Director: Tim Burton
There is one thing you can guarantee with a Tim Burton movie. Eccentricity. Actually, there are a lot more things you can guarantee, darkness, imagination, creation, interesting characters. Most importantly you are almost always guaranteed entertainment. The debut novel from American author, Ransom Riggs, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” was right up his street. As much as the story suited the director, the director suited the story and the novel was blown open in a vivid portrayal of pure peculiarity, a perfect match for Burton.
Jake, is a young boy who for years has listened to the fantasy stories his grandfather Abe used to tell him. The stories were of a younger Abe that stayed at a children’s home in Wales during the Second World War run by a teacher called Miss Peregrine. The children who stay at the house are outcasts who all have supernatural abilities. When Jake turns 16, Abe starts suffering from dementia and the stories he keeps reciting soon become confused with the addled state of his mind. During one difficult phone call, Jake heads over to his Grandfather’s house. When he gets there he is nowhere to be seen and the house has been ransacked. Jake later finds his Grandfather in the trees surrounding his house with his eyes missing. He also sees figures in the shadows of those his Grandfather spoke of and then, with the last of his breath, he utters a warning to Jake.
Jake struggles to come to terms with the loss of his Grandfather and the relationship between his parents and him do not help the situation. Fuelled by the revelations, Jake is determined to head to Cairnholm in Wales to track down the whereabouts of the children’s home. Joined by his father, the pair travel to the remote part of the country and stay in the only hotel on the island. Jake tracks down the home, but discovers it was destroyed by German bombs during the war. His persistence gets the better of him and he meets some of the “peculiars” sent by Miss Peregrine who saw the pair travelling on a boat whilst in her bird form. They take him through a cave which is one of many “loops” situated in various situations. “Loops” are like holes where time can be manipulated. They are transported back to 1943, a time when the house was at its fullest, most radiant glory.
Jake meets the residents of the home. A girl who can create fire, a boy with bees in his mouth, a girl lighter than air who has to wear special lead shoes, a boy who is invisible and a girl with the strength of ten men, to name but a few. He also learns that their fates are not safe as they are hunted down by Mr. Barron, leader of a group called the “Wights”. Only a handful of them survived an experiment that turned them into huge monsters known as “Hollows” who feed of the eyes of children. These monsters can be seen by nobody, except Jake. Still, the Wights hunt the children down and vow to destroy the world.
The plot is very bulky and full of enticing information. It can also be tricky to understand, but the enjoyment of the movie will hold your attention, thus aiding you in understanding the story. The attraction of the movie from a British point of view was the revelation that some of the scenes would be filmed at Blackpool Tower (as they do in the book), soon social media was awash with images, particularly those of actor Samuel L. Jackson who often photographed himself in Blackpool and its surrounding locations.
Eva Green portrays the role of Miss Peregrine perfectly, with a mysterious air surrounding her and majestic prowess. Asa Butterfield (he of “The Boy in the Stripe Pajamas” fame) played Jake and played it well in a commanding lead role. Terence Stamp played Jake’s Grandfather, Abe and gave the role much mystery in his performance. The strength of the performance captivated in Stamp’s eyes that evoke such vivid beauty in his performance. You can still hear the echoes of his infamous “Come and kneel before Zod!” line as delivered in Superman 2. Samuel L. Jackson was the Mr. Barron complete with sharp teeth, white hair and eyes. An eerie, often terrifying role that often bordered on being a bit too “hammy” as much as I dislike casting any detriment toward him as I believe he is a fine actor.
The intrigue of the characters and the often dark spells of the movie add to the overall appeal. The imagination of Ransom Riggs combined with the imagination and creation of Tim Burton make this movie work. There are no end to the possibilities that have been dreamt up and that made every scene refreshing. It also added elements of suspense and uncertainty which gives the horror aspect of the fantasy story.