The boy Jake (Asa Butterfield as a spindly teenager) loses his grandpa (Terence Stamp) in a supernatural attack. Gramps leaves him with the location of a special home for peculiar children, and Jake pays the place a visit with his father. He discovers a hidden home that is stuck in a time-loop, on a particular day, and inhabited by gifted kids like Xavier’s school in the X-Men series. The kids are hunted by monsters and Jake may hold the key to saving them.
This is a very full movie. It needs a lot of exposition to set it all up, even more exposition to introduce a villain and a conflict, and finally a lot of activity to wrap it all up. Similar to films like The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008), Harry Potter or perhaps even the film Jumper (2008), we are explained the all the mechanics of a magical universe, meet a dozen characters and the whole thing concludes with an action scene. At the one-hour mark, I felt like I’d been watching for two hours already, because so much had happened, and the villain wasn’t even introduced yet.
Now I realize why this reminded me of Jumper (2008). Not only do we meet teenagers with special powers, and not only is it about a boy and girl falling in love, but we have Samuel L. Jackson as a white-haired maniac who hunts down the precious teenagers. It seems to be Jackson’s role of choice these days. He has a great time though. He grins and gloats and delights in playing children’s worst nightmare, but he almost reaches that point where it takes you out of the movie.
It’s good to see Tim Burton back on top of his game. I had kind of checked out from the Burton train. After films like Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows, all his movies started to look the same and Burton as a director seemed lazier and lazier. Miss Peregrine’s Home… is a fresh new film, and without Johnny Depp and/or Helena Bonham Carter for a change. This time it is Eva Green who plays the titular Miss Peregrine, and Green is of course a very Burtonesque actress. She plays a strict, uptight miss who runs a household, and not some dangerous seductress as we’ve seen her before in many roles.
Visually, it is all great. Using the latest special effects technology, Burton crafted a beautiful film. At the same time, the story is a bit muddled. There’s a lot of going back and forth in time, and there are some twists and turns with this time travel that may fall apart once you start thinking more about them. The film doesn’t give you the opportunity to think because of its breakneck speed, though, so you’ll have to do this thinking while leaving the cinema. And it’d be best if you don’t take it all too seriously. There are moments that look pretty, but really stretch the suspension of disbelief to the breaking point.
I feel like more could have been done with the characters. Some of the children annoyed me, especially the jealous older boy Enoch, and the short love story between Jake and Emma grated a bit. Also, Miss Peregrine could have gotten some more background; maybe some tragedy to give her more depth.
All in all, this film has a lot to offer. It’s imaginative and looks pretty. The story is a bit muddled, there’s too much detail in the world-building and it goes on for a little bit too long, but there’s more about this movie that succeeds than what fails.