It has been almost two years since Tim Burton’s film ‘Big Eyes’ was in theatres. His latest directing work has been screening now worldwide for some weeks and tells a story, that I know will resonate with a lot of us.
#StayPeculiar: Tim Burton’s new movie appeals to the outcast in all of us.
Although Miss Peregrine’s is kind of a family drama, it certainly is not for the very faint of heart, including little children – the boy sitting behind me and whispering “Daddy, who is that?” must have had some nightmares. Of course, this is no horror movie, but a level of discerning intellect is required in order to understand and appreciate the plot fully. For the story starts in present day Florida, but is entangled with incidents from World War II.
The film adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ debut novel of the same name follows the protagonist, Jake, to a happy place, where everybody who feels different – or peculiar, as they put it – can live happily, fitting in among other peculiar humans and playing a specific role in the community. This place, which gives the movie its title, is threatened however by other peculiar beings turned monsters by the greed of seeking immortality.
Although the story of the outcast hero is not uncommon in pop culture, the promotion of the film took a very modern and digital turn by introducing the hashtag #StayPeculiar. Coming from darkly gifted Tim Burton it is very relatable and moving to encourage viewers to embrace their “otherness”.
Spoiler alert: there are monsters but also a happy ending.
There might be some spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned.
Terence Stamp is Abe, grandfather to our protagonist Jake (played by Asa Butterfield), who has been telling him fantastic stories about children with special abilities since Jake was a kid. But Abe dies in the beginning of the movie, before he could tell Jake his role in those stories. The teenage protagonist sets out to find the truth about those stories, with the first obstacle being his parents’ skepticism. They rationalise that Abe’s account of fighting monsters only represents his participation in WWII, implying Abe’s monsters were the nazis he fought against. This is a metaphor that could be explored further, but comes a bit short in this mainstream movie adaptation – obviously. The discovery, that the “fantastic” tellings of the grandfather are actually real also happens quickly and without much surprise for Jake.
As with any adventure film, the narrative unfolds giving space to the introduction of each character with special abilities, in this case the peculiar children, the foreseeable scene where the viewer but no characters recognise the villain gaining ground and then the typically brutal but bloodless battle. The latter takes place on a pier between invisible monsters, dumb villains that get run over by the tram and the peculiar children, who are able to manipulate fake skeletons and other fair attractions into fighting for them in a hilarious manner. Director Tim Burton makes a short appearance in this scene, in case you missed it!
The spectacular visuals and 3D-effects throughout the film – but especially in the action scenes – win the viewer over, in spite of a somewhat lacking script that doesn’t clear up or at least further deal with the topics mentioned before nor with Jake’s own “otherness”, his ordeal not to fitting into his family and school-environment. Maybe it’s only the German dubbing but I also missed some more background on why Abe was sent to this children’s home, all the way in Wales. I would also like to know a little more about the whole time manipulation, which is a very important theory for the narrative and the essence of Eva Green‘s character Miss Peregrine.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is light on the burton-style, aimed for more mainstream audiences – much like 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. As a fan of Burton’s darker movies, I enjoyed the lightness of the monsters and the spookier children’s abilities with an evil smirk. The happy ending that arises out of a change in the past and its consequences, like the reversal of Abe’s death, was a little bit confusing but naturally heroic. And when exactly did Jake fall in love so hard, that he had to travel the world through time and space in order to reunite with his grandpa’s ex….?! Anyway that’s the love story that plays out.
Whoah, this was a long movie review.
I know, right? And I will probably have much more to say about this film, as soon as I have gotten it on blu-ray and watched it 3 more times. Maybe I’ll understand it better then, so ask me again in a year, ok?
Something I cannot leave unsaid is: how amazing is it that Ransom Riggs’ debut novel was turned into a Burton-movie?! That’s hell of an achievement by age 37… And on a side note, there’s an interesting goodreads-review of the book version that compares Miss Peregrine’s to X-men. Now I got you thinking, huh?
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)
Production: Twentieth Century Fox, Scope Pictures, TSG Entertainment, among others.
Directed by: Tim Burton.
Written by: Jane Goldman, based on the novel by Ransom Riggs.
Have you watched it yet? Did you like it? Share this review, leave us a comment and #StayPeculiar!