fans did when the 2004 film came out: as was the case here, there were too many bits and pieces from the entire series, pushed into content from three books. It doesn’t translate well, it’s sloppy, and makes for an irritating film experience.

Based on my experience with the books – but, being offset by the decent visual presentation, I’m going to give it a solid 2.5 Peculiar children out of 5.
(Hey man, they’re Peculiar children – half a child works, in this case!)

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