Adaptions are an art and not many screenwriters (unless they are the original author) pull the details for a movie that will speak to a book reader’s heart… How did Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children manage as it developed from book to screen…?
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1
by Ransom Riggs
Published June 7th 2011
Jacob journeys to a remote island off the coast of Wales due to the death of his grandfather whose events sent him reeling. On the hunt for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which is connected to a strange collection of curious photographs that his grandfather treasured. There is this creepy, abandoned orphanage Jacob learns about his grandfather and about himself.
I quite liked Jacob. Not because the kid had any particularly compelling characterization but because he was so conflicted about how to feel about his grandfather, Abraham. And because he was conflicted about his grandfather he was conflicted about his parents who are NOT conflicted about his grandfather. They feel like he’s a looney old man who has made their lives uncomfortable at times.
I bought into all the things Jacob was feeling after he found his dead grandfather. All the things he saw and I even understand why he allowed the psychiatrist to convince him he was dreaming. So many people hallucinate when they have chemical imbalances – it was very believable.
It was a little bit of a stretch when he was able to convince his father to take him to the island where his grandfather had spent some time. Still I was able to go along with it. I enjoyed meeting the Peculiars and all the mystery surrounding them and the secrets they withheld from Jacob about himself. All of this so far is what is called setup. This isn’t actually the story, story yet! It’s all the details that the story should proceed from and this is the point when the story becomes really murky.
While there are events that take place once the setup is done it is very thin. Half hearted attempts to learn things on his own and random things that happen to force Emma into telling him some of it. Very thin motivations and I don’t really buy how Jacob feels. Really there is one big finale scene where the kids are stupid and have to face the villain who has all been laid out for us before hand. I was surprised by who the bad guy was but it was very anti-climatic because really Jacob didn’t have much of an opportunity to spar with this guy. The villain went from knowing all and manipulating Jacob to defeated at his first confrontation with Jacob and the Peculiars.
If not for the shallowness of the plot and thin plot points this would be a rather lovely book. I thought the pictures were a bit of a gimmick and there were a lot of stretches for me in making some of the pictures pertinent. I did like the ones showing the different kids. I wanted the story to stand stronger that the pictures but this is not the case. Some of the thinking too was random. Abraham, the grandfather was a real ass and I hated that. At least do them the service of letting them know you refuse to go back. And Emma pinned in a way that really irritates me!
I loved the idea of loops and the magical ladies who create them and protect the kids. The creation of the hollowghasts was pretty neat too and I liked how they had to work to get back to where they had been. I hope the world isn’t as shallow as what we learned in this book and that more depth is added to round out what we already learned in book 2 and 3.
BOTTOM LINE: Excellent world building, so-so plot.
Now how did the adaption do? I pegged this book as a great one to adapt with Tim Burton at the helm… was my guess correct?
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
Directed by Tim Burton
Samuel L. Jackson
Jacob has a connection to an island through his recently deceased grandfather and goes there to learn more about it. There he finds a house with a mysterious past and a group of orphans that need his particular power if they are to survive the creatures hunting them.
I read the book and wanted to see how the movie differed especially under the helm of Tim Burton who seemed like the best fit to direct this grim time travel fantasy story. I was surprised by how middle of the ground I felt about the movie.
I enjoyed the visuals and how they gave this mysterious edge to the story. A peculiarity if you will that made the CGI fit in well with the setting. I was all for how the house and the island were represented. The children chosen to star as the peculiar orphans were all well cast and well costumed.
I particularly loved Asa Butterfield as Jacob Portman the grandson of their old friend; Ella Purnell as Emma Bloom the girl who floats (and can now manipulate air); and Lauren McCrostie as the fire-starter Olive Elephanta. They stood out to me though all of the young actors did well and helped make us believe in their peculiar characters. Eva Green also sold her role as the shape shifting head mistress who controls time.
The shocking thing is that while we are sold by the visuals and the characters the story was totally changed!! Why I give the movie three stars is that the original plot was shallow and needed development. This is a grand improvement on the source material… the problem is the changes that were made developed a totally different story from the one in the book! The love interest’s details are flipped and character conflict removed! On the other hand a wonderful underwater rendezvous is created and an actual battle is added to the end. Things that should happen on screen do happen on screen!! (Like Miss Peregrine’s capture.)
Actually most of the changes I enjoyed even though it felt odd to present the story so differently from the book! An adaption should remain true to the source for the most part. That is why it is called adapted… still it was the directors choice to take the movie in the direction he did. Even though it made for a piss poor adaption it made a supremely watchable movie!
The problem in developing the book from the movie is that a MAJOR part of the book was ALL SETUP! For a movie you can’t have that much setup. Instead of adapting the beginning and changing the end they should have re-written the beginning and adapted the end with more dynamic visuals!
Without a proper setup in the movie you don’t particularly care about Jacob. We lost that he was motivated by his grandfather and that he felt pulled between the two times. We lost that Emma struggled with loving Jacob and fought her feelings every moment she was with him. We lost the mystery element as Jacob does the leg work to actually find his answers and thus his place in life. Without these emotional underpinnings in the movie the story is not very compelling (and thus not a 4 star!)
While I wasn’t a fan of the very thin plot in the book I was hoping that it would be developed, not abandoned! The movie did provide a more satisfying ending and taking down of the villain… you can’t fault Burton for not having plot in place… I just wish it had retained the strengths from the book!
BOTTOM LINE: Satisfying if not compelling watch as long as you keep it separate from the book…
Young adult books get made into movies all the time due to the popularity and success of Harry Potter and the Hunger Games. I’m increasingly amazed that these adaptions are only as good as the source material… While I’m not a definitive authority on books and their movies I see a disturbing trend emerging where story is NOT the primary concern for author or screenwriter. Gimmicks like the odd pictures in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and a heavy focus on visuals and CGI are taking the place of a well told story. While some details need to fall back in a movie as there isn’t enough screen time for every moment in a book the point of both is to move us…