On paper, a gothic X-Men directed by Tim Burton sounds like a fantastic idea. In reality, unfortunately this is modern Tim Burton we’re talking about and instead Miss Peregrine‘s has to settle with being another disappointing film of unfulfilled potential in his filmography.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a fantasy adventure based on the novel of the same name and directed by Tim Burton. It stars Asa Butterfield as Jake, who as a young boy was enraptured by his grandfather’s (Terrence Stamp) stories about his exploits during WW2 with individuals who possessed ‘peculiar’ gifts. After his grandfather dies in mysterious circumstances, he sets out to discover the mystery behind how he died and whether the stories he’s known his entire life are really true.
Considering the apparent straightforward set-up, its a marvel how convoluted and messy the movie manages to make the first act. It leads to a horribly sluggish start that was in desperate need of a streamline, and sadly creates a problem that never really leaves. While the movie regains its footing for a good part of the second act as Miss Peregrine and the peculiars are introduced, it can’t help but return to its old habits in a horribly messy and rather underwhelming climax. Not only does this mean the movie struggles with sheer attentiveness, but also creates gap after gap in its own logic and mythology that Burton and screenwriter Jane Goldman never quite manage to repair.
As for Burton’s direction itself, there is still a little of his classic flair on display. Much more in line with his works like Frankenweenie than say Alice in Wonderland, the film appears to be soaking in Burton’s trademark sense of gothic creepiness. Add in some interesting and rather eerie visuals and at the very least there is the makings of a compelling style. This would be stellar if Burton managed to keep the same tone and style throughout but sadly that’s not the case. Miss Peregrine strays far too often into bizarrely comical territory and dull cliche rhetoric that’s already been done to death and back, meaning that it never manages to capitalise on Burton’s style in the way it so desperately wants to.
On the performance side, the film doesn’t fares much better. Asa Butterfield as Jake is the most boring and cookie-cutter protagonist you could possibly have. He feels like the character equivalent of store-brand anything and as hard as he tries, Asa Butterfield just can’t escape that. He’s a talented actor, as evidenced by Hugo and even Ender’s Game, but the writing and direction just aren’t there to give him the support he needs to turn in a good performance. Eva Green fares far far better as Miss Peregrine herself purely because, well, she’s Eva Green. Without even trying something tells me she just already has the flair, intrigue and enigmatic qualities needed to make the role work – its just damn good casting. All the peculiars as well fare fine, purely all by being more interesting than Jake (even if a lot of them feel short-changed on the personality front). And as for Samuel L. Jackson as the villainous Barron, he’s basically just Samuel L. Jackson. Doesn’t deliver anything new, but does fine for what it’s worth.
To me, the announcement of Miss Peregrine felt like it could be a great new entry into Burton’s highly contrasted filmography. And while all the elements for a great Burton film are there, it just never comes together. The lead protagonist is flat, the tone never commits and the structural editing needed a hell of a lot more structure. There are fragments to be glimpsed of classic Burton, but unfortunately Miss Peregrine only manages to bury into under a pile of flaws.
General Audiences: Meh
Film Buffs: Not Recommended