Movie Review – The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
by NIR SHALEV
After a 23 year hiatus, Indiana Jones left us begging for more but has at last managed to wrap up the trilogy. Wait… I could have sworn that there was another Indy film that came out in 2007…. Oh, wait! No! It was just a nightmare that the entire planet shared. Well, back to the point: We last saw Indiana Jones Jr. and Sr. drink from the Holy Grail and ride off into the sunset, both literally and metaphorically. And now, master filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s first adaptation of the beloved Tintin cartoon books and animated series has hit the big screens in an all new 3D animated, motion captured, action/adventure extravaganza. It’s nothing short of breathtaking.
Tintin (voiced and performed by Jamie Bell), a young Belgian reporter buys a model ship at a street bazaar. At home, his loyal and lovable dog Snowy accidentally damages it, breaking the main mast, and a small metal vial falls out. However, Tintin doesn’t notice that. He goes on with his business, trying to find out more about the ship until that same night, it is stolen.
A mystery surrounding that model ship, named The Unicorn, surfaces and Tintin is on the case for a good story. He finds out that there are two exact versions of the Unicorn, the other one is owned by the shadowy Sakharine (voiced and performed by Daniel Craig) and Tintin wants to find out why Sakharine might have stolen his model of the ship. At a slightly later point in the film, Tintin makes friends with the always-drunk Captain Haddock (voiced and performed by Andy Serkis), after being kidnapped and hoisted aboard his ship. A bond between them develops and becomes as inseparable as the one between Tintin and Snowy.
There’s also the welcome presence of the bumbling, idiot detectives Thomson (voiced and performed by Nick Frost) and Thompson (voiced and performed by Simon Pegg) but their moronic shenanigans are limited to a screen time that’s much shorter than usual in Tintin stories. That’s a good thing because their stupidity tends to go overboard at times (even in the original source material and cartoons).
Tintin’s middle name should be “Adventure” because having them is all that he does. Just like in the original stories, he is constantly under fire, gets knocked out on several occasions (and sometimes awakens in different parts of the world), and also fires and fights back until the very end. The second half of the film is what Steven Spielberg had introduced to us early on in his career with the original Indiana Jones films: exciting and remarkably well shot and delivered action set pieces.
In this film, Tintin and Haddock escape enemy fire while aboard a large ship and survive a plane crash in the desert (and Tintin gets a slight haircut). Then comes a sequence that is delivered in one majestic, masterful shot, lasting roughly five minutes in length that takes place in a city in Morocco. It’s the most amazing action sequence that I have seen in any film and in my entire life. I’m being honest here; it’s that astonishing of an action sequence.
The motion capture used for the film is excellent in the way that characters, entirely rendered in 3D animation software seem to have mass whenever they walk, run, fall, fight, or die. When Tintin is punched or punches back, we feel the pain. But most importantly, it makes the later action sequences terrifically entertaining. All of the character designs in the film resemble the original character designs to the tee and Tintin, somehow, seems to be the most realistic looking and “moving” character. Captain Haddock actually, somewhat resembles Spielberg himself, in the eyes, mouth and beard area.
I am impressed that Spielberg of all people has made this Tintin film but what’s mostly impressed me is that it’s a terrific Spielberg film, in general. The cinematography is excellent; because the film is rendered entirely in 3D Spielberg can place and move the camera wherever he chooses. Nevertheless he utilizes classic filmmaking camera movements, reminding us that he’s “behind the camera” at all times and every shot is significant in telling the story visually, as it is a visual medium. Rango has managed to do the same but is a more low-key film than Tintin because it’s more of a traditional Western, and Tintin is a Spielbergian action extravaganza. Spielberg utilizes the freedom of camera movement to its utmost capacity without going overboard (like many live-action action films tend to do) and the end result feels as if to Spielberg that’s just a walk in the park.
The Adventures of Tintin is a wonderful, old-school throwback to the action serials that inspired Spielberg in the past. The action sequences are beyond impressive, the story is wrapped up nicely, and the resurfacing of a popular European character that I grew up with as a kid is very welcome. I also welcome the next Tintin/Spielberg collaboration with open arms.