By Thomas Simpson
Tim Burton’s output for the past decade has been pedestrian at best. With a familiar cast, themes and tone, the man who defined Batman for a generation had gotten lazy and his films suffered for it. Big Eyes saw a shift in direction for Burton, earning him acclaim once again while Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children sees him return more familiar territory as he adapts Ransom Riggs novel of the same name.
Abe Portman (Terrence Stamp) has lived a life of adventure with his grandson Jake in awe of the stories he has to tell. When Abe suddenly dies, Jake takes it hard and when he discovers a letter from Abe’s old friend Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), he starts to wonder if the stories are real after all and that her home for peculiar children aren’t just figments of an overactive imagination. Unfortunately for Jake, Miss Peregrine and her children aren’t all that’s real as a huge evil threatens them all.
After some recent misfires it’s great to see Burton back on form in the dark fantasy genre. The film is full of wonderful gloom and light humor with a standout performance by Green. She is magnificent as Miss Peregrine carrying herself in an eccentric manner that is neither annoying or overblown. Green knows when to dial it down and when to amp it up, a trait shared by the majority of the cast.
While set in a fantastical world, the film’s realism is highlighted in the relationships of the characters. The teen romances and the jealousies that come with it may be clichéd but they’re certainly not unwelcome. The chemistry of the cast is natural and strengthens our investment in their goal.
The villains in the story are monstrous creations that might frighten younger eyes. The content is no more extreme than your average fairy tale, however the nightmarish Hollows led by Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) are visually terrifying and are consumed with a disturbing appetite. Burton ensures the film treads a thin line between children’s fantasy and horror as the kids come together to fight off their fearsome enemies.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a spectacular return to form for Burton as he presents a shadowy tale full of warmth and excitement. The special effects are fantastic with a clever use of CGI and focus on practical effects that allow us to be more immersed with the action. You’d be excused for having given up on the filmmaker by this point of his career but his latest work proves he still has much to offer.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.