Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children
(M) Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L Jackson
Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) has come to terms with living an ordinary life in Florida. If it was not for the imaginative adventures that his grandfather Abraham (Terence Stamp) told him during his childhood, he would have had little to celebrate in his life. After the mysterious death of Grandpa Abe, Jake begins to see that the world he thought was mere fairytales, does actually exist. In a coming-of-age journey with his father, Jake comes into contact with the Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and her home for children with peculiar abilities and traits. In the process, the unassuming teen realises he is linked to this special group of children and must help to protect them from the work of Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) and the terrifying Hollows.
Based on the smash-hit young adult novel from Ransom Riggs (the first in a trilogy), the grim storyline of Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children seems to be a perfect match of author and director. From director Tim Burton, who has brought Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland and Corpse Bride to the big screen, this X-men-like home for children provides a new playground for his twisted view of the world. The challenge for Burton is to manage to balance the dark side of his personality with the humour that has made his style work in the past.
The key thing to know about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is that even though ‘children’ is in the title, it is not suited for children. It contains an exceptional cast, inspiring special effects and an unusual storyline — but this film is best suited for an older audience than what it seems to be marketed at. The characters and villains do not have the lighter or humorous aspects which would make them more accessible (or less scary) to children. For parents who choose to ignore film ratings, Miss Peregrine should spark many a late night, as children experience nightmares after watching the film.
With this necessary warning aside, Burton’s adventure into Miss Peregrine’s time loop is worth experiencing. For fans of the celebrated director, this is not his best outing, but his storytelling ability still provides a magical ride for audiences. Reminiscent of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and most Roald Dahl creations, Riggs’ unique world is ideally suited for cinemas. As you can imagine, Burton’s way with special effects complements this narrative very well. On screen, Eva Green and Asa Butterfield provide the right personalities to lead this special group of children to safety. You can expect to see a multitude of Miss Peregrine movies, as the characters are a rich field of personalities and giftedness.
It is not a perfect film and the two glaring missteps are the pacing and the villain. With the vast array of personalities on screen, time is needed to develop each of the back stories which does weigh down the re-telling of this popular novel. This can be excused for the sake of the story; but the key weakness of a poorly executed villain continues one of the biggest cinema trends of 2016. From X-Men: Apocalypse to Suicide Squad or Ghostbusters, so many movies this year have had disappointing or undercooked villains. As the bad guy in Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children, Samuel L. Jackson seems to sit in the uncomfortable position of not knowing the fine line between creepy and funny.
A bit of levity would have helped to lift this adventure above the ordinary fare on offer. Although it is flawed, things do come together in the end and, dare it be said, Burton’s latest is a peculiar option for cinema-goers.
What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
Is peculiarity to be celebrated? Based on te many of the letters in the New Testament, being distinctive in nature or character from others is orchestrated by God. Not only should it be celebrated, but it should also help people within society to work together more effectively. Within the community of God, we are challenged to know our ‘peculiarities’ and how these skills work in the bigger picture of society.
Bible passages on being peculiar: Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Ephesians 4:16, Colossians 2: 18-19