Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Terence Stamp, Ella Janney, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Tim Burton
Tim Burton’s love of outsiders in hardly a secret. From Edward Scissorhands through to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory via the stop-motion Corpse Bride and Coroline sandwiched in between, Burton’s love for the lonesome macabre is a universal constant. For him to stumble across Ransom Rigg’s story about an entire secret world brimming with them, based on true-life nineteenth century photos Rigg found at thrift stores (another love of Burtons), must have had the untidy goth-mop sparking electricity like a Frankenweenie power source.
The world has peculiars, groups of people with abilities and oddities which don’t fit in regular society. Over the centuries these special abilities have seen them routinely hunted and persecuted. One day it was decided that a special type of peculiars; bird-morphing time travellers called Ymbryne’s, would create time-loops, a Groundhog Day existence, in a safe part of time, to look after groups of these peculiar children. Miss Peregrine (Green) is our particular Ymbryne heroine, living in a time loop on a small Island in Wales in 1943, one day before her children’s house is blasted from existence by the Luftwaffe. Their tranquil existence is at risk from a group of renegade peculiars, headed up by Samuel L. Jackson’s Barron, who hunt down the children to feast on their eyes and attempt to harness the Ymbryne’s power to grant themselves everlasting life. It is down to 16 year old Jake (Butterfield), an outsider of the outsiders if you like, who has travelled from 2016, to save the day.
It seems the more beautiful a Tim Burton film looks, the less coherent and thoughtful the narrative becomes. All time travel yarns have their rationality challenges; either keep it simple or make sure the temporal logic is watertight and reasonable. Burton seemingly attempts both here and makes a bit of a pig’s ear of it. Why the death of a character who regularly hops between time-loops will prevent him killing someone in the chronological future but in his own personal temporal past makes absolutely no sense, yet is key to the movie. At what points in time the entrances to the time-loops are available too is ignored, yet is key to the ending.
As you would expect, there can be no criticism levelled at the visuals in Miss Peregrine’s. The fantastic world Burton has helped put to screen looks and feels phenomenal. From the sunken warship full of skeletons still sitting at the dinner table to the trademark eerie characters and moments of his much-loved stop-motion animation, this is Burton at his artistic best. The performances too are pretty faultless. Apart from Finlay MacMillan’s slightly wooden miserabilist Enoch, all the children are excellent; Purnell’s air-shifting Emma and Raffiella Chapman’s bizarre monster-mouth Claire are particularly on form.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a film that craves love, and will no doubt attract an audience which wants to love it. Yet the awkwardly rushed and convoluted patchwork narrative will make it tough for the two to harmonise. With every Burton movie that passes, it becomes increasingly frustrating to consider what sort of film his glorious creative vision would result in if paired with a top set of writers. As it is, this latest outing is yet another in the long line of watchable but ultimately disappointing Burton live action affairs.
5 / 10