Emma does not has wind powers.
Repeat: Emma. Does. Not. Have. Wind. Powers.
Based on the best selling novel by Ransom Riggs, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” is a film that I was very excited to see this October. However, when the lights came on after the credits, I was left with nothing but an empty bucket of popcorn and a forehead red from face palms.
Last year, I made a video of my review of the novel, which you can watch here. To sum up my thoughts about the book, I liked it. Some aspects of the story made my imagination soar while others made me cringe. Nevertheless, the book is very unique and well-written, and despite its minor drawbacks, its still a worthwhile read.
That being said, let’s get into the film.
As the credits fade in, a series of eerie, antique photographs float across the screen. From this the audience quickly gets the sense that they are in for something unique, unsettling, and maybe supernatural even. This is the same tone that the book throws its reader into during the first flip of the page. By including the same photographs as the book, my love for the novel’s old-fashioned style immediately connected to the screen, and I was ready to watch words come to life.
I thought, “Hey, maybe they’ll actually do this right!”
Sadly, the opening credits were my favorite part of the movie.
I’m not going to go into detail since this article is free of spoilers, but I will say that this film spends little to no time in the department of character development. Right after the opening credits, the audience is rushed through an introduction of Jake, the main character, played by Asa Butterfield. Through a nasally voiceover, Jake describes how boring it is to live as a teenager in Florida. We see him stack some toilet paper at a supermarket, witness a bland phone call between him and his grandfather, and then somehow end up in a dark forest with monsters.
If I hadn’t read the book, I’d be confused too.
Yet, this is how the rest of the movie plays out–unsettling jump cuts, awkward dialogue, and forced emotions. If the film followed the book’s example of how to build characters throughout its story, then I would probably be writing a whole different review. However, the screenwriters were more focused on the action scenes rather than the relationships.
The movie also took the book’s characters and morphed them into completely different beings. The most noticeable example of this is Emma. In the book, it is strongly established that Emma burns anything she touches, which effects her character deeply on an emotional scale. Yet, in the film, her powers are switched with Olive’s, a little girl (who is a teenager in this movie), who floats like a balloon and can blow gusts of wind.
To me, this change leaves a huge gap of questions between page and screen. Anyone who has read the book and sees this movie will be confused, and may even feel cheated–for a character they love and connect with has become a whole different person with different outlooks and ambitions. Whatever the reason may be for changing Emma–perhaps it made the movie posters look cooler–it was a bad call by the writers, one who is interestingly Riggs himself.
Another factor that plays into this disconnect is the acting. Asa Butterfield is a very skilled actor, I’ve seen him play many successful roles; but I found myself more interested in my popcorn’s seasoning rather than his dialogue. Seriously, there were times where I thought he was reading off a teleprompter. There was no depth to his voice, which made the heartfelt scenes seem uncomfortable for everyone involved.
It wasn’t just Butterfield who left the audience glaring, however. The entire production felt as if it was flung together overnight.
The script was full of cheesy interactions, especially during the “love-interest” scenes. It was also infested with corny one-liners that left crickets having a field day. Samuel L. Jackson’s character, especially, was begging for some uneasy chuckles. Its upsetting to say this because the film has a very strong cast, and each actor would’ve brought his/her own individual strength into this movie if it weren’t for the poor dialogue and gawky gazes.
It is often said that the book will always be better than the movie, which in some cases, is true. Yet, I believe that every platform of media has the chance to successfully tell a story in its own way. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is a film that is not for the highly critical. A fan of the book who expects to see his/her beloved story on screen will be disappointed; but an average movie goer out with friends may leave the theater with an urge to pick up the series. With a Tim Burton twist, this film is one worth seeing someday; but you may want to wait until it shows up in your Netflix “suggestions”.