So, this adaptation of the beloved book follows Jacob Portman to Cairnholm, Wales after his grandfather ended up passing away supposedly by a wild dog attack. But Jacob saw a creature that his ride back from work that day, Shelley, didn't see. The other thing? His grandfather's eyes were completely gone. But what else was completely gone is Jacob's belief in the stories, especially after a traumatizing life of people not believing his stories and making fun of Jacob in school for ever thinking they were true.
One question I had in this adaptation was from the casting of Asa Butterfield as Jacob. In the book, he was an American but a boy who played a British farmer in Nanny McPhee Returns and a German Nazi's son in The Striped Pajamas. Turns out, he plays an American in this, but the book's Jacob was emotional, scared and witty. Somehow, the actor I knew from Nanny McPhee has lost all of his, and when Jacob kneels over a dying man, he doesn't look sad or even surprised. And when a coincidental match about the date in 1943 comes up, Jacob isn't surprised, letting people who haven't read the book not get the comparison, bluntly underacting. But on the contrary, there is a character played by Samuel L. Jackson who overacts like the Phineas and Ferb Doofenshmirtz villain.
I enjoyed the visuals well enough, especially on the hollows. And the skeletons, cow hearts, hair design and suit for Eva Green's Miss Peregrine, are all imaginative. But it also felt like an antidote to the overly ordinary sets of Jacob's first school and Grandpa's home. No offence if white is your favourite colour, but Jacob's entire elementary school and all of Grandpa's walls were painted white. Would it have killed the set designers to give some more interesting colour? Also, remember when I talked about Jacob being teased in school for the stories? There were two things I found wrong, and tragically wrong, with that scene. The first was I felt it made a mistake naming the peculiar children we will inevitably see later, because it feels too early to introduce the powers and having the children introduce each other on their own when they come in might've been a chance to introduce them with more flair. Maybe I wouldn't have had that problem if I didn't read the book and liked the way it was in there already but there it is. The other thing, apart from the blunt colouring, was that normally, being laughed at in front of the whole school would be traumatizing, and it was, but it's good to let those scenes linger to have some moments of sadness before it cuts away. No such thing here.
So what apart from the visuals did I enjoy? Well...the effects around the children, especially Hugh and Olive were perfect, and, yes, I guess that is another visual thing, but I liked the choices they put around these effects, and director Tim Burton knows how to use the right camera angles, such as seeing a glimpse of Miss Peregrine through the half-transparent curtain as she storms off. My favourite scene was near the end when Jake and the children are battling the invisible creatures, because it's in a public place, and most books would try to get the citizens to evacuate but here we get to see all of their reactions at looking at a floating girl. Also, the children hatch an ingenious plan for visibility, and not only is it terrifically entertaining but the special effects of the monsters in that scene are marvellous. Beforehand however, the new story the movie tries to do, while I would normally be grateful for a little surprising change, doesn't make much sense at all. Well, parts of it do, and I suspect the other books I haven't read talk around this, but the ending was just convoluted, messy, and didn't have my heart pounding for the next movie like most movies in the YA-adaptation field have done. Oh, and how exactly would that man be able to pose as that person if that person had to be in a position where people knew about him? I'm just saying...
Also, there is more than one scene where the bad guy dismisses the children as if they pose no threat. It's pretty obvious, or should be, that the children can get out of the situation. Locking the kids in a certain area, especially the area chosen, won't keep them there. All these angering flaws aside, I enjoyed a fair amount of the book for at least being able to keep the father-son element right and a fair amount of mystery for filmgoers who haven't read the book.
In the end, this isn't a terrible adaptation of one of my favourite books of the year, but fans of the book certainly deserve better.