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Whether you’ve read the book or became interested due to the trailer or the name Tim Burton, beware! For while you may be entertained enough to not notice the two-hour time length, you will be left feeling the time could have been better spent.
For quite sometime Jake (Asa Butterfield) was perhaps the only one who really connected with his grandfather Abe (Terrence Stamp). He would babysit him and tell him all the tales of his adventures, and even once those tales became a fantasy to Jake they stayed with him. However, with his grandpa old it seems he takes those old tales more factual than ever. Making his shocking death, in which Jake is the first to find him, and Abe rehashes information dealing with his old fairy tales strange.
Yet, even with thinking grandpa may have been delirious, he needs to see if maybe those stories are true. Leading to him taking a trip to Cairnholm in Wales. A place where he discovers many of grandpa’s stories being true, including the monsters who likely killed him.
Perhaps the main thing I can say which is praiseworthy is that some of the things the movie cuts, like us drowning in Jacob’s ordinariness, are gone. Also, while arguably too much of it was cut out, it was nice that the time between meeting Jacob and being introduced to the peculiars was slimmed down. But perhaps the thing most noteworthy is despite this film being two hours, what remains of the magic which is Tim Burton’s direction makes you so lost in the special effects and beauty of the movie that you don’t really feel it.
With that said, if you are someone who reads the book before the movie, expect your usual feelings of being upset. Mostly because it seems this movie was not made to start a franchise. Starting with the topic of the characters, I honestly feel like the changes made weren’t really for the better. Now, let me begin by saying that part of the issue stems from none of these characters being allowed to naturally develop. Which, unfortunately, leads to them personalities feeling amped up, especially in the case of the pecuiliars, to make up for it. For whether it is Enoch (Finlay MacMillan) coming off as more of an ass than I remember or Eva Green, as Miss Peregrine, seemingly channeling Helena Bonham Carter in one of her more quirkier roles, you are left with so much personality but no substance behind it. Heck, even Butterfield, who usually is quite adept at playing awkward and introverted characters, just seems off his game in this movie without the ability to develop his character into some semblance of a person.
Transitioning to the story, this is where the lack fo development really hits. For while, some of my feelings likely come from reading the book and thus thinking my perception of characters aren’t met, at the same time it is hard to ignore certain issues. One being how the film completely ignores creating a sense of mystery or building up to anything.
Let’s take Emma’s (Ella Purnell) relationship with Jake, or even hers with Abe, for example. Her relationship with Abe is omitted entirely, thus leaving her as the girl with the power to control air. Then hen it comes to the Jake relationship, she pushes him away throughout the movie and the parts in the book dealing with how they came to fall for each other are cut. On top of that, the issues which come from liking your grandpa’s ex are omitted as well as Jake’s inexperience with girls. Making the build toward them eventually kissing feeling more like an obligation for a young adult novel adaptations than a culmination of everything that happened thus far. It doesn’t end there, though. Frank’s (Chris O’Dowd) development is cut in terms of his rocky marriage, his relationship with his father, as well as his feelings about being his age and still drifting from one dream to the next.
But the biggest issue, as noted above, is that the film lacks mystery and build. Something which makes the reveal of the hollowgast and Barren anti-climatic. Not just because their look was revealed in the trailers, but also because Barron and his associate aren’t treated as monsters lurking in the shadows. They are spoken as if they are formidable creatures which kill indiscriminately. However, there isn’t much in the way of lurking in shadows and while they keep some of the killings which happened on the island, they, you guessed it! Don’t have the type of build which brings some form of fear, anxiety, or even excitement.
I mean, between the hollowgast looking like a rejected monster from a Guillermo Del Toro movie, seeing Ms. Peregrine kill the one who killed Victor and decided to come back for seconds (because they are in a loop she always knows when it is coming), or how Samuel L. Jackson as Barron is played as some sort of comical villain, it ruins whatever sense of fear you should have. Because, honestly, the way Jackson plays Barron is like he is auditioning to be the first Black villain of an Austin Powers movie. Think of his role in Kingsman without the lisp and him being rich.
Lastly, the final battle and ending were terrible. If only because they were so predictable and feel good that honestly, the trailer for A Dog’s Purpose had me more on an emotional rollercoaster.
On The Fence
With that said, while Barron’s comical dialog and actions put a damper on how fearful the hollows should have been, this isn’t to say they weren’t funny. Also, while the battles with the hollows weren’t as life or death as I’d like, it was hard to not be entertained by the use of CGI in showing them destroy their environment and how the actors interacted with them in combat.
Overall Feelings: Negative – Skip It