Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Ransom Riggs (based upon the novel written by), Jane Goldman (screenplay by)
Stars: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson
I really wanted to like this film, almost convinced myself I would like it actually. Based upon a marvelous book by Ransom Riggs, directed by Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands) and starring the enchanting Eva Green (Casino Royale), Judi Dench (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Rupert Everett (Prince Charming in Shrek) and the always amazing Terence Stamp (far too many classics to mention) this looked liked a sure-fire banker in every possible way. Only I didn’t and it wasn’t. It was entertaining enough for sure, but just somehow managed to miss every mark it was probably aiming for.
Dubbed as Tim Burton’s X-Men, a film he self classified as a anti-superhero film there were unfortunately just too many convoluted things happening, plot holes, inconsistencies and changes from the book, which is what actually made it worth turning into a film in the first place. Now I do appreciate that a books audience is not necessarily a films audience. The two mediums are different and generally have different demographics they aim for (that’s not to say one cannot enjoy both though). Those are just some of the issues at hand here in what could have been a magical and mystical film that captivated you.
I suppose the first issue here must be the script. Kingsman the Secret Service was not too bad as a screenplay but X-Men: First Class and Future Past were not the best. Here she made far too many changes for it to work effectively. Perhaps an occasion where the writer of the novel should have had more say (that does not always work though). The second issue here to my mind is Tim Burton, and it saddens me to say that. Whatever happened to him in 2005? Sure he had the odd wobble here and there but generally the guy was a banker from Beetlejuice to Corpse Bride with a couple of forgettable and forgivable films in-between.
But something happened after then. Willy Wonka, Sweeny Todd, Dark Shadows, Alice and the list goes on. While still visually interesting and his style, the films themselves just fell flat from what was his trademark unique traits. Unfortunately, this film also shows that the master of the gothic and weird has not regained his magical touch yet. Visually the film is fantastic with some excellent set design even if the film generally is a little washed out and pale.
If you have read the excellent book you already know the basics of the story line here. Jake (Butterfield) learns of an accident that befalls his grandfather (Stamp) and eventually ends up traveling to Wales with his father. While there he discovers a magical portal back to 1943 and the orphanage his grandfather had told him so much about in stories, despite Jake’s father’s protestations. Here he meets the peculiar children that his grandfather spoke about so fondly, including Emma (an impressive Purnell). He also meets Miss Peregrine (an excellent Green) who runs the house and looks after the children in a kind of Gothic Scary Poppins way. Perfectly cast.
Jake soon learns about the problem they have and the time loop keeping them where they are. He also eventually learns about the evil creatures that are after them and their leader Barron (A hammed up Jackson). Acting generally is average, though Jackson is personally annoying. He seems to be unable to turn down any script that happens to pass his house, never mind any that are actually sent to him. The rest of the cast are passable and do just about enough. Unfortunately the likes of Green, Dench and Stamp are not actually in the film enough to keep your interest, especially in the latter half and mostly their abilities are largely wasted.
The script gets very messy towards the end of the film and it really does feel like they tried to cram far too much in without having the time. Another major scripting issue is with the very tame (and lame perhaps) romance between Jake and Ella. There was no chemistry there and I was left wondering why she would be interested in him at all. It just didn’t work in ‘this’ film. Ultimately, some bad casting choices (Butterfield) and a rather dull script lead to a rather overall dull film. There was no sense of awe or mystical excitement that the book created. Burton must surely take some of the blame for this, despite an average script he obviously seemed happy with.
It is unfortunate that the novel was written when it was. Had it been written when Burton was at the height of his magic and Eva Green was the experienced sultry actress she is now then I’m sure this would have been a truly stunning and magical experience. As it stands, it is another miss from Burton and another wasted literary to celluloid conversion. Eva Green is awesome for her actual short screen time and the other actors are not really around enough to impose themselves. Visually impressive at times and a treat for the eyes with a reasonably enchanting score, this one ultimately fails to deliver its hype.
The Sage’s Rating: