Screens & Tech
The Adventures of Tintin
Published: December 28, 2011
Fair warning: You're reading the opinion of a die-hard, lifelong fan. Growing up, Tintin was my Indiana Jones. That said...
Before Temple of Doom, Ninja Turtles, and Calvin and Hobbes, there were Hergé's tenacious, cow-licked, ever-so-mildly-androgynous Belgian boy reporter and his intrepid white fox terrier. The classic comic series — first published in a Catholic and politically conservative Brussels newspaper in 1929 — follows the aforementioned pair across vibrant, oversized pages and through even-more-oversized serialized adventures; elements of three of these have been culled and remixed into this, the first of a proposed SpielJacksonberg trilogy which has our young and infallible protag (Bell), his brave pup, and whiskey-fueled seaman (and series staple) Captain Haddock (Serkis) racing against a ruthless and mysterious foe (Craig) for Haddock's pirate-treasure inheritance — all brought to you via motion-capture technology.
What works: (1) The spirit. Tintin's earnestness and moral integrity, Snowy's irresistible pluck, the devotion and affection that drives their relationship and gives the series its heart; the good-natured bumbling of Thompson and Thomson — these indispensable elements remain intact. Nailed it. (2) The droolingly gorgeous title sequence is worth the admission price on its own. (3) Spielberg and Williams. Experiencing the two undisputed masters of adventure side-by-side again is soul food, and one of the most distinct privileges in filmdom.
What kinda works: (1) The action. It's empirically impressive overall, with iconic moments (and at least one truly fantastic extended sequence), but there were stretches during which I found myself thinking I should be riveted, but wasn't. Tintin may resemble an alt-universe Doug Funnie, but he uses guns, punches out drug-runners and heavies, becomes enmeshed in potentially deadly international intrigue, and none of it (save the blood, maybe) is handled with kid gloves. Though that sensibility is present in Spielberg's take, some of the action skews a bit more cartoonish and spectacle-driven than in the comic. (2) The CG/mo-cap. Tintin may be the first film in which a CG character's sudden facial expression made me laugh as heartily as I might've had it been played by a "real" actor. And yet, I can't help it: Mo-cap, more often than not, seems a middling compromise between live-action and more stylized animation, and I often find myself wishing the filmmakers had just picked one or the other.
Ultimately, Tintin has elements of a classic and is worth seeing.
★★★ 1/2 (out of 5)
The Adventures of Tintin
Dir. Steven Spielberg; writ. Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish (screenplay), Hergé (comic book series The Adventures of Tintin); feat. the voices of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Cary Elwes (PG)