Review: The Adventures Of Tintin

jason stives gets animated with the big-screen adaptation of the Belgian comic book …

If there is one thing to learn after seeing The Adventures Of Tintin, the new motion-capture action-adventure film from Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, is that staying close to the source material in a way that honors a fan base and introduces it to new audiences can be very daunting and should not always be attempted. While the film, an adaptation of two stories of the famed 1930s journalist/detective series by Belgian writer Herge (real name: Georges Prosper Remi), is an enjoyable romp that jumps continents and chases a mystery across international waters, it also lacks definition that keeps the characters firmly in the viewers’ hearts in a way that you will come back for more.

The plot is wondrously predictable but quickly set up for the benefit of all the fun that comes after. World renowned journalist/adventurer Tintin (voiced by Billy Elliot and King Kong star Jamie Bell) and his trusty dog Snowy buy a model of an old ship called the Unicorn which holds a secret that a professor named Sakharine (Daniel Craig) is in hot pursuit of and will do whatever it takes to get. After getting trapped in the Professor’s clutches aboard a freighter bound for the north of Africa, Tintin encounters the mysterious and drunken Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), a man who holds a family legacy with the famed Unicorn pirate ship and one that the dastardly professor holds against him. Along for the ride are special police inspectors, the Thompson Twins (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), who clumsily assist Tintin in his quest for the secret of the Unicorn while they tackle the mystery of a local pickpocket.

If there is one thing that comes to light in the overall pace and presentation of the movie is that Spielberg clearly saw this as something Indiana Jones could have been influenced by. For that, the action sequences and car chases are packed in tense environments and winding streets, and thanks to the 1930s setting and John Williams’ constantly soaring score, you are almost waiting for a man with a whip and fedora to appear. It makes you wonder if this was intentional, but for those who have knocked Spielberg’s credibility in the past decade, Tintin shows he still has an eye for the wonders of adventure.

While motion capture has had its share of detractors (this writer included), this year has been a fantastic year to show its capabilities when given the right model and structure. Visually, it’s almost surprising to see how real Tintin looks when he first appears on the screen. Jamie Bell really helps add to the child-like appeal of this character, yet at the same time making him a rugged and fearless individual finding clues, shooting guns and riding motor bikes. All the actors involve bleed through the CGI effects, and if you know the style of the actors, you can see this in all their movements and even in the slightest of facial expressions.

Regardless, the thing that hurts Tintin the most is the lack of actual character in the main performers. In the comics, Tintin is exactly how he appears in the movie — an adventurous journalist lacking any personality other than being the main pivot to the mystery that the reader is about to go on. In the film, all his wide-eye sense of wonderment and monologues don’t say too much for who he is and where he comes from — only that we are expected to know enough about him already. The same goes for most of the comedic supporting roles, including Captain Haddock and the bumbling Thompson Twins.

 

Haddock, in particular, has the prize-fight delivery of a stereotypical drunken buffoon, one who shows only bravery in fits of alcohol-induced rage. For someone who gave probably one of the best performances this summer in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Andy Serkis — while very amusing and entertaining — adds nothing other than a backstory as Haddock. Same goes for Daniel Craig as Sakharine, our main villain who is out for familial revenge against Haddock and to take the prized treasure Haddock’s ancestor sunk years ago. There is a nice story in here for both, and the final climatic crane battle between the two is visually satisfying, but there is virtually no investment in them.

Tintin clearly has a perfect style to it and one that Spielberg and company capitalize on to the best of their memories and loyalty to the source material. A thrilling adventure visually and story-wise it is, but with all its sense of wonderment and a catalog of potential future stories, the lack of interest in the characters hurts the film. The result is a string of wonderful action and chase sequences laced with a classic McGuffin caper, but sadly with little heart in the importance of the people who are your guides through the world of Herge.

Rating: 6 out of 10 (Good, not Great)