Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, adapted from Ransom Riggs’s trilogy of the same name, definitely harkened back to classic Tim Burton, and the filmmaker’s personal touches were very easy to see – from Enoch’s “Frankenstein” dolls to Emma’s lead shoes. Any fan of Burton’s will enjoy the visuals and unique world Burton created for the film, which seems to be the only thing carrying it at the box office.
Burton made a lot of seemingly unnecessary changes to the source material. Changes in characters’ ages, appearances, and swapping their peculiarities and relationships around were made to serve Burton’s style and aesthetic sensibilities rather than the story’s adaptation to the big screen, as did changes to main plot points and the ending in the books. (More on the changes here.)
Riggs himself took to Twitter in March to assure fans he knew about the changes and was supportive of Burton’s spin on his work. But, as a fan of the books, I just couldn’t get behind this “sloppy homage” to them. The first half dragged and the second half, a loose approximation of the last two books, squashed the depth and breadth of the evil by racing past important plot points. Audiences were barely given enough information to understand the stakes, and any effect they’d have on the “normals” was completely dismissed, making it seem as though Jake abandoned his family for no real reason.
Overall, I think fans of the book will be jarred by many of the changes and missing story elements while those unfamiliar with the trilogy will probably be left scratching their heads, wondering what the story was even about. Most of the good reviews so far hinge on Burton doing “Burton” well rather than this being a well-told story, which is a testament to what happens when you try to cram three books into one movie. If you enjoy a visually engaging, effects-driven adventure film, you should still see it – though anyone under 13 might find it too scary. Burton’s trademark stop-motion animation was particularly fun to watch. But the books are by far the better version of this story and worth more of your time.
Sarah Parker-Lee writes YA alt. history & sci-fi. Managing co-editor of Kite Tales, book reviewer for Dwarf+Giant, & content creator for non-profits fighting injustice all over the inter webs, she’s also available to edit your novels & writerly endeavors. Her humor blog, Dogs and Zombies: A Dog’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, shambles towards your tasty brains Winter-ish 2016. Twitterings: @SarahSoNovel