Friday, May 20, 2022
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Miss Peregrine’s Film Embraces the Peculiar, Fails to Reflect the Personal

Glimpses of lush, idyllic scenery, extraordinarily unique characters, and, oh yeah, a look into how the Skeleton War might unfold: these are a few of the characteristics that help Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children pack a superhuman punch.

Director Tim Burton amps up the film by channeling a magical realism aesthetic. Although main character Jake’s (played by Asa Butterfield) Florida life with his dull, TV-obsessed father and nerd status at school seem dreadfully relatable on the surface, Burton orchestrates suspense-building peeks into another reality.

With grainy, black-and-white photos of a boy invisible except for his clothes, fantastical bedtime stories from Jake’s grandpa, and the glowing, white eyes of villain Barron (played by Samuel L. Jackson), the film steadily hints that a magical undercurrent pulses beyond Jake’s daily life.

However, this uncovering of Jake’s hidden family history and undiscovered powers reveals a major flaw in pacing and lack of believable acting. The introduction of a magical setting overlapped with the real world occurs rapidly and as part of a death scene. Jake arrives at his grandfather’s house and finds the old man collapsed, with his eyes viciously removed, trying to stutter out his last words.

While this scene should be emotionally impactful, its occurrence a mere five minutes into the movie means that viewers don’t have context of the relationship between Jake and his grandfather. As Butterfield woodenly clutches his cast mate’s hand and chokes out trite dialogue, the audience becomes catapulted out of the story. The grandfather’s death seems to fulfill only one function: a methodic springboard for the rest of the plot, in which Jake embarks on his grandfather’s last wish of relaying urgent information to Miss Peregrine.

Though the entrance into the spellbinding world of Miss Peregrine and her peculiars may be rapid and jarring, once the film transports the audience to this setting, it stands out as one in which they will want to linger.

Eva Green masterfully portrays Miss Peregrine, a clever and enchanting caretaker with the power to manipulate time. This ability introduces one of the most fascinating elements of the film— the concept of a “loop.” In the movie’s universe, time masters like Miss Peregrine choose a “safe day” and create a loop, allowing themselves and other peculiars to inhabit the same 24-hour period forever.

Audiences will watch in awe as Miss Peregrine stops a German bomb from dismantling her elegant chateau— a task she must perform daily— and laugh as they realize a squirrel falls out of a tree at the same time every morning. It’s details like these that make the strange setting and timeframe deeply resonate.

This “loop” device might also lead audiences to reflect on recent criticism of Burton’s non-diverse casting choices. As analyzed by many different publications and critics, the Miss Peregrine’s cast features only one actor of color: the beloved Samuel L. Jackson.

However, considering that the majority of the movie plays out in 1940— the year during which Miss Peregrine has established her loop— in England, the majority white ensemble of actors seems historically accurate. Yet whether or not this is a relevant justification in a world built on historical inaccuracies—like superpowers, time traveling, and portals—presents another complex question for audiences to consider.

Overall, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children distinguishes itself as a film unlike any others in theaters this season. For bored audiences seeking a departure from the same rom-coms and action flicks, step through Miss Peregrine’s portal this fall. It may confuse you at first, and introduce elements to criticize, but it will be truly peculiar, in a way that will have you holding two thumbs up— unless they disappear.

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