Not all books work as films. Sometimes a film adaptation of a book doesn’t quite work (I know, I know, shocking. I never thought I’d hear myself say it). We all want our favourite stories to come to life on screen but sometimes, it is not the right format to choose. And unfortunately, I think Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children may be a prime example.
Keep in mind that I have not read the book that this film was adapted from. You might think that this makes me less qualified to talk about the subject, but from my perspective it makes it easier to see the gaps more clearly, which was the main problem I felt when watching the film; there were explanations not given, and descriptions and clarifications that I imagine would have been provided in literary form.
The plot of the film itself has many interesting features and original ideas, and a focus on a fantasy world that many children will love, which appears to make it perfect for adaptation to film. The story follows Jake (Asa Butterfield), a teenager from America who discovers that some people are ‘peculiar’, meaning they have strange talents or physical differences from ‘normal’ humans. He travels to Wales to find a group of these peculiar people, old friends of his grandfather, and gets caught up in a dangerous new world.
And yet, with what seems to be the perfect ingredients, something was still lacking. There were moments where I wanted to pause and ask how something worked, or what a certain thing meant, or how exactly we were supposed to just accept this and move on (most of these are spoiler-y, so I will not ask them here explicitly). All of these questions, I feel, must have been answered perfectly well on the page of the novel for the film adaptation to have been in demand, and yet since I had not read the books, the explanations offered on screen were not quite enough.
I know that films often have to cut things out in book adaptations. I have experienced it time and again. But sometimes, cutting things is hard, and leaves you with less quality than you started out with. That tedious explanation that worked on paper but would be boring to view on screen might actually be holding the story together.
For a children’s film, it just about manages to hang on. Imagination is a powerful thing, and many of the gaps can be filled that way. But I personally feel that this story, if it were to be adapted at all, should have taken the form of a television series, in order to include as much of the original story as possible.
Verdict: It was a decent film, with good acting, an interesting story, and all the elements that should appeal to children (although it did get very dark at times). It somehow felt unfinished, though, and personally I think it would work better as a television series rather than a film.
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Media sourced from Fox Movies and Vox