By Madison Levin (Boulder, CO, USA)
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I am an enormous Tim Burton fan. From Beetlejuice to Corpse Bride, Edward Scissorhands to Sweeney Todd, I am constantly escaping to the dark, twisted, mesmerizing world from the brilliant mind of Mr. Burton. Many know this director to be interested in the unknown, the unwanted, and the unfamiliar, and I’m sure many are not the biggest of fans. Burton has dealt with Claymation, animation, and live-action film, and no matter the art form, his characters are displayed in a way to make us believe they are real. His characters are always quirky and different, usually big-eyed and almost magical, having the audience cheering them on, no matter how creepy or strange.

So, of course, when hearing about his latest, quirky film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I was ecstatic and entirely ready for a new whimsical world to be released into. This film had similar aspects from his other works, yet seemed to take on an entirely new part of the mind, examining and celebrating differences and flaws in people, adults and children, that one would normally find strange and dangerous. No matter how extreme these “peculiarities” in the film were made to appear, I believe that many can connect to this film in a broad amount of ways. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The film centers around a boy, Jake (Hugo’s, Asa Butterfield) and how he finds clues that lead him to a place, Miss Peregrine’s Home. This place is not like any other, located in an entirely different time period and reality. Miss Peregrine herself (Eva Green) can maneuver time whatever way she pleases to change events that should not happen, to keep the children and herself safe. Throughout the film, Jake discovers the children who live there and their peculiarities and strange ways of living, ranging from the ability to fly, super-strength, and the ability to turn into a bird, which Miss Peregrine herself shows off marvelously. As worse news is delivered to Jake about evil people and creatures lurking, he must find a way to protect his new peculiar family, fight the demanding evil, and overall find himself and the strength he never knew he had.

Tim Burton has made a film that brings people together to celebrate their odd abilities and quirks, making them unique traits rather than flaws. Everyone has something that makes them different, peculiar, and if you can find that one thing and embrace it, that is something that will make you more of you, in terms of uniqueness.

I thought the film overall was very wonderful, and the ideas behind it, the spectacle, and the creativity were some of Burton’s best. However, I had a few problems with acting and length. Jake, played by Asa Butterfield, was just not on his best game. I have seen this actor before, in movies such as Hugo and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and he was simply brilliant, making his character his own and creating a world around him that is magical and quick-witted, yet dark and real. I had real hope for him in this film, that he would reach his potential and create a complex character, struggling with himself and his world. This was not quite the case. Asa played Jake as someone who was interested, yet not engulfed, surrounded by magic, but not magic himself. The twinkle in his eye seemed to have disappeared and what was left was, let’s face it, a semi-lame experience watching him perform. It could have been because all of the other actors were quite wonderful, or just because his character wasn’t quite as peculiar. However, he is still a character that goes through difficulties, twists and turns, and emotional/mental realizations. Therefore it seems no excuse that he played it the way he did just because of how the character was written. Nevertheless, the film was still just as wonderful, even though his acting was quite not up to par.

As for the length of the movie, I felt as though it could actually have been longer. There was so much interesting information happening with the children and their peculiarities, and I truly just wanted to see more of it. I thought they felt they needed to show a bit of the children’s “special qualities” and then move on to the plot and the bad guys. It could just be me personally, but seeing another hour of the children’s oddities and what they can do with them would have been just fine with me. There seems to be so much going on inside Tim Burton’s mind, and seeing more of that twisted work is something I really felt would have helped the film even more. Nevertheless, as I stated before, the spectacle of the film is something worth talking about. Tim Burton always takes something you wouldn’t even begin to think of and makes it an ordinary thing for his characters.

For example, the character Emma, played by the beautiful and big-eyed Ella Purnell, has a special getaway, a place she can go when she wants to be alone, that is somewhere completely unexpected. She takes Jake deep underwater, giving him a bubble of air to breathe in, down to a giant sunken ship, filling a room with air so they can stay to talk (don’t worry, this is all in the trailer!). The entire scene, swimming through the ship, seeing old skeletons, and filling the room with air, are all incredibly wonderful to watch. Burton executed the magical, surrealness of the place, and doing so, made me feel like I was a part of it.

Later, the ship springs up from the water when the children need it the most, and that scene is just as good as the last. All of the children help bring the ship to life, making it work and run again. Although it may not be clear how the ship suddenly works, we don’t question it because it’s too amazing to doubt. Again, the entire process has you at the edge of your seat, wanting to be a part of the crazy fun.

I believe this film is entirely interesting and noteworthy. Even if one is not a fan of Tim Burton, the ideas and themes hidden in the cracks of this movie will really make you think. Besides the fact that anyone can relate to having a peculiar trait or traits, the relatable theme within the darker part of this movie was incredibly intriguing. The “bad guys” of the film were portrayed to be power-hungry scientists of a sort, who feasted on the eyes of people and animals to become semi-regular looking people, who were actually monsters on the inside.

I saw this as a big metaphor for authority and politics/government taking the sight away from the people so they could no longer see the right way (or in this film, just killing them), letting the “power people” make themselves better and stronger. Inside they were horrific monsters, but on the outside they were regular people. Besides the hidden meanings and connecting themes, the film has an overall magic quality that lets you escape for a few hours. How can you say no to a bunch of peculiar children using their abilities to beat evil and be the best they can be?

Rating: 4/5

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