Tim Burton’s adaptation isn’t quite faithful to Ransom Riggs’ novel. So much the better ?
With Miss Peregrine and the special children, broadcast this Sunday for the first time in clear on M6, Tim burton returns to his first love by following the daily life of extraordinary children. These orphans capable of flying away, creating flames or taming bees are discovered by a teenager, Jacob (Asa Butterfield), and raised away from it all on a small British island by a funny nanny capable of transforming into a bird. This gothic Mary Poppins role fits like a glove to Eva green, at the heart of this story which evokes both X-Men (powers and war), Harry potter (powers too, childhood and the place cut off from the world) and Peter Pan (childhood, obviously, as well as the time loop), but is adapted from the first novel by Ransom riggs. Published in 2012, this book –edited, as well as its suites, in French by Bayard– had the originality of inventing his own visual material: to illustrate the peculiarities of children, the author was inspired by retouched photographs from the 19th century which punctuate the story. Following the great success of the book, this 30-something American wrote two other volumes devoted to Jacob and his new friends, Hollow City (2014) and The Library of Souls (2015), before the release of the adaptation proposed by Tim burton, in October 2016 (and two other literary suites were released afterwards.
Is this film version true to the original material? Not really. This is what makes its originality in the midst of the adaptations of “Young Adults”. On the occasion of its broadcast on television, we republish this article dedicated to the adaptation work of Tim Burton and his screenwriter Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, X-Men: The Beginning…).
The photos that started it all
“Even before reading the book itself, I was fascinated by its images, explained Tim burton To Collider., a few days before its release. Because I myself am a collector of photos. Well, not as much as Ransom, but I’m interested. There emerges a mystery, concern, poetry … They tell a story while at the same time keeping secrets. Coming up with a plot based on photos was a brilliant idea, I really liked it. So before I even read it, I was won over. ” However, photo montages are ultimately not at the heart of the concept. We see some during the opening credits, and clichés mixed with letters from Jacob’s grandfather are then useful in the plot, but they are nowhere near as crucial as in the book.
Eva Green: “My mother tells me enough that I should stop playing crazy”
What attracted Tim burton on the project is therefore no longer really present in his film, even if the powers of the children, the Ombrunes (Miss Peregrine and the other nannies), and the villains, the Sepulchres led by Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), are largely shown… in motion, and no longer with the help of photos. The director takes advantage, for example, of the particularity of Enoch, played by Finlay MacMillan, which can give life to objects (in this case dolls, then skeletons) to pay homage to the special effects of Ray harryhausen.
The difference at the heart of the project
“Once I started reading, it was the ‘different’ side of children that marked me, Burton continues. The fact that the hero feels special, weird, crazy, that he has trouble adapting to society… When we felt that as a child, it never leaves us. It is this feeling that made me sign “. On this point, the film by Tim burton is very faithful to the novel. Jacob looks exactly like the hero of the book, his thoughts and questions are repeated word for word. The other children also stick to those presented in the original version, with a few details: Emma and Olive’s powers have been swapped, the twins’ peculiarity is quickly revealed and Miss Peregrine, although she is not a child, has changed a lot physically, but these differences are actually quite anecdotal.
A less dark, more colorful film
If the “heart” by Miss Peregrine is respected, her tone is however lighter on the screen than in writing – except for an addition by the filmmaker, which has to do with the eyes, but we will not say more, because that would spoil part of the story. The time loop created by Miss Peregrine to protect children offers them a very colorful haven of peace: they play under a blue sky in a green garden. It was also striking during the promotion of the film, the poster of the blockbuster being the antipodes of the book cover (see the photo at the top of the article). Another striking example: if war does exist on the screen, it remains in the background, while once out of the loop, the children of the book are plunged into full conflict.
Tim Burton’s obsessions are there
Heroes rejected by society, fascination for the eyes and for the world of the circus are at the heart of the film, while the last two points are not present in the book of Ransom riggs. He had also warned his readers before the release of the feature film. By discovering the film in preview, he specified that Tim burton had taken some liberties with his story “which make the film better, while honoring the substance of the book”. Indeed, the vision of the director is not faithful to his story. Unlike other adaptations of teenage novels (Twilight Where Hunger Games, for example), true filmed transpositions of literary sagas, Miss Peregrine respect the “heart” of the original work, then ends up detaching itself strongly from its model. As the time loop breaks, Tim Burton is “released” of the book to include his own obsessions. Circus and funfair scenes are thus totally invented for the occasion. Her style is much more present in this second part of the film and the director can have fun with self-referencing, but she is also less held, more messy, in part because of her use of the loop, which does not is not that of the book. Once started down this path, the director even ends up offering a “happy end” to its heroes, whereas the first volume left the particular children a little lost… while waiting for the continuation.
The film did not achieve enough success in theaters for 20th Century Fox to launch the sequel (it still grossed nearly $ 300 million worldwide, but had cost 110 without counting its publicity). Too bad, it would have been interesting to see Tim Burton move away even further from the novels, since the principle of the time loop does not have the same consequences on the screen as on the paper. We could thus have followed the evolution of these two adventures bearing the same name, but taking place in parallel, an idea already exploited on television with Game Of Thrones, for example, where the more the seasons went on, the more the series moved away from what had imagined George RR Martin.
The trailer for Miss Peregrine and the special children :
Eva Green: “Tim Burton and I”