This month’s book club pick is Ransom Riggs‘ 2011 novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. A film adaptation directed by Tim Burton (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland) was released last month.
When I heard that Tim Burton was directing Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children I was pretty excited as the gothic fantasy world is Burton’s speciality.
Eva Green, who appeared in Burton’s Dark Shadows portrays the titular character Miss Peregrine brilliantly. Green does not appear in the film until around the 30 minute mark so the audience follows the journey of the awkwardly shy, wide-eyed sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman, played by Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, Hugo, Ender’s Game).
Jacob’s grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp), a World War II veteran and Jewish refugee, would tell him stories from his own childhood featuring flesh eating monsters and children with the most peculiar abilities.
Following his grandfather’s mysterious death Jacob finds a letter postmarked from Cairnholm Island addressed to his grandfather from Miss Peregrine.
Jacob convinces his parents (Chris O’Dowd and Kim Dickens) to let him go to Cairnholm Island, off the coast of Wales, for the summer. Jacob’s psychiatrist Dr. Golan (Allison Janney) approves of the idea, so Jacob and his father set off. While there Jacob explores the island and searches for answers about his grandfather’s past.
Samuel J. Jackson portrays the villain of the piece – Barron, the leader of the Wights and Hollows. He too has a peculiar ability.
British stage and screen legends Dame Judi Dench (Miss Esmeralda Avocet) and Rupert Everett (John Lemmon) also co-star.
The screenplay is by Jane Goldman (co-writer Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Kingsman: The Secret Service).
Overall it is a faithful to the essence of the novel. There are some changes like most book to film adaptations. The one change that has had some fans up in arms is the decision to switch Emma (Ella Purnell) and Olive’s (Lauren McCrostie) abilities. In the book Emma is pyrokinetic; in that she is able to manipulate fire. In the film Emma has Olive’s special ability of weightlessness; she floats.
Another character change is Dr. Golan. In the book the character is male for the film the character is portrayed by Emmy award winning actress Allison Janney. Personally I can overlook this change as I am a fan of Janney and I think the change works for the film.
The first half of the film is reasonably faithful to the book. The later act has been changed this is probably for pacing reasons. The novel is part of a trilogy whereas Goldman and Burton have designed the film to be a stand alone story. Although Burton leaves enough mystery for the possibility of a sequel.