The conventional wisdom about early-career Tim Burton is that he was an imaginative visual stylist but not a great storyteller. But it's an undeniable fact that over his four-decade career, Burton has created fantastic characters who are now permanent installations in the popular imagination -- no other filmmaker would have conceived the likes of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Jack Nicholson's Joker, Johnny Depp's Ed Wood. In this Burton is brilliant, and it's a credit to his good taste that those roles are also outstanding collaborations with their respective actors.
Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) is another, a magical being who can transform into a falcon and create loops in time, within which she can eternally relive the same day in 1943 -- hiding inside it in order to protect her "peculiars," children born with physical and supernatural abilities for which society has rejected them, which is generally how young-adult fiction conceptualizes superpowers. Green creates a flinty, authoritarian Mary Poppins, a hypercompetent figure surrounded by clocks who insists on strict punctuality -- at 9:00 p.m. each night, a Nazi bomb destroys the school, Groundhog Day–style, so the kids must go outside. Though the cast includes a large number of peculiar children, Burton stamps each one with individual quirks, wardrobes and Burton-y silhouettes. Jake, the film's most important peculiar, is also its dullest. But the film mostly makes up for him with some great moments: Emma's resurfacing of a long-sunk luxury ocean liner; the marshalling of an army of furious skeletons for a battle with monsters; almost everything that Eva Green says and does.