Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
How should Christians regard dark and macarbe stories, in light of Christ’s teachings?
protecting vulnerable children
dealing with odd differences in people
importance of family
selflessness / sacrificial love
learning to have courage / bravery
struggling to find a medium between healthy interaction with “the world,” so your virtue and faith remain intact in secular environments, and standing apart in setting an example of godliness
|Featuring:|| Eva Green … Miss Alma LeFay Perigrine
Asa Butterfield … Jacob Portman
Samuel L. Jackson … Barron
Kim Dickens …
Allison Janney … Dr. Golan
Judi Dench … Miss Avocet
Chris O'Dowd … Franklin Portman
Rupert Everett …
Ella Purnell … Emma Bloom
Terence Stamp … Abraham Portman
Milo Parker … Hugh Apiston
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|Director:||Tim Burton—“Edward Scissorhands” (1990), “Corpse Bride” (2005), “Batman Returns” (1992)|
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|Distributor:||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
Time. We watch it slip away, complain there’s never enough of it. We blink… and a moment, a day, a decade, is gone. And we can never get it back.
Young Jake (Asa Butterfield) never ponders the nuances of lost time. He has no interest in such things. He works a dull but ordinary job at a supermarket, and visits his beloved grandfather (Terence Stamp), who suffers from dementia. Jake fails to realize time is precious… until he finds Grandfather, after a frightened phone call for help, in a patch of misty moonlight, devoid of his eyes. “The bird will explain everything,” Grandpa says… and dies.
Then, Jake sees something in the woods… something that cannot be there, a creature that does not exist outside his grandfather’s old stories… right?
Grandpa used to tell Jake tales about the shape-shifting Miss Peregrine and her household of “Peculiars,” children with abnormalities. Desperate for answers, Jake travels to the small island where his grandfather grew up after fleeing Poland during WWII. There, hopeful of meeting Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), he discovers a burned out orphanage… and much more, including the most precious gift of all: the chance to get back lost time.
I devoured the novel by Ransom Riggs in one sitting on a snowy afternoon during a power outage, the only light in the house the glow of my Kindle screen. When I heard Tim Burton was directing the film, I thought, “Perfect, only Burton could create such a fantastical, surreal, macabre world.” A true visionary director with incredible talent for artistic design, Burton takes us on an eventful adventure on one of his favorite topics: peculiars. Most of his movies have a unique, misunderstood, or persecuted individual at the center; here, Peculiars have unusual gifts, ranging from floating in midair, to turning people to stone at a glance, to producing fire from fingertips, even the power to control time loops and turn into a falcon.
From an artistic standpoint, it’s a masterpiece of eeriness intermixed with beauty, from the sheen of blue feathers to the charmed, sunlit world where Miss Peregrine’s children dwell. She is their protector and guardian, a stern but affectionate presence in their lives, until circumstances force them to find the courage to save her from a diabolical villain (Samuel L. Jackson). The story is strongest at the start, as Burton world-builds, and sweet in its conclusion, though it loses a bit of its magic in the middle. Colleen Atwood’s costumes are ingenious, and the music sets a tone of sinister wonder.
Burton indulges his taste for dark humor and enjoyment of the grotesque in a Peculiar who can animate and control dead or inanimate objects (including one creepy moment where he puts a heart inside a dead boy and has it speak to Jake). Small children might have nightmares after seeing frightening scenes involving monsters, reanimated skeletons, violent battles between Peculiars and Hollows, hollow eyed corpses, a man’s eyes sucked from his head, and the mass consumption of eyeballs (seen in grisly piles, or slurped up by white-eyed evil Peculiars). There is one utterance of God’s name coupled with a profanity. A girl’s wet garments cling to her after a swim. Though there is no “magic,” the story never addresses the origins of the Peculiar’s peculiarities.
The story left me thinking about time, how precious it is, and how we must use it to appreciate our loved ones. It does not shy away from discussing how Grandfather’s secret job was valuable, in protecting innocent lives (“He took lives to save them”), but caused him to lose his own children’s love (“He wasn’t around much, we thought he might be cheating on Grandma…”), who failed to maintain a relationship with him because he was never home. His son has the same problem with Jake (“You need to talk about these things with someone… call your therapist”). Burton does not preach, he nudges and makes you think.
The film speaks to the pain of separation from the outside world. This differs in each individual, since no one is an outcast for the same reason, but, as a believer, I sometimes fall into a feeling of disconnectedness… “in the world, but not of it.” In that context, Miss Peregrine’s protection of the children takes on a new light. She keeps them safe by withholding from them natural human experiences, such as growing older, one day at a time. Her over-protectiveness hinders them from healthy interaction with the world beyond their time loop. Many Christians face a similar challenge. It can be a struggle to find a medium between healthy interaction with “the world,” so your virtue and faith remain intact in secular environments, and standing apart in setting an example of godliness.
To me, the children symbolize humanity and its deeper individual gifts, passions, skills, and faults. Though they can be petty, they also show virtues like selflessness, courage, and perseverance. Before the end, they reflect sacrificial love in their willingness to die for one another. In doing so, they find part of the true meaning of life. Thankfully, our God loved us enough to self-sacrifice on our behalf… and doesn’t mind if we’re a little bit… Peculiar.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Mild to moderate—“G*d d*mn” (1), OMG (2), “h*ll” (2), “d*mn” (1), “b*ggers” (1), “b*llocks” (2), “cr*p” / Sex/Nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.