Tim Burton’s Wednesday was able to succeed because of his past failures. Before Wednesday Burton directed Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an adaptation from the book of the same title written by Ransom Riggs. Both Wednesday and Miss Peregrine’s follow a similar concept; a school designed for outcasts to safely explore that which makes them different. Despite Miss Peregrine’s seeming right in Burton’s gothic and quirky wheelhouse, the film ultimately fell flat. However, Burton was able to take the less successful aspects and create something spectacular with Wednesday.
Adapting a novel to a film is never an easy undertaking — especially with a book as intricate as Miss Peregrine’s. With a large cast of unique characters, a heavily detailed plot, and a vast setting, adapting Miss Peregrine for the screen was always going to be a serious undertaking. Miss Peregrine’s was met with a lukewarm reception upon its release, continuing Burton’s decade-long ratings curse. While the film wasn’t an outright failure, components like uneven pacing, underdeveloped villains, and confusing magical components received criticism from audiences. With the release of Wednesday, however, it’s clear Burton has learned from his past mistakes.
Wednesday Offers A Tighter Focus On Nevermore Academy
One of Miss Peregrine’s greatest shortcomings is that the film attempted to do too much — in covering the wide scope of the Peculiar Children universe, much of what makes the novel so unique is glossed over. Little attention is paid to truly displaying the world and the students of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, as well as their villainous counterparts, the Hollowgasts. Even the plot gets pushed aside at times, leaving behind an aesthetically beautiful film with a threadbare plot and two-dimensional characters. In trying to incorporate too much into one film, Burton’s high aspirations for Miss Peregrine’s overwhelmed everything that made the story truly magical.
In contrast, Wednesday looks at Nevermore Academy under a magnifying glass. The furthest that the setting is explored is the nearby town of Jericho, but even that is only done to further flesh out Nevermore Academy. Over the course of a single season, Burton fleshes out Nevermore as if it were a character in and of itself; its history, secrets, and culture are all developed in fine detail. In turn, this means the students — and enemies — of Nevermore are further developed themselves, creating a universe that feels properly brought to life.
Nevermore Academy Has The Diversity Miss Peregrine’s Home Lacked
Unfortunately, Miss Peregrine’s has a serious diversity issue. Over the course of the entire film, there is exactly one character of color — and that’s the villain, portrayed by Samuel L Jackson. In fact, Jackson seems to be Burton’s first leading character of color ever, despite the director’s extensive filmography; while Burton has cast actors of color before, Jackson is the first to take a leading role. Wednesday, on the other hand, gained the diversity that Miss Peregrine’s was missing. Wednesday’s embrace of her Latin heritage — who was finally cast with a Latin actress — and an ethnically diverse cast are a far cry from the predominately white cast of Miss Peregrine’s.
Burton has been in hot water for the diversity in his films before. When pressed on the lack of people of color in his films in 2016, Burton faced backlash from audiences as he attempted to use forced political correctness and blaxploitation films as a defense. In regard to casting characters of color, Burton told Bustle that “things either call for things, or they don’t.” For a director that frequents in the fantastical, many found Burton’s explanation for his lack of diversity lackluster. While Wednesday doesn’t erase Burton’s history of predominately white casts, it is a sign that the filmmaker is taking the first steps in the right direction.
Wednesday Better Develops Its Magical Elements Than Miss Peregrine’s Home
The fantastical elements of Riggs’ novel are what make the world of Miss Peregrine’s so charmingly unique. With pockets of time loops, time travel, shapeshifting, and original monsters known as Hollowgasts, there’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to making the universe make sense to the audience. In this aspect, Burton’s portrayal of Miss Peregrine’s falls short of the mark; while the magic looks beautiful, there’s little substance behind it, and it often serves to make things more confusing than contribute anything of value. Even the peculiar children — the shining stars of the source novel — aren’t used to the best of their potential.
Wednesday thrives on the detail of its magical element. In true Addams fashion, the mysterious and spooky serves as the series’ backbone; but Wednesday takes the spinoff outside the Addams family to explore its magical universe at large. The various magical creatures, Nevermore’s Outcast students, and paranormal entities are explored at length, creating a magical world that still manages to feel cohesive. In Wednesday, it’s clear that Burton learned from Miss Peregrine’s that there’s more to building a magical world than just the aesthetic; for audiences to truly embrace something, they have to be able to understand it.
Tim Burton Has Learned From His Past Mistakes
In the end, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children walked so that Wednesday could run. In looking at Wednesday, it is clear to see that Burton has learned from the critiques of his previous ventures. Stronger world-building, a more precise focus, and genuine diversity help build Wednesday into everything Miss Peregrine’s was meant to be. While the movies are incredibly similar in concept, it is these focus areas that separate the two so clearly in quality.
If Burton continues to be open to learning from his own past, Wednesday can only continue to improve. Though Burton suffered from a streak of rating failures, every single one of his films — particularly Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children — led the filmmaker to this moment; making one of Netflix’s most successful original series upon his television debut. In looking at and learning from his past mistakes, Burton can bring Wednesday to new heights in the future — all thanks to a fellow group of outcast schoolchildren.
More: Wednesday Season 2 Renewal Highlights The Show’s Biggest New Challenge