Monday, October 17, 2016

Red Pill Review: Miss Peregrines' Home for Peculator Children

I failed.

The ultimate problem with this Tim Burton film is that it is a Tim Burton film and that comes with a lot of baggage.

That baggage apparently started sometime around Tim's puberty.

It's an odd thing. We tend to form a strong picture of ourselves at puberty and it's terrible time to form a picture yourself. You are clumsy and awkward because of your last major growth spurt. Your body suddenly decides girls are really awesome after all and that is too bad because they don't share that opinion of you. The best you can do is act goofy in front of them and that was not what they are looking for. The cry of, “you are so immature,” is heard sneeringly from that quarter for the first time. It doesn't really bother you but it should. When the girls snarl about your lack of maturity, they are saying you are completely unacceptable for mating. The girls are suddenly desperate to find strong, confident and in charge but you are none of those things at that point. It's almost a cry from the heart from those girls for you to grow up.

You are at the bottom of the ladder socially. The older boys aren't all that secure about their own position so they are determined to keep you in yours. Unless you are an unusual specimen the older boys are all bigger and stronger.

You can't even look to your parents for comfort like you able to only a year ago. In a state of nature you would have learned all you needed to learn about hunting gathering by this horrible age. So far as your body is concerned it's time for you to get out in to the world and start your own life away from your mother and father. You rebel against your folks constantly because you are trapped in this artificial situation.

You don't fit in anywhere because you can't.

And then only a few short years later you are the one wearing the GO TO HELL WORLD I'M SENIOR, tee shirt. It's a nasty time but you grow out of it. It always stays with you but it doesn't have to rule you for the rest of your life…

...unless of course it does.

Welcome to the world of the Tim Burton movie.

The opening Miss Peregrine's Home, is very atmospheric. It's heavy on the faded brown and white photos from the 1940s along with antiques from that era that imply a life of adventure. Its a good start.

Then we meet our hero and he is a standard Tim Burton Awkward Hero. Jake is skinny, with unruly and unslightly greasy black hair. He is very, very Emo as well as a little Gothy. He is socially and physically inept. It's obvious that he is not going to solve any of life's problems with his fists. He is clearly a loser, circling the bottom of the fail bucket.

This character is a standard in all of Burton's films. The sex changes from time to time but the Outsider Character does not.

All of these characters have a few facets in common. Aside from their physical similarity, they all possess a secret gift and a strong resistance to self improvement. The only one of them that made any significant strides socially was Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice who at the end of the movie was clearly still a white monkey but she had learned how to dye herself brown.

Movie begins: Jake lives in a world of normal people who are all white and don't get or like him. While working at his high school job at the Valu-Rite Drug store, (*this shows how much Burton is out of touch BTW. Teenagers just can't get hired for demeaning jobs anymore*) he gets an urgent call from his Grandfather who needs to know where his gun is. His grandfather is suffering from dementia so Jake's father has taken away the key to Grandpa's gun safe.

Wrong call.

After his grandfather is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Jake and his family are going through his possessions and Jake finds some old pictures that his grandfather had used to help tell him stories. Fantastic stories of his friends on the Island at the school for Special Children. His grandfather was sent there in 1940-something. The school was run by the marvelous Miss Peregrine who could turn into a hawk. There was Emma who was lighter than air. And Olive who could set things alight with just a touch of her hands, so she always wore special gloves. And so on and so forth for the other kids at the school.

Jake had believed these stories to be true which turned out to be problem because his classmates did not. This helped create establish his low social standing.

Skipping ahead quite a bit.

Jake goes to the island believing Miss Peregrine to still be alive but sadly discovers that the school was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1944.

Shortly after this discovery he runs into the aforementioned Emma who is still a young girl in her late teens. She conducts him through a tunnel and there the School for Special Children still stands.

Emma is the standard Tim Burton love interest. The Beautiful But Off Girl. The only one who can ever really understand the Boy and who always believes in him and his Special Gift even when he does not. She is desired by Alphas but is oblivious to their charms. They are never a threat to their relationship. She only has eyes for the Special Boy and will always be faithful to him because he is special. Which if you know anything at about Tim Burton's personal life you will view this as staggeringly hypocritical.

While I have no qualms about ruining a Tim Burton film I am very much against spoiling another storyteller's tale. So I will severely abbreviate the rest of the film.

The plot device is man against man. The man in this case is the Barron. We now reach the saving grace of most Tim Burton movies...The Villain

Honestly the villains are the only reason to plunk down your bucks for a Tim Burton movie...usually

I said, usually, not everytime

And Samuel L. Jackson delivered the goods. Bombastic, over the top, effortlessly dominating his scenes and chewing the scenery like a school of rabid piranhas. Jackson can still bring his A-game and he does so here.

Tim Burton's villains seem to be the monster opposite versions of his Awkward heroes. But instead of a Secret Gift his villains have a Public Defect and they draw nothing but strength from that Defect. It makes them strong, gregarious, and extroverts. But they are not Alphas. That is the surprising thing given the nature of his “heroes.” Given that Burton's Awkward Heroes are pretty much all Gammas, you would expect Alpha resentment to be on display and while it is present it doesn't drive the plot.

However, his villains effortlessly victimize Alphas. It's something they do just to get them out of the way. It moves the plot along.

A proper Tim Burton film villain is almost always a Sigma Male.

When the MacGuffin is resolved it is usually so Deus ex machina it is almost always invariably pointless. Miss Peregrine was almost but not quite that bad. The action scenes were decent for a Burton film and those a usually a pronounced weakness for him. However when the twins pull their hoods off to dispose of the last monster, you are suddenly yelling, why the fuck didn't you use that trick in the first place? Why didn't you lead with your A-Team?

Not that it matters.  Resolution of the plot is never the point of any Tim Burton film.  The point and purpose is his films is that the Awkward Hero will learn to wave his freak-flag high.  No matter what the mundanes think of him for having done so.

So do I recommend Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children? I'd say read the book first and then wait for Netflix.

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