Twitter review: A particularly entertaining movie which I thoroughly enjoyed. The acting is great and the story is hardly an X-Men knockoff.
Spoiler-free review: I have to admit, when I first saw the posters for this film, I really thought it might be a sort of X-Men knockoff. After all, it has children with supernatural powers, a headmistress, someone who can shoot fire from her hands… I was hoping to be entertained, but also preparing to start counting how often this film would have ripped off previous X-Men films. Thankfully, I was wrong.
The film revolves around Jake, a typical quiet 16 year old who is bullied by classmates. One day, he gets a call from his grandfather (an always welcome Terence Stamp), who warns him not to visit him and worries about where his shotgun is. When Jake does visit, he eventually finds his grandfather dying, his eyes taken out. Grandfather cryptically tells Jake about a bird that will tell him what he needs to know before he dies. While discussing things with his therapist, Jake decides to take a trip to an island his grandfather told him about, accompanied by Jake’s father. While exploring the bombed out house his grandfather told him about when he was younger, Jake sees someone else, and tries giving chase. Eventually, he is taken through a cave back to the same house, but now still in one piece – because Jake has gone back in time to 1942.
Jake then meets Miss Peregrine, as well as the various children his grandfather told him about but whom Jake thought were just figments of his grandfather’s imagination. As Jake gets to know the various children, all of whom have different ‘gifts’ (not all of them are flashy – one child has bees living inside him, while another has a sharp-toothed mouth in the back of her head), he also eventually finds out about a couple of things. One is that the place where he is is in a sort of time-bubble. A German bomb is supposed to destroy the house, but just before it does, Miss Peregine resets her clock 24 hours, so the children are able to keep living in the same day over and over again. Another thing Jake eventually finds out is that there are some people with similar gifts who, in an attempt to achieve immortality, need to keep eating the eyeballs of gifted children. Yes, well, this is a Tim Burton film, after all.
One of the things I did enjoy about this film, besides the acting, the story and the score, was also a bit of the attention to detail in keeping the story plausible. A big question that could have been asked would be “Hey, if Jake is able to go back in time, how come he just doesn’t drag his unbelieving father with him?” Because the portal only works for people with a special gift, and Jake’s gift is that he’s able to see the invisible monsters that threaten them all. I also enjoyed how everyone interacted with each other, even the asshole bully Enoch, whose gift is being able to animate lifeless beings by supplying them with hearts (as I said, this is a Tim Burton film).
Unlike a typical X-Men film, the action in this film was saved primarily for the last third of the film, but I didn’t mind. I was able to fully absorb myself in this film, and even if the running time a bit long, I didn’t mind. It really did feel as though everything I was watching made sense, and there was very little in the way of padding. This is not a film for small children to watch (while watching the film, I was wondering if my 7 year old daughter would be able to see this film; after seeing some of the stuff in this film, I decided that she could wait), but it is a nice film to enjoy when you want something different than the usual superhero fare.
Spolier-filled review: One thing that did keep nagging at me after watching the film was the ending. In the end, Jake is able to change things around so that his grandfather is still alive when he comes back again to 2016. Jake’s grandfather then hands him the information he meant to give to Jake on his birthday, telling him to go back to where Emma, one of the children whom he began to care about, who was stuck in a different time loop in the 1940s. Jake went back, knowing he would be giving up his life in 2016 to be with Emma, since Emma couldn’t stay for long in 2016 without rapidly aging and dying. However, that also begs a question: Although Jake’s dad is, for lack of a better term, a loser (he keeps trying to write a book about birds, then glumly gives up when he thinks someone else will write a better book than him), I would imagine that Jake’s father and mother would be worried where he was. How could Jake just run off for who knows how long like that? I mean, even if his dad is a loser, still…