There was a lot of hype around the release of both the film and the novel – but did it live up to expectations? Was the extrapolation onto the big screen true to the narrative of the book? I have some mixed feelings, but both mediums were highly entertaining.
I found ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ a bit slow at the start of the novel. With two false starts, I ended up persevering over a Sunday before I got hooked. The setting was described brilliantly, I really felt like I was there. A back drop of WWII almost felt like an homage to the battle within Jacob’s conscious, as well as the challenges the “Peculiars” faced. The twist on the origins of the gifted, or those with abilities – known as peculiars, in addition to the introduction of time manipulation was brilliant. Completely sucked me in. The melancholy strong in the narrative of the novel was replaced with eerie sense in the film. The movie also instantly throws us into the action, little time was spent setting up Jacob’s circumstances and frame of mind.
Tying in old photographs into the narrative brought a fresh aspect to the reading experience adding authenticity to the story. It’s great to find novels starting to break the mould when it comes to formatting and finding more interesting ways to present a story. They were equally represented in the film, though lost that air of creepy. I did like the colour grading of the movie though, a soft muting of colour and shift in hue gave the movie an old-time feel.
The writing style is mature for YA – there were a few words that I needed to look up in a dictionary – which I liked. I love learning new ways to express myself succinctly in print. The composition of Riggs sentences was almost lyrical at times, like an old fable. The dialogue of the Peculiar Children and Miss Peregrine matched the era they were living in, which added a layer of authenticity and fascination for me. Seeing this play out on the screen however, was sometimes a bit cheesy. Whether it was bad accents on the actors behalf, or their delivery of the lines, I found myself giving the side-eye at a few moments.
Thankfully, after a stumble through the beginning, the second half of the novel was incrementally more gripping. The movie, however, true to adaptations, was well paced and moved the story along quickly. I will say it took license to grandiose some of the scenes that had me wondering what the hell was going on – that wasn’t in the book!
Our protagonist Jacob is an intelligent young man grappling with his own demons, wondering if he is mentally ill. I love how he grows throughout the novel, in small graded steps – it felt very realistic that he goes through small changes instead of one giant leap. You get a real sense of wonder and fascination through his eyes as he slowly starts to prove or disprove the stories his Grandfather has been telling him all his life. In the film, played by Asa Butterfield, I felt captured the hopelessness and depression of Jake’s life brilliantly. Out of all the casting – Asa matched how I pictured Jake the most. The slow and gradual development of his character transformed into a bit of a rush on the screen. His relationship with Emma was tweaked a little and brushed dangerously close to instalove.
As for the Peculiar Children, and Miss Peregrine… while I came to sort-of like them. There is still a lot of unknowns, and I’m sure we’ll get to know them more intimately in the following two books of the trilogy. Something about their behaviour was ‘off’ Even though they are likeable, until I hear some more backstory, or an origin story, I don’t think I’ll feel entirely comfortable with them. Miss Peregrine, played by Eva Green in the film did a commendable job. I’ve seen her in other works and have to say the acting, make-up, and wardrobe really let her shine.
I also have to mention how sufficiently creeped out by the white eyed wight in the novel. *shiver* Though the film gave them (and the hollowgast) a more comical tone and I wasn’t frightened at all… and can I mention the CGI – umm, yeah not spooky or matching the tone of the novel at all. Leading up to their reveal I was anxious, but as soon as their wriggly form appeared, I just wanted to shrug. Though to be fair, it they had been made too scary, it would have pushed the rating into ‘MA’ territory and completely missed the demographic.
Pretty much all the characters were all interesting (even if they weren’t peculiar) for the novel, because they all had mysterious motivations. I’m dying to find out more. This was a great first book for a series in setting the scene and intrigue. With the movie, it destroyed a lot of the mystique for me. Sometimes it was stereotypical, sometimes over the top. Some of the characters cast with actors I felt too old for the part and didn’t look as though they were born in the era they were supposed to (see the photographs in the novel). Though their performances were good, the production lost authenticity for me – much in the way the Twilight franchise had with over-made-up actors.
I noted how the special abilities the characters possessed hailed more from the day of travelling Side-Shows rather than psychic powers or X-men type abilities, which I felt add to the ambiance of the novel, tying into the old photographs and the WWII setting. These abilities were tweaked in the movie to either be more present in the storyline, or add cinematic special effects. So much so that at the end of the movie I’m concerned that I’ve been spoiled for books two and three in the trilogy. Yes – the ending of the movie is different to the novel. I’m uncertain if it is because the movie is a solo endeavour, or because of poetic license, but things went down that I definitely did not read about, (about the wights, the hollowgast and their motives, not to mention Emma’s ability) and hope it hasn’t ruined the rest of the novels in the series for me. So maybe it’s better if you read the entire trilogy before viewing the film… I’ll let you know after I read ‘Hollow City.’
I got many surprises from the plot. There was an obvious aspect around Jacobs fate, which is needed for this series to work, but the rest of the arcs had me guessing. Which I loved. There are still a lot of surprises in the film too – its divergence from the plot of the novel, the special effects, the costuming, some added scenes. It’s all very entertaining, but the overall plot, like the book, is predictable.
A highly entertaining novel and film, and something I’d easily recommend to all my friends, family, strangers on the street… Really excited to see where this series goes. But the book slides in just above the movie for my rating. The entertainment value and ability to set the tone for characters and keep the scare factor of the darker elements of the story are far superior in written word.
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