The Adventures of Tintin
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Cast: (voices of) Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Running Time: 1 hr 47 mins
Release Date: December 21, 2011
PLOT: A young journalist (Bell) tries to find out the mystery of a ship called the Unicorn, and the two families who fight over the information as to where it is buried.
WHO’S IT FOR? Bloodless, deathless, and even lacking in a romantic interest, The Adventures of Tintin is entertainment primed for families. All fans of Spielberg should also give this one a look.
EXPECTATIONS: With the sometimes hit-and-hard-miss quality of motion-capture animation, I was curious as to what vision Spielberg would have with the technology, and if a European hero such as Tintin would respond well with Americans. Are we going to really care for a proper boy with an affinity for blue sweaters and khaki pants?
Jamie Bell as Tintin: He is innocent and proper, just the way Spielberg likes his young male leads (especially with the upcoming War Horse). Bell plays Tintin with the wonderment of a kid’s TV show host, which I suppose is what the role requires. However corny he might be with his perfections (he’s a good shot, and somehow he can throw a punch) Tintin isn’t an annoying hero. Just don’t expect him to staple a hat to his head, because he wouldn’t do anything like that in a hundred years.
Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock: As with many Serkis appearances, this is a very animated performance, even before he becomes physically unrecognizable due to mo-cap. As the slightly pesky Haddock, Serkis helps bring the history at the center of Tintin to exciting life with moments of intense physical storytelling. His portrayal of alcoholism, however cartoonish it might seem, is like dark humor for little kids.
Daniel Craig as Ivanovitch Sakharine: However sharp this villain’s beard might be, he lacks the same distinction in his character. Though he has a unique motivation for his evil (age-old family revenge) this is one of the flatter bad guys to grace the screen in recent months. Regardless, it is highly amusing to imagine James Bond standing in a recording booth channeling his inner-Snidely Whiplash. If you don’t pay close attention to the opening credits, or Sakharine’s voice, you may not even be able to pick up that it’s Daniel Craig.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Thompson & Thomson: They’re pure comic relief, from a movie that is already cartoon-y inside and out. The two have quick repartee in bits that are a departure from the story. They are entirely dedicated to an elongated tale of slapstick involving a pickpocket (played by Toby Jones), which only becomes relevant for one small instance.
TALKING: Keeping kids up to speed throughout the few chapters of its story, Tintin constantly brainstorms out loud. This could be a tad tedious for older viewers (or, it allows them to pay more attention to the visuals). As for bad guy dialogue, Craig’s villain speaks in cliche, losing some of his dynamic to dull snide remarks. Dialogue is one of the lower priorities of the Tintin screenplay – you certainly won’t hear any meetings of sharp minds here.
SIGHTS: Tintin makes a winning argument for its usage of motion capture once it kicks into one of its many action sequences. Like any good adventure, Tintin has elaborate set pieces, and motion-capture allows Spielberg to capture such environments with a weightless camera of boundless potential. Using smooth one-takes and cleverly engineered predicaments, Tintin has at least three scenes, stimulated by incredible animation, that make the price of admission worth it alone.
SOUNDS: As a friend astutely remarked about John Williams’ score, “It sounds like a circus band playing at a jazz club,” especially during the opening credits. The score is toe-tapping, but lacks any memorable theme to accompany our memories of the entire Tintin experience.
BEST SCENE: Spielberg makes an impressive argument for his use of motion-capture (and to anticipate more in the future) with a multi-layered action sequence that takes place in Bagghar. The chase sequence maintains a breathtaking energy throughout its two-minute, surprise-filled running time.
ENDING: Tintin ends up where he started to find a hat full of gold, and a piece of paper that promises even more “adventure.” The dog barks.
QUESTIONS: Ultimately ending up with a hat full of gold seems to be underwhelming by today’s adventure standards, even in the world of Indiana Jones Macguffins. Will this lead Haddock and Tintin to the actual treasure in a second film, or will the next movie just start elsewhere?
REWATCHABILITY: With a story that is swift and visuals that are always impressive, a repeat viewing doesn’t take away the pure fun of The Adventures of Tintin. It may not be a re-viewing of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but Tintin will certainly do should you want to experience similar thrills on the big screen.
Like the lifeless human eyes that have previously paralyzed previous mo-cap adventures like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, the technology itself has been in need of a boost from an entertaining story, and a skilled storyteller who knows how to tell it. Enter Steven Spielberg, who plays with this clever script from Edgar Wright (director of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) and Steven Moffat (“Doctor Who”) to deliver the “Young Indiana Jones” movie he never made.
Sure, Tintin may be a squeaky clean short round compared to Spielberg’s original adventure hero, but this film nonetheless impresses with elaborate sequences rooted in thoughtful screenwriting, reminiscent of what the Indiana Jones movies used to stand for before they nuked the fridge. In that sense, Tintin is fine entertainment, and overall more fulfilling than its mo-cap predecessors, including Avatar.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10