Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Going into the cinema I was worried. I had built this movie up in my mind and was concerned it might not live up to my expectations. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Tim Burton is a master. I put him in the same category as Kenneth Branagh. Two directors who hold a tremendously high position in my eyes in the sphere of storytelling.
We are first introduced to Jake (Asa Butterfield) a young boy who like many leads a very ordinary life. What I particularly liked, was his relationship with his Grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) and the way we were introduced to him. It was quite a shocking and effective way to start. Especially when it comes to establishing the plot for us to follow along on the journey. Jake is a witness to something extraordinary, but is then made to believe what he saw was something he imagined. A creature he once had heard all about in his grandfathers tales. Led to believe his grandfather came up with the story of Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and her school for children with talent, we learn through Jake’s eyes (in this case his memories) the backstory behind what Abe went through as a child. This is achieved through the sense of adventure, through storytelling and pictures.
Jake’s therapist Dr. Golan (Allison Janney) comes to the conclusion that Jake should travel to the home’s location to find some closure. I loved the sequence where he and his father Franklin (Chris O’Dowd) travel by ferry to Wales. Franklin, who is somewhat of an expert when it comes to birds, spots a Peregrine falcon flying above them, and Jake jokingly makes a connection to the bird and Miss Peregrine. What I also like about this is again the imagery, the deck of the ferry is empty, as is the sea, as is the sky. There were parts that reminded me of the imagery from A Series of Unfortunate Events, this was one of them. As time passes on the island, Jake finally comes across some of the peculiar children, where he runs away shocked and ends up concussing himself. It was at this point I was worried, “oh what if the rest of the film is a dream? And we get to the end and he just wakes up?” not the case.
The next scene we see him being carried by Bronwyn (Pixie Davies), I loved the way this was filmed. Initially from his point of view, and then a pan from the shoes, where we discover a young girl is carrying him. We learn all about ‘The Loop’. A perfect day in time that repeats everyday, so as to protect the children. This can only be reset by a certain type of peculiarity, an Ymbryne. We learn there are several loops around the world. This particular loop, set in 1940, is reset by Miss Peregrine moments before a bomb is about to fall on the home. The visuals and special effects created by Burton here were a lovely addition to the somewhat tame setting.
Another part that I absolutely adored was the underwater sequence. It was so magical and so creatively done. First making their way towards a certain point on the water, and then Emma (Ella Parnell) floating downwards towards the wreckage with Jake. Then travelling within the wreckage and the sequence inside where she manipulates the wind to create an air pocket. It was incredible. I was thinking, this is what will inspire the future generation of film makers, to achieve amazing feats of movie magic. It also comes down to the chemistry between the actors and the relationships that are both established and created. Miss Peregrine at times, her relationships seemed too structured. There are moments where you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking, is she really doing what’s best for the children? Or is she keeping things so particular so there’s structure in their lives, especially when danger lurks just around the corner. In the end, I came to the conclusion that she just likes to run a tight ship, and we have to remember she does hold a level of authority over the children as she is ultimately their protector. I also have to discuss the costuming. Particularly the outfits within The Loop. The costumes were so classic and neutral, in a beautiful way. The tailoring, particularly on the ladies clothing was superb. I wanted a lot of those jackets and dresses.
What I also liked, was the fact we didn’t dwell on the introduction of each of the Peculiar children. Emma, whose peculiarity is she can manipulate the wind and isn’t inhibited by gravity, was the character that interacted with Jake the most. She helped fill in the blanks when it came to the past and how it impacts their present. As well as to create a link between the other characters and Jake’s own development as a Peculiar and potential protector. Enoch (Finlay MacMillan) who can bring objects to life or rather, reanimate them, and Olive (Lauren McCrostie) whose hands create fire, are part of the older side of children. If you’re wanting your teen angst or romantic love triangles, look no further, there’s even that element in the film. As we know Bronwyn’s peculiarity is strength. It was just so brilliant seeing this little girl push people out of the way to move couches, and open sealed doors more often than not, by herself.
We also learn of her brother Victor (Louis Davison), who has the very same ability as his sister. Victor is involved in perhaps one of the creepier scenes in the film, but provides us with the most information when it comes to dealing with Mr. Barron’s crew. Fiona (Georgia Pemberton) can manipulate flora, and her ability truly comes in handy both in a helpful way and defensive way. I really loved what she achieved in the final fight sequence, took many by surprise. Millard (Cameron King) is invisible. Again another character that provides so much, both in humour and when push comes to shove, vital in certain sequences. I won’t give away too much as he really plays key roles throughout the film. Horace (Hayden Keeler-Stone) can project vision from his eyes, mainly his dreams and prophecies he sees the night before. At times, vital information.
Hugh (Milo Parker) who is a cross between a beekeeper and hive, is just that. I have to single Hugh out, as I loved the way he interacted with the other characters. Like Miss Peregrine at the dinner table and Miss Avocet (Judi Dench) an Ymbryne but in another loop. His character creates the emotion that fills the spaces in between. Claire (Raffiella Chapman) whose peculiarity is that she has a mouth with teeth on the back of her head, and The Twins aka The Masked Ballerinas (Joseph and Thomas Odwell), surprised me. I liked that you could see Jake was contemplating as they were walking through the garden, what Claire’s peculiarity was. And like Jake, we find out at dinner time. We discover The Twins’ ability towards the end of the film, and it was incredibly cool! To the point where I thought, if they were the only ones who used their ability against every villain they’d win easily. I was impressed. And whilst the Ornithologist (Rupert Everett) wasn’t a peculiar he was a surprise to all, in more ways than one.
When discussing effects, I have to talk about the villains in the film, led by Barron (Samuel L. Jackson). Who has tried to manipulate the idea of The Loop in an effort to live in the present, outside The Loop. To essentially become immortal, but the experiment goes terribly wrong. The explanation behind what happened to Barron and his crew was well done, through the use of storytelling and pictures. It was truly a great technique to utilize throughout the film. It kept us engaged, and in a way, experiencing it just like Jake. The special effects when it came to showing us the monsters were so profoundly Tim Burton. It was just so distinctly his style of creatures, I’m referencing Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. There are three fight sequences later on in the film with these creatures, and they were absolutely phenomenal scenes. There was so much going on, but it wasn’t at all busy. There were moments I was trying to remain in my seat, moments where I would almost cheer (but then I remembered I was in a cinema with others). Times where I’d clench my fist in happiness, that the result was what I wanted. Then there were times I was shocked and almost in disbelief, thinking, “no! This can’t happen!” It was a rollercoaster, so thrilling and so worth it.
From the start you could see the classic signs this was a Tim Burton film. The cinematography was a standout feature, both in the way each shot was set up and the colouring. Almost like there was a filter making the image crisper and cleaner. This was also highlighted in the way each space (particularly those in the earlier part of the film) had no clutter about. And the spaces, even though just simple rooms seemed so large, or at least spacious. Reminding me so much of Edward Scissorhands. Then on the flip side within The Loop things appeared more magical, reminding me at times of Sleepy Hollow, more warm and rich in colour. I have to mention, opening credits, coupled with the sound, reminded me of the opening credit sequence in Haunted Mansion. Different, but just as interesting and intriguing. It really set a tone for the rest of the film. I have to note, I really liked the character of Shelley (O-Lan Jones), her role in the start of the film helped set up the plot nicely.
I loved the ending, both in terms of what happens between the battle of good and evil, and character resolution. I definitely think the story was more about the children coming into their own and developing the skills to use their abilities. Not just to live everyday the same, minute to minute as Miss Peregrine would have liked. But to use their skills to mature and change for the better. I don’t want to give too much away, but the setting towards the end, and the music involved, created some spectacular images. The ending is interesting. There are questions that parallel important life choices and therefore create the unique thought, that things can be corrected and changed for the better. That even when things are looking down, you can chart your own journey and be extraordinary. I’m looking forward to what is to follow.