From the very first frame, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is thoroughly characteristic of Tim Burton’s imaginative vision. A beautiful orchestral score is effectively utilized throughout the movie, especially in the film’s beginning credits, to set the eerie, spooky tone. After the beginning credits, the scene cuts abruptly to the bleak, suburban life that the protagonist Jake contently lives in.
He seems to have accepted his incredibly ordinary life, all while working at the local drugstore and going to school. However, disaster strikes Jake’s ordinary life as he finds his attacked grandfather one night, who with his dying breath warns him against evil supernatural forces and urges him to find Miss Peregrine.
Turns out, Jake’s grandfather, Abe, told Jake stories of a children’s home he had lived in as a child. All the children were gifted in different ways and lived in this house with their caretaker, Miss Peregrine. Jake manages to figure out the children’s home is in Wales, and persuades his parents to let him go there to hopefully find closure and move on from his grandfather’s death. At first it seems hopeless when Jake discovers that the home was bombed by Germans in 1943 and there were no survivors. However, another visit to the house and the children appear before Jake, leading him to the true location of their home as well as to Miss Peregrine.
The gifted children are called peculiar, and Miss Peregrine, also peculiar, is tasked to care for them. She is able to create a “Loop” where the children are stuck in one time and place forever: September 3, 1943. All peculiar children live in such Loops away from prodding mortal eyes who infamously despise anything out of the ordinary, especially something akin to the special abilities the peculiar children are born with. Such abilities include setting things on fire at will, possessing inhumanely strength or becoming completely invisible. Jake is pulled into this beautiful world, stuck traveling between 2016 and 1943, living in the present yet wanting to spend time with his peculiar friends, and eventually trying to save them from the same malevolent forces that had killed his grandfather.
There are many questions left unanswered by the ending, which seemingly wraps the entire film in a neat little bow. What the film may lack in an engaging plot, clear explanations and appropriate character development, it certainly makes up for in stunning visuals. In terms of cinematography the warm, colorful hues used to portray 1943 contrast starkly with the grey bleakness of 2016, so there is no confusion which time period the characters are in at any given moment. Those warmer colors of 1943 definitely make that time look more attractive and homey, as if it is the time in which Jake truly belongs.
The casting is spot on with an effective Asa Butterfield as the wide-eyed, yet determined Jacob Portman. Eva Green was wonderful as Miss Peregrine; stern, yet caring and mysterious. Certain plot lines felt forced, such as the inevitable romance between one peculiar girl, Emma, and Jake. Their romance is set up from the beginning as if it were destined, yet the chemistry between the two actors is lacking.
The main antagonist is played by Samuel L. Jackson, who is at times comical and scary, yet altogether not very menacing. His followers include hollowgasts, monsters that eat peculiar children’s eyes. The hollowgasts are appropriately grotesque, but their slow, dim-witted actions are not threatening enough. The climax has a great build-up, as the children face off against Jackson’s character and his hollowgasts, but the battle is not very suspenseful.
It is no wonder that the book series was such a success in the young adult fiction arena. The creative fantasy world depicted in the film is like no other imagined before, yet the film falls sorely short of the book’s success. At times too confusing and cryptic, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is carried by its visual effects. Despite its flaws, the film is altogether entertaining, perfect for a fun movie date or a night in.