Tim Burton’s new film may be the most Tim Burton-esque project that he has ever made.Essentially, it is a greatest hits box set of his most whimsical and Gothic work to date- a chocolate box of candy-flavoured grotesques (or in one segment, chewable eyeballs.)
Adapted by Jane Goldman and Burton from Ransom Riggs’ novel, the main catalyst for the action is between the perennial outsider Jake (a touching Asa Butterfield) and the relationship with his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp,wonderful) who provides imaginative storytelling… but this is Burton, and these flights of fancy are not entirely in the old man’s head. Their relationship emulates that of Edward and the inventor in Edward Scissorhands, or Ed and Bela in Ed Wood– kindred spirits from unlikely backgrounds.
Eva Green as the titular Peregrine finally gets a role befitting her. For too long she has been sidelined as hot babe or weird ice maiden. Here, she portrays a kick-ass matriarch figure with a pretty decent English accent, who smokes a pipe and is a whizz with a bow and arrow. She’s strikingly ambivalent-equally malevolent and caring. Purists and fans of the book may rail against Emma and Olive swapping roles, but this is but a small quibble as the girls all get to do incredible things- even little Bronwyn with her mega-strength.
The film bubbles with the usual visual tricks and treats- a nod to Ed Wood in the ghost train; a pinch of The Nightmare Before Christmas in the fairground showdown. Even arch villain Samuel L Jackson as shape-shifting Barron has a ball,parodying his Pulp Fiction speech.Okay, it is flimsy, but the invention and heart more than make up for the later overlong meanderings into fantasy the film takes.
All images, Fox Pictures Ltd.
Out now, distributed by Fox Pictures.