Tim Burton returns to big budget studio films with this Narnia-esque story. Asa Butterfield plays a young man who discovers a school of supernatural children whom he must protect from a vicious evil.
Visually sumptuous and surprisingly grisly, the film’s flourishes gloss over a story that doesn’t go anywhere unexpected. Eva Green’s ornate, pipe-smoking title character is a delight in every scene, the only downside being she isn’t used as much as she should be. Presumably this is to make way for the love story between Butterfield and Ella Purnell’s wistful love story, but the romance feels forced, often reduced to a procession of yearning looks.
Samuel L Jackson is brilliantly hammy as the eyeball-eating villain, turning up abruptly and causing enough chaos to make the finale – charmingly set on Blackpool Pier – palatable.
His antics may be too scary for younger children, however, with the more gruesome scenes really stretching the 12A rating. Burton’s films have felt neutered over the last decade by expensive effects and family-friendly themes. Of his recent mainstream output, this is one of the more unrestrained and enjoyable adventures.