Book vs Movie: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Book cover Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

When I started planning my next Book vs Movie post, I wanted to go with something fun and easy. Unfortunately, the book I really wanted wasn’t easy to get my hands on. So I browsed the library’s YA section and found this bad boy. With that my luck had improved because they also had a copy of the movie available. Sometimes a plan just falls into my lap.

Normally, I wouldn’t have read this, it looks like it’s geared towards the younger end of YA. It was a good read, I enjoyed it but it seemed more fairy tale than a fantasy adventure. There was something very childlike about the story and characters. It starts with Jakob growing up hearing his grandfather’s stories about living in an orphanage full of children with special abilities, then leaving to fight monsters. Jakob stops believing the stories as he gets older until his grandfather is killed by a pack of feral dogs or so everybody but Jakob believes. Encouraged by his psychologist, Jakob and his father visit the island where his grandfather grew up to find out more. This is the first book of the series and includes a lot of the setup and world-building for the rest of the books. There’s a slow build-up to the major conflict where we get to know all the characters and fill in some of the backstories. But we don’t get much of a resolution, in fact it feels like the story is just starting.

There are a lot of minor changes that add up and make the movie quite different from the book. Some are for obvious reasons, eliminating unimportant details and speeding the story up, and don’t have much of an effect on the story. For example, beginning with the grandfather’s death, then using a flashback to provide the information from the prologue. But others didn’t make much sense to me, like switching Emma and Olive’s abilities; Emma is a fire-starter and Olive can float. The movie makes Emma float and also expands her ability to generally being able to manipulate air. It doesn’t really make sense and becomes the go-to answer to every obstacle. Most of the changes end up simplifying the story and it loses something. We don’t get as much built up or suspense and everything works out to easily. It’s understandable they had to wrap up the story for the movie but it feels too convenient. The book, or rather books, is a lot more complicated and throws a whole lot more obstacles into the kids plans.

About twenty minutes into the movie I predicted that I’d be picking the book. It was mostly for fun and had hoped I’d be proven wrong. But I likely already saw it was lacking. I have to go with the book on this one. The story is much better developed and all the little details they left out of the movie really add to the worldbuilding. The movie wraps it all up neatly, defeating the big bad a little too easily, but the books open up to a much wider and expansive story. Fair warning, this is a not a series you can just dip your toes into. The first book introduces us to this world and the major conflict for the characters, but leaves you hanging. Curious I read the second book and again was left with a cliffhanger ending. If you decide to read the book, be prepared to read the whole series.

Dark Tower Movie Review

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The Dark Tower movie has taken a lot of criticism, even before the movie came out. Many fans didn’t understand or want to accept that the movie would not be an adaptation of the books. In fact, the movie is rather an extension of the story, similar to the comic books. They build upon and extend the world and characters created in the book series. While the comics have taken us back into Roland’s past, the movie is moving it forward. I can admit the movie could have been better, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the worst reviews would have you think. Many of those bad reviews are too heavily comparing it to the books. It seems many expected it to be an epic fantasy but instead it was more action oriented. Shedding those expectations and taking for what it was, it was pretty good.  It wasn’t great but there were some things I really liked about it.

We’ll start with casting, Idris Alba was a great choice for the gunslinger. He’s not what fans pictured physically but he totally embodies the persona of the gunslinger. He easily gives off the stone faced, tough-as-nails seriousness of Roland. He also has his moments of very deadpan humor. While he’s the hero of the story, you’re still not sure whether he’s really a good guy. Then there’s Matthew McConaughey’s sleazy Man In Black/Walter. It works for the character, he’s evil in a very nonchalant way. He casually kills people as if dismissing them by telling them to stop breathing. He also appears to enjoy taunting Roland. I loved when he projected himself to Roland in the gunshop. I was happy to see the infamous Black 13 and the other Wizards Rainbow pieces appear in the movie. It was one of several references to the book that only fans would catch or know the significance.

There was also the horn in Roland’s bag, visible in a few different scenes. A indicator that this must be Roland’s next go round after the series ended. The books left off with him starting the journey to the Tower, this time with the horn he’d previously left behind. There was also the repeating of the number 19. I like the way they depicted the abandoned portal/doorway terminal when they were in Midworld. The portholes were nice, a cool way to depict the science fiction technology. The Dixie Pig was much different than the book, but it was pretty awesome. Instead of just a restaurant with the tunnels underneath, it’s was like a gauntlet spiraling down to the tunnels. It makes it look more dangerous and grittier. I was glad to see Sayre make an appearance in the movie. I’d have liked to know who some of the other bad guys doing Walter’s bidding were supposed to be. The effect on some of the lowmen/can-toi was pretty cool; the slit in the neck, extra space around the eyes and the sagging cheeks on some was sick looking. They also include hints at larger aspects from the book if you paid attention. Lastly, I’m sure you’ve already read about the nods to Kings other work.

There were also some significant changes to the story. We saw more of Jake’s parents, especially his mother who was almost nonexistent in the books. I like Katheryn Winnick, she’s great in the small screen time she has. I though it was interesting that switched up some of the details of his home life before crossing worlds. It worked okay and was totally plausible in the Dark Tower world. in the realm of possibilities for the Dark Tower’s logic. They also twisted the story of Walter’s attack on the Tower. In the book the psychics attack the beams, in a process that’s enjoyable and pleasurable, while living on an idealistic campus. In the movie, they live in the shadow of a dark ominous building where kids are strapped into a machine to directly attack the Tower with their psychic power. A process that appears tortuous. It makes the story a whole lot darker.

As I said this was more of an action movie than anything else. It was short and the pace was incredibly rushed. There wasn’t much character development and it rushed through events without much story. We meet Roland and Jake, get a few flashes of their past, but never get enough to really care about them. We know Roland lost a battle and Walter killed his father. But, what happened? When was this battle, where, for what exactly? Did Walter command an army or did he kill them all himself? What about his world, what happened to it? He delivers the famous line, the world has moved on, but nothing else. Same for Jake, we are left with so many questions. They show us the news clipping about his father’s death, but never followup. An additional thirty minutes or so to flesh out their stories and see them bond could have made a dramatic difference. I think a great way would have been to include a scene of them by the fire one night telling each other just how they ended up where they are. It’s a familiar scene from the books, especially when character’s stories first intersect. That’s the other thing the movie is missing, the Dark Tower series is one huge story told in a lot of smaller stories. The theme of stories within stories comes up throughout the series. Most often characters share their story while sitting by the fire at night. It would have easily given viewers more story and included a common element from the books.

Overall, I didn’t think it was a terrible movie. I wasn’t expecting it to live up to the books. I went in with an open mind and wanted to judge it as a stand alone movie. It was entertaining and I was happy to see how they included references to the larger story. I could see it was close to being a really good movie but just lacked enough story. I’m sure most fans will not be happy and those unfamiliar with the series won’t care about the characters. But it’s got some pretty good action scenes and was fun to watch.