I picked up “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” in 2014 in Donner when the second book (“Hollow City“) had just been released. I picked it up because it looked just too beautiful to leave behind. The book features obscure photographs the writer (Ransom Riggs) found in garage sales and other places. He found these photographs and let his imagination loose, creating characters based on the people (often children) in the trick photos and building a world for them. This world has now been turned into a movie. The film is directed by Tim Burton and the cast includes the wonderful Eva Green and Samuel L. Jackson. So on my blog this week I thought I would compare the books and the movie.
The general plot
‘Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children’ is actually a trilogy. The books are about a boy (Jake) and a bunch of peculiar children who must save the whole of peculiardom of the evil Wights and their Hollowgasts (‘Hollows’ for short). After the previous sentence full of weird words, let me explain them a little bit more. The idea is that some people are born into this world as ‘peculiars’, people with abilities (for example: floating, turning everything you touch into fire, animating the dead etc.). Miss Peregrine is a ‘Ymbryne’ who can manipulate time (and turn into a bird) whose job it is to protect these peculiar born children. To do so the Ymbrynes create ‘loops’, 24-hours of a perfect day that repeats itself infinitely. Miss Peregrine, for example, lives from 21.07 on the 2nd of September 1943 until 21.07 on the 3rd of September 1943, when she resets the loop and the day starts again at 21.07 on the 2nd of September 1943. The ‘Wights’ are people who tried to use this time-manipulating-power of the Ymbrynes to make themselves immortal, which backfired massively turning them into Hollowgasts (creepy things which are invisible to everyone). They then had to eat the eyes of Peculiar children (gross) to turn them into somewhat human, but they never get their eyes back (they remain white). When they turn into their semi-human shape again they are called ‘Whights’. Their main goal in life is to retry the experiment and raid all the loops to help their Hollowgast buddies out to more peculiar eyes. Jake, the main character, is a boring teenager in Florida whose grandfather dies unexpectedly which causes him to go on a journey to an island in Whales where he finds Miss Peregrine’s loop, which sets off a chain of events concluding in him having to help the peculiar children to save the Ymbrynes and defeat the Whights. Jakes peculiarity turns out to be that he is able to see the Hollowgasts (which, as stated, are invisible to the others). This was a very short description of the general plot, so now let’s move onto the book and the movie.
Book vs Movie
SPOILER: The ending of the movie is completely different from the books. More specifically, the first half of the movie is pretty similar to the first three-quarters or so of the first book and then the second half of the movie takes small parts of the overall plot of the other two books and changes the rest. Surprisingly, this is not a bad thing at all, although was a bit of a shock, but it was the best thing they could have possibly done for this movie. Before we went in I was already dreading the fact that, because there are three books, there would have to be three movies. But because they changed the plot and moved things around, there is only one movie (and probably will be only one movie). I have so much respect and admiration for this choice and the way they executed this. Of course, this results in big differences and discrepancies between the books and the movie, but the general vibe of the books is left intact. The movie becomes more an addition to the trilogy then a retelling of the story. This way you can still read the entire trilogy and be surprised and remain intrigued by this fascinating world.
The biggest objection I have when comparing the book to the movie is the fact that they changed the peculiarities of Emma and Olive. In the books Emma makes fire and Olive floats, in the movies they changed this and it felt very strange. The floating was nice, also because they added some wind power to her peculiarity, but it was very strange at the start when you keep confusing Emma/Olive because you are used to them having different peculiarities.
Overall the movie was great, there is a bit of awkward, cringeworthy acting by Asa Butterfield (Jake), which is a shame. But Eva Green as Miss Peregrine and Samuel L. Jackson as Barron (a whight) absolutely steal the show, they are amazing. The other children are adorable and their peculiarities are put into the movie very well. The whole thing has the right amount of gross and creepy vibes (they show the hollows snacking on human eyeballs, super gross) and overall Tim Burton did an amazing job. There were a lot of laugh-out-loud moments (the whole theater was laughing) and it kept the movie entertaining in between some of the awkward scenes.
I loved this movie. I think it is still a great movie if you haven’t read the books and I think that is the biggest strength a book-movie adaptation can have. The movie plot has been altered with visible respect to the original plot and the fact that it is a stand-alone movie (instead of part of a trilogy) is another bonus.