One of the few sensible expectations to have while watching a fantasy movie--with a budget somewhere just shy of 100 million dollars--is that the money will be up on the screen. It should be a given that, even if the film is incoherent, or rests on paper thin characters, it will at least look good.
Unfortunately that is not the case with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Concept artists like yourself can be an essential--but often underappreciated--part of any film that leans heavily on its visuals to convey mood, sense of place, and what kind of world the audience is being asked to accept. HR Giger, who was instrumental in creating so many of the singular design elements, including the iconic xenomorph, for Ridley Scott’s Alien, is a good example of how a concept artist can create something that is crucial to the success of a film. Were it not for Giger, Alien wouldn’t have the reputation as the groundbreaking genre film it now enjoys.
Given how workaday and forgettable Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children was, especially visually, I think it’s a safe bet that it will never achieve anywhere near that level of acclaim.
Tim Burton is someone who often creates fantasy worlds that are filled with imaginative and memorable characters and settings, so it’s a bit of a surprise that this film is so lacking. In contrast to his other work: movies like Beetlejuice with it’s German Art Deco madness, or Edward Scissorhands and it’s suburban fever dream, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children seems to be the creation of someone whose imaginative powers have failed him.
Aside from the dullness of the conceptual work, this film is also miserably cast. Asa Butterfield is like watching a silhouette perform--it’s a weightless, one dimensional effort without substance or impact, and is so low key that you half expect him to nod off in the middle of any particular scene. Eva Green, as the titular Miss Peregrine, spends most of her time arching eyebrows and attempting to exude a kind of distant competence that comes off more as disinterest in the whole project than anything else. Judi Dench shows up and then disappears just as quickly, leaving me to wonder if something went seriously wrong with the script in the middle of production. And Samuel L. Jackson, while having a couple of moments, seems to be building a second career around playing characters that feel like third hand parodies of capital E-evil Bond villains. The entire film feels half baked, as if the whole crew lost interest mid-way through.
Usually with something like Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children--a project that draws upon source material that readily supplies the framework for a fully realized world--there is something to like. And certainly there was the skeleton of a dark fantasy story that promised something much more. But your contribution, along with pretty much everyone else involved in this waste of time and money, seems to have begun and ended at the punch clock.