Oh adaptations, how we love and hate thee. Even though I’m always a bit apprehensive I love adaptations, I love watching books come to life but I know that I’ll always be just the tiniest bit disappointed in some missed or changed detail. That being said, I’m also one of those people that once I know something’s an adaptation I HAVE TO read the book because finding the differences always feels like finding some hidden Easter egg.
So! I thought that doing a whole series on my blog comparing and discussing adaptations would be fun. I recently (and by recently I mean an entire month ago) found myself watching Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children one day which then got me knee deep into a reread of the book, which I love by the way. I figured this was as good a place as any to start for my first “adaptation battle”.
I’m not going to be reviewing the book or the movie (I’m sure I will a little bit) in depth in these or getting hung up on tiny details, instead I’m going to talk about some of the bigger/more noticeable differences and whether or not I think they work/if I like them. At the very end I’ll decide if I prefer the book or the movie more.
Before I get into details I want to talk about the overall because I think the book and the movie have much different tones, the reason I love the book is because of how eerie and dark it is and the movie has some of this but not really … enough. Tim Burton directed Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children but I don’t really think it has the same darkness as his past works or the book, there were creepy parts to the movie but I think it’s almost more child-like darkness rather than atmospheric.
Something that I really missed in the movie was the photographs, they were used but not as much as they are in the books. I don’t hold it against the movie because translating them from page to screen was probably not so easy.
I also think that the movie definitely gets points for its pacing, I thought it flowed really well and it’s a lot more action-y than the book is.
Emma and Olive:
Emma and Olive are the two characters that probably go through the most change in the adaptation. Most noticeably their powers are switched, which I’m not terribly mad about but I am mad about the fact that Emma’s character – in my opinion – is severely watered down from what she is in the books. In the books Emma is powerful and fiery (no pun intended) and has much more leadership qualities while in the movie I felt that she was really reduced to a much more love interest-y role.
The peculiar’s physical ages are also a big change in the movie, Miss Peregrine, Bronwyn, Fiona, and Hugh are noticeably younger while Olive and Enoch are aged up. I don’t think their new ages really change much in the way of the story as the movie stays mainly Jacob-centric (as opposed to band of misfits style the book has) but I don’t really see why Olive had to be aged up? Enoch gets some development as an older character but Olive really doesn’t and I feel like it’s kind of just … to add another romance to the movie.
Another pretty big change in the adaptation, the movie pretty much scraps the lore behind the Wights and the Hollows from the book, or really just takes the juiciest bits out and shoves some Lovcraftian filler in there. There’s pretty much no use of the word ‘wight’ and the Hollows are peculiars turned monsters who eat the eyes of peculiar children to regain some of their human-ness? I mean it is still similar to the book but I honestly found the eye eating weirdly… comical rather than dark. I’m not MAD about the movie-Hollows because I still think they’re interesting but I definitely prefer the book version.
The Hollow’s designs also change in the movie, when they haven’t eaten enough eyes they resemble huge spaghetti-type monsters with tentacle arms and no faces just mouths. I still found their look cool but again I thought it was more comical and a little silly rather than dark and sinister.
Abe and Jacob:
This is definitely a smaller detail but anyway. While Abe gets more screen time in the movie I think he has a more impactful role in the book, his history and relationship with the peculiars is very surface-level and I felt like it got glossed over. I did however really like the time-bending phone call Jacob has with his younger grandfather and thought it was a nice touch.
I also think that Jacob is a lot more fleshed out in the books, we don’t really get to experience his backstory or his thoughts/where he’s coming from as much in the movie as it’s quite fast-paced.
Probably the BIGGEST change is the ending, I actually though the movie ending was part of the beginning of the next book so I went and read the next book and it’s not and I’m not entirely sure if I like the movies ending.
In the movie the peculiars and the Hollows have this really weird battle on a pier, the peculiars win and Jacob goes back through the loop to his family but the loop he takes actually sets him back in time before his grandfather’s death and because they’ve defeated the Hollows they can’t come back and exactly re-murder Abe. Jacob essentially gets to live a normal life until Abe tells him to go to Emma which ensues a cross-world cross-time journey where he travels through loops (and briefly joins the navy) before reuniting with the peculiars and sailing off into the sunset … roll credits.
I don’t think the ending is bad and I think it definitely fits the version of the story that the movie is telling but I really prefer the books ending as it’s a lot darker and a lot more desolate.
Verdict: I’m really conflicted about this one because I think that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is actually a pretty great adaptation BUT I do prefer the darker and eerie atmosphere of the book more.