Movie Review – The Adventures of Tintin (2011): Like Steven Spielberg‘s Indiana Jones films, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin is a rip-roaring action-adventure that takes many cues from the Saturday matinee serials of yesteryear – an equal parts detective story, travelogue, chase film, treasure-hunt fable, buddy comedy, and stunt spectacular. The key difference is that it’s of the junior division. The age of its hero is never given, and yet he looks and sounds no older than sixteen or seventeen.
Naturally, this does not stop him from getting into sticky situations, and it certainly doesn’t prevent us from getting into the spirit. It’s also a 3D animated feature (a first for Spielberg) brought to life via performance capture, a process I persist in believing allows for imaginative visuals. The animation was made possible thanks to producer Peter Jackson and his special effects company, Weta Workshop.
It’s adapted from a comic strip series that has been hugely popular in Europe since its inception in 1929. But it has remained largely unknown here in the United States, save for a small cult following. I confess, up until six months ago, I had never heard of the original comic or even of Belgian cartoonist Hergé, the series’ creator. I couldn’t help but wonder: Would that leave Americans ill-prepared for this movie? If there’s one thing I can’t abide, it’s a film adaptation that has only those intimately familiar with its source in mind.
Gratuitous pandering to a fan base with no regard for general audiences is, as far as I’m concerned, an inflated form of elitism. What I’m thankful for is that The Adventures of Tintin has been made accessible to people like me, who have absolutely no baggage and are just looking to have a good time at the movies.
It tells the story of Tintin (Jamie Bell), a plucky, scoop-hungry boy journalist whose neat blue sweater and nicely combed red hair give him a wholesome boy-next-door appearance. At his side is his faithful dog, Snowy, a white fox terrier. He immediately finds himself in hot water when he purchases a scale model of a three-mast sailing ship at an outdoor market; he’s pursued by agents of the sinister Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig), who has a model ship identical to Tintin’s and is passionately in search of a third.
The models themselves don’t matter. What does matter is that vital bits of information has been hidden within each of them, information Sakharine is looking for. Eager to be on the case, Tintin does some research and discovers that the models represent the Unicorn, a seventeenth-century treasure ship that was attacked by pirates.
Tintin gets into even more trouble after being kidnapped by Sakharine’s cronies. Now a hostage on a rusty steamboat, he joins forces with the ship’s captain, Haddock (Andy Serkis), who’s clueless, perpetually drunk, and maddeningly peculiar. How does he fit into Sakharine’s scheme? Tintin knows that the key to unlocking this mystery lies buried within Haddock’s mind, specifically in his memories – which have been repressed due to his years of drinking.
In the meantime, a series of death-defying escapes leads them both to the fictional North African city of Bagghar, where the third model ship is located. Sakharine is, of course, hot on their trail, leading to yet another round of high-octane stunt sequences that are physically impossible but a great deal of fun to look at. I’ll give Tintin this much: His life is anything but boring.
Films like The Adventures of Tintin make a compelling case for animation as the ideal medium for action extravaganzas – which are, by default, offshoots of the fantasy genre. When you’re not bound by the limitations of reality, when entire worlds can be created with the click of a mouse and a few strokes of a keyboard, the possibilities are endless.
Keep this in mind as you watch a spectacular chase sequence, during which Tintin and Haddock ride a motorcycle down narrow alleys, over rooftops, around tight corners, and eventually across a laundry line dangling above the streets. If the filmmakers do not need to fret over the laws of physics, then we do not need to question its plausibility. We can just let it happen.
The film is undoubtedly suitable for families, although the little ones are unlikely to make much of its quirky sense of humor, especially about the character of Haddock. Adults and children alike may be a bit confused by a superfluous subplot involving a pickpocket (Toby Jones) and the detectives shadowing him, bumbling identical twins Thompson and Thomson.
One is played by Simon Pegg while the other is played by Nick Frost, and honestly, I don’t have a clue which is which. Since they look the same, and since their names are differentiated by the placement of just one letter, I guess it makes no difference. All that matters is creating an atmosphere of fun, which is exactly what Spielberg has done. Of all the animated films I’ve seen this year, The Adventures of Tintin is certainly one of the better ones.
Spielberg Gets Animated Movie Review – The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
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