Sunday, January 1, 2012

Movie Review: The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin *** ½
Directed by: Steven Spielberg.
Written by: Steven Moffat & Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish based on the comic by Hergé.
Starring: Jamie Bell (Tintin), Andy Serkis (Captain Haddock / Sir Francis Haddock), Daniel Craig (Rackham / Sakharine), Nick Frost (Thomson), Simon Pegg (Thompson), Daniel Mays (Allan), Gad Elmaleh (Ben Salaad), Toby Jones (Silk), Joe Starr (Barnaby).

Throughout the course of his career, Steven Spielberg has made some of the best adventure films ever made – throwbacks to the movie serials of his youth that he fell in love with. At their best, the Indiana Jones films are just pure entertainment and excitement. Spielberg probably shouldn`t have revisited Indy 20 years after what was supposed to be his Last Crusade, but I understand why he did. Those films are just pure fun, and Spielberg likes to have fun. His new film, The Adventures of Tintin, represents the pure entertainment of Spielberg`s career at its finest. Working for the first time in animation and in 3-D, Spielberg taps into that same part of his brain that he used on the original Indy films – and makes one of the most purely entertaining films of the year.

Tintin is, of course, the beloved European comic book character, who I think every Canadian kid will remember from French class (as French teachers labor under the delusion that we`ll like taking French if we get to read comic books). He is an intrepid reporter, who along with his beloved dog Snowy, always stumbles into adventure. In his first big screen adventure, Tintin sees a model ship at the flea market, and is drawn to it. He makes a deal to buy it, and is immediately offered more money from a mysterious American who warns him to get rid of the ship. He soon figures out why when he meets a Brit named Sakharine who tells him to name his price for the ship. But Tintin refuses to sell, and instead tries to figure out why everyone wants this model ship so much – what`s the real story behind the ship. The answer will take him and Snowy on a globetrotting journey, where he makes a new friend in Captain Haddock, and discovers an old feud on the search for buried treasure.

The film is what we would expect a Spielberg film based on Tintin to be. It is faithful to the source material, and I suspect that bigger fans of the series will appreciate some of the in jokes even more than I did. I liked how the film included the clueless Interpol Agents Thompson and Thompson (played to comic perfection by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost). Andy Serkis once again proves why in terms of motion capture acting he is still the best with his wonderful work as Captain Haddock. Normally, I wouldn`t think alcoholism is that funny, but Haddock`s addiction seems innocent and fun – much like you would find in older movies (I`m thinking of The Thin Man). Daniel Craig is good as the villain of the piece, who looks oddly like Spielberg to me. And in Jamie Bell, Spielberg has found a perfect actor to play Tintin – he exudes that same innocence and wonder that Tintin always had in the comic books.

I know some fans of the original Tintin will hate the movie on principal (every series that is beloved in one form is always hated when it moves to another, because some think that only they truly understand it). Spielberg has certainly put his own spin on it. This Adventures of Tintin certainly has more action than the comic book. But when the action is this well-handled, it really is hard to complain. A chase sequence near the end of the movie is as thrilling as anything similar scene Spielberg has ever done, as it involves motorcycles, sidecars, boats, a tank, a move building, a hawk and a dog, all moving through the street, and yet, unlike most modern action movies, the action remains clear and concise, and not muddled with shaky camera work and rapid fire editing.

Spielberg and his artists have created a rich visual film. The characters work better here than in any of the three Robert Zemeckis films shot in the same manor (The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol), in part I think because they don`t try and make them look too realistic. They are a cross between cartoon characters and real humans, and it works here – their movements are also less herky jerky than in the past. As well, Spielberg uses 3-D effectively – not as a gimmick with poles and arrows flying at the camera, but rather simply to add depth. I still don't think it’s necessary, but as long as other directors use it this way, I think it will be okay.
The Adventures of Tintin is innocent, intelligent action movie for the whole family. Peter Jackson is apparently going to be direct the sequel (which this movie obviously sets up), as he produced this one alongside Spielberg. I look forward to seeing it. Tintin is a throwback, but a good one.


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  2. I really enjoyed this! I rate the Morocco sequence up there with something out of Indiana Jones.