By Nathan Ridings
I should begin by stating two things. First, I read the book. Second, there will be no major spoilers, only some vague references. Onward!
There will be no synopsis. If you haven’t heard of the movie, go watch the trailer. The movie begins with bright colors and irritating voiceover. The cuts between scenes are aggravating, somehow reminding me of the frustration of Inherent Vice’s editing without the style or panache that accompanied it. However, the lighting is beautiful and consistently a highlight throughout the film. The cinematography is solid, and the editing, with the exception of the scene-to-scene cuts, is respectable. The plot follows the three act structure to a T, but works moderately well for this particular story. The cast is extravagant. The movie stars Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Allison Janney, Judi Dench, Chris O’Dowd (of IT Crowd fame), and Terrence Stamp, as well as bringing in a hodgepodge of up-and-comers (the best of whom being Ella Purnell). Simply put, the cast is packed.
Unfortunately, these A-listers seem to work with varying degrees of success. Samuel L. Jackson is entertaining, but I could never decide if I was laughing with him or at him. If nothing else, it makes me want to rewatch Pulp Fiction, I guess. (Not to say that his performance here is comparable to that in Pulp Fiction.) Chris O’Dowd is a quiet wonder, bringing far more humor to his character than would be expected from such a peripheral performance. Also, his American accent is adorable. Allison Janney and Judi Dench are both fine, but are far too minor to have any realistic impact.
Eva Green, while usually fine as Ms. Peregrine, occasionally goes overboard with her strangeness. During a couple scenes or lines, I felt as if she was more like a cult leader than a kind parental figure. (You’re making them be seven forever? Will they never experience love, lust, angst, loss, or any of the other complex emotions that accompany adolescence? Isn’t that supremely sadistic, even if it’s well intentioned?) Asa Butterfield, the protagonist, is a highlight at first, but his character gets old quite fast. The character is just comparatively boring, despite the movie constantly telling you otherwise. Simply put, his peculiarity is lackluster. In fact, it seems like the finale (which is different than the book’s) is built around making his “skill” worthwhile to the action around him.
Despite all of this, what I consider to be the largest flaw is the environment. One of the things that I love about the Harry Potter universe is that I felt the characters could go anywhere and do anything. I could imagine them living in their environment, even when I wasn’t watching them. That’s what brought the magic to the universe. Unfortunately, Miss Peregrine’s held no such magic for me. The characters felt trapped in whatever scene they were in, and idea of them existing anywhere else was unfathomable.
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