Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

It is only natural for us to want to protect their children. This universal characteristic of most species of life either the mother or a designated caregiver protects the offspring in the most fierce and aggressive way possible. One of the most popular stories concerning the action of childhood innocence is ‘Mary Poppins,' a nanny imbued with magical powers who can delight her young charges while using her supernatural abilities to educate, entertain and most importantly protect the children. The overall story cast in the cold light of innocence typical of the production by Walt Disney. However, the on the consideration here, ‘Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children,' challenges the imagination of the audience encouraging them to wonder how this magical set of circumstances would change if the environment were decidedly more sinister than anything Mary Poppins ever encountered. It took me several viewings to be able to establish an internal consensus necessary to write this review. I found myself caught between two diametrically opposed factors. As the title clearly states, Ms. Peregrine (Eva Green) managers a faculty for exceptionally gifted children, those that the world would hastily classify as ‘peculiar.' While Ms. Poppins taught the children in her care to focus on their favorite things in life, Ms. Peregrine understood the necessity of instilling her wards that their world, while wonderful was filled with deadly monsters, dedicate to their complete eradication. The juxtaposition of these two opposites yet they share one undeniable point in common; the unstoppable drive to protect the children at any cost. In a similar fashion to Mary Poppins, ‘Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children’ was derived from a traditional dark fantasy family fantasy written by American author Ransom Riggs. This story reminded me of ‘The Addams Family,' the iconic cartoon made into a popular television series and eventually a pair of movies. That story was darkly humorous and undeniably macabre but one aspect of how that family crafted; with the inexorable bonds, loyalty, mutual devotion and, most of all love.

Jake (Asa Butterfield) grew up in Florida with his parents. On frequent occasions, they would allow his grandfather, Abe Portman (Terence Stamp), to babysit. Throughout that time the elderly man would enthrall the boy with an incredible tale of the adventures he had as a young man. Abe was special, a person gifted with an unusual ability; he could see monsters among us in their true form. Abe believed in his grandfather despite the constant admonitions from his parents that what his grandfather told him were little more than fairy tales. Still, Abe could not let go of his belief that Able was ‘peculiar’ the name given to those in possession of these incredible gifts. The stories that Abe told him were mostly about a wonderful home in with he lived; ‘Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.' Miss Peregrine was a beautiful woman, proper in every regard with the habit of smoking a pipe and being able to turn into a bird of prey. Each of the children in her care had different, unusual abilities making them peculiar.

After his grandfather passes away, Jake talks his father, Frank (Chris O'Dowd), to take him to visit the home where Abe lived among the ‘Peculiars.' Frank has always been distant, angry at Jake’s connection with Abe. As a child, Frank resented Abe for constantly traveling. Jake was so distraught over Abe’s death that his parents sent him to a psychiatrist, Dr. Golan (Allison Janney). Under her advice, Jake and Frank visited the small English village of Cairnholm. They locate the home, but it was in ruins, destroyed during a Luftwaffe raid on "September 3, 1943. Frank pays some local; boys to take Jake to the ruins of the home but they leave him just as the collapsed structure is visible. He manages to gain entrance to the property through a tunnel, but upon existing, the building has been fully restored. There he meets Miss Peregrine, pipe in hand just as he pictured.

Jake is greeted by the other children, Olive Abroholos Elephanta (Lauren McCrostie) with bright red hair and thick rubber gloves. She ignites anything she touches. Millard Mullings (Cameron King) an invisible who has the predilection to removing his clothes to move about unnoticed, Bronwyn Brantley (Pixie Davies), may look like a girl of about nine but is stronger than a squad of burly men. Horace Sonus on (Hayden Keeler-Stone), a young lad overly concerned with fashion but can project his dreams, occasionally prophetic, through a monocle. The remainders of the children were considerably more disturbing than usual. Fiona Frauenfeld (Georgia Pemberton) can control plant life inducing them to grow incredibly quickly. Hugh A piston (Milo Parker) has bees living in his stomach while Claire Densmore (Raffaella Chapman) possesses a second mouth filled with a set of incredibly shape teeth in the back of her head. There is a pair or young twins that always wear burlap sacks with faces drawn on them. Their unusual ability revealed at the very end. Lastly, there is Enoch O'Connor (Finlay MacMillan), a teenage boy who can resurrect the dead and animate objects.

Miss Peregrine reveals the truth to Jake that she is a Ymbryne, a very special peculiar who can manipulate time. This ability permits the creation of a time loop, where the Peculiars can experience on day forever in a closed time loop, the one Miss Peregrine creates repeats the day of the bombing so that just as the bomb was about to hit.by living same day they are virtually immortal but trapped in that day. If they leave time loop time catches up with them and they will rapidly age The antagonist of this merry little band of Peculiars stuck in time is The Wights, a sect of Peculiars that attempted to utilize the control over time possessed by the Ymbryne for their own personal and horrific devices. They have been dispatching monsters called Hollows to harvest the eyes of Peculiars necessary to sustain them. Their leader was Mr. Barron, a shapeshifter. Abe chooses to leave the loop, subjecting himself to aging, to stop them. His Peculiar ability was the capacity to see the usually invisible Hollows. Jake has inherited his grandfather’s ability as well as his sense of responsibility and courage. Back in the past Abe and Emma were in love; he pined for decades over her but from Emma’s point of view it only a brief time had passed.

Children’s stories have changed drastically over the years since I shared stories with my now married daughter. My ability to appreciate material intended to share with children has been decidedly stuck in my past protective conditioning unaffected by the sociological changes. The story is dark, but that is not quite as depressing as I admittedly initially perceived. Children are capable of understanding more complexed themes and character interactions which are a prerequisite for enjoying this film. When all of that is cleared away, I was able to watch the movie a couple of additional times. That led me to the conclusion that this story was not compatible with the format. There is such a significant amount of exposition necessary that despite some attempt to subtly spread it throughout the story much of essential elements and plot points condensed into a handful of scenes. The character development was rushed particularly with Enochs’ seeming protective crush on Emma only to discover Olive in the very end of the story. Many plot threads were motivated by plot contrivances and wrapped up in a hasty conclusion.

Mr. Burton does possess an innate talent for the use of 3D to enhance how he tells the story correctly. During the action-oriented sections of the film, it is a dynamic contribution to the kinetic energy of the proceedings. What demonstrates his understanding of the technique is the unobtrusive use given to the illusion of depth in the standard portions of the story. There is a natural feel to how the characters interact with their environment created by the nuanced use of the planes of depth. It was also hugely beneficial that the cast is incredibly talented that come together with synergy. Ms. Green is one of the most intense and versatile actresses of her generation. She imbues a sheer power and style to this character that makes a woman of pure imagination into a fully formed person. It may not realize its full potential but it visually creative and fun to watch.

bulletThe Peculiars
bulletHollows and Ex-Hollows
bulletThe Peculiar Story
bulletMaps of Days: Miss Peregrine's Home/Blackpool Tower
bullet"Wish That You Were Here" Florence + The Machine Music Video
bulletGallery: Sketches by tim Burton and Photographs

Posted 12/20/2016

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