By Jack Dignan
Tim Burton is an immensely fascinating director, and as someone who grew up as a massive fan of his work, I have a lot of respect for him. He will always be one of the first directors that I truly loved, but as time went by, we went our separate ways. We did keep in touch, though, and like always, it was through film. His latest directorial effort, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, is an adaptation of the popular novel by Ransom Riggs. As many pointed out after watching the trailer, and as many others have stated since, this film is essentially Tim Burton's X-Men, and given that this is the man who brought us two excellent Batman movies way back when, surely that's a good thing, right?
We follow the story of Jake (Asa Butterfield), a teenager who grew up hearing tales about his grandpa's (Terence Stamp) childhood at a children's home, which was run by the wonderful Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). At his home, he lived with a bunch of other kids, all of whom have abilities and powers of their own. When Abe, Jake's grandpa, dies, Jake is sent into a depressed and emotional state, constantly at therapy, and to help cope with his loss, he goes on a trip with his dad (Chris O'Dowd) to the island where Abe grew up, and it's here that Jake discovers the children's home, and with this discovery comes an adventure of his own.
As is usually the case with all of Burton's films, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is a visually robust, styled and gothic film that's probably a little too dark to take your whole family to, but the teens and young adults of the world will love it. With plenty of action, adventure and mystery to be found, and even a touch of the supernatural, it's an imperfect, but entertaining night out at the movies. As it continued to go on, and more and more was spilled to us, I found my enjoyment levels gradually increasing, and by the time it was over, I just had a really good time with this movie.
The real winner here is Eva Green, who previously worked with Burton in the strange, but somewhat enjoyable Dark Shadows back in 2012, and she's even better here. Ever since her appearance in Casino Royale, in which she gave what I might even consider my favourite performance of hers yet, I've been a fan, and time after time she manages to knock it out of the park. The films she's in rarely seem to be perfect, but her performances are always great, and the same goes for this movie. She's clearly having fun with the role, as it is an extravagant and out of the world character, and she couldn't have been more fitting for it.
Working alongside Green (and in some cases in front of her, as she isn't really the main character in this story), is a star studded lineup. Asa Butterfield is a tremendous young actor, proving that in films such as Hugo and The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas. Here, he's been better. I wouldn't consider what he did to be bad in any way, but his performance was a bit stale from time to time, and his co-stars, including the likes of Ella Purnell and Chris O'Dowd, came across as a bit more charismatic in their roles. As for the villain, played by Samuel L. Jackson, he's so exaggerated to the point of brilliance, and like with every character he's played, I loved watching him on screen.
Clocking in at two hours and seven minutes, however, proved to be quite the chore. I haven't read the book, I have no prior connection to these characters or this world, and as a first time viewer, there simply did not need to be as much exposition as there was. It takes well over an hour for the plot to set in motion, and nothing much really happens until the third act, really. Every aspect of the story was being told in great detail, yet none of it was adding to anything. I already knew all I needed to know from the initial introductions. I didn't need to be spoon fed every single little tiny detail, yet spoon fed I was.
When the ball does get rolling, the film steps up a notch. It goes from an okay film to a pretty good film, and seeing everyone come together and use their abilities was well worth the build up... sort of... I mean, it's fun, humorous and action packed, but everybody just shows up to do pretty much one thing and one thing only, all before leaving and letting the others do the work, and I just want to say, there's a brawl at a carnival that has the strangest, most out of place music choice ever. Still, this was a rather fun universe to enter into, even if it is 96% exposition.
To sum up, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a lengthy, exposition-heavy and not so friendly family movie, and while it has a ton of flaws, and I will be honest, I wasn't digging it for the first 20 minutes, but it did manage to step things up a notch, resulting in a fun and exciting adventure.