Film

Boy Wonder: 'The Adventures of Tintin'

(A) rollercoaster ride of thrills and spills, a true leap for the otherwise awkward animation type and proof that when visionaries sit behind the lens, anything can be turned into a wondrous work of art.


The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Daniel Mays
Rated: PG
Studio: Paramount/Columbia
Year: 2011
US date: 2011-12-21 (General release)
UK date: 2011-10-24 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer

Typical Americans - we just don't get it. Like football (or as we refer to it, soccer), the Eurovision Song Contest, and any other purely continental item, the US shuns what the rest of the world embraces. This is especially true when it comes to entertainment. While Disney and the Looney Tunes seem to translate across borders, such specific comic book icons like Asterix and Obelix barely warrant recognition. The same can be said for Tintin, the ace boy reporter created by Georges Prosper Remi (under the pseudonym Herge). For over 50 years, this Belgian blockbuster appeared in more than 23 adventures, each meticulously plotted out and drawn by the author himself. For decades, fans have been eager to translate the titles into a more universal medium. While successful overseas, few of the TV/movie mash-ups have made a dent along the shores of the colony.

All of that should (hopefully) change with the stunning Steven Spielberg effort, The Adventures of Tintin. Based on 1943's The Secret of the Unicorn and the follow-up, Red Rackman's Treasure and utilizing the latest in cutting edge motion capture technology, the man responsible for such seminal popcorn blockbusters as Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. The Extraterrestrial and Jurassic Park has teamed up with producer Peter Jackson to try and make this basic boys adventure tale accessible to those who otherwise may not care about the character and his legions of devotees. The results are a rollercoaster ride of thrills and spills, a true leap for the otherwise awkward animation type and proof that when visionaries sit behind the lens, anything can be turned into a wondrous work of art.

Our story begins when Tintin (voiced by British actor Jamie Bell) and his faithful dog Snowy stumble across a model of the famed ship The Unicorn. Buying it, he is immediately accosted by a bullying American and a suave sophisticate named Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig). They both want the object and will stop at nothing to get it. When it is eventually stolen, Tintin turns to the bumbling detective duo known as The Thompson Twins (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) for help. They, sadly, are distracted by a search for a pickpocket (Toby Jones). Eventually Tintin is kidnapped and the fate of his model is put in jeopardy. Upon escape, he runs into a liquored up sea dog known as Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis). The drunken sailor holds the key to the Unicorn's secret, as well as the possible whereabouts of a treasure trove in gold.

Since he's always been an advocate of the flight of fancy, something like Tintin fits Master Spielberg like a glove. Showing no trepidation with the technology and utilizing all it has to offer...and then some, he creates the kind of kinetic energy exercise we expect from the man who remade the Saturday morning matinee. Objects and individuals whiz by at break-neck speed and ships smash into and through each other in ways that only Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski could only dream about. Like a candy maker being taught the latest techniques in sweet meats, Spielberg dives into the motion capture arena and creates a terrific confection, teaching the working wannabes a thing or two about making magic in the process. Turning the famed pen and ink personalities into living (if still caricature-like) 3D beings is just part of the process. Giving them a real cinematic feel and backdrop is The Adventure of Tintin's greatest achievement.

This feels like a film, like a fully realized, shot on location effort. We never doubt where Spielberg is taking us and always embrace the results. With his characters, he creates identifiers and goals. We want to see our hero succeed, to see Captain Haddock rise to the occasion and save the day. We also hiss at Sakharine and laugh at the buffoonish Thompsons. This is old fashioned spectacle forged out of the latest 21st century ideas. While others flounder within the dynamic, Spielberg (and his pal in post-modernism, Martin Scorsese) prove that patience and expertise can overcome any gimmick. Not only does Tintin employ computer generated imagery, it also utilized 3D, creating an immersive world the director can scurry in and out of. No shaky cam crap here - Spielberg knows stuntwork and how best to capture same on celluloid. The results are marvelous.

As for the performances, they're also first rate. Bell, brought in to replace another actor, is excellent, looking and sounding a lot like a young Jude Law. He makes Tintin into a true hero. Similarly, Serkis proves why he is the best when it comes to motion capture work. As in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Lord of the Rings films, he is flawless as Haddock. Craig is to be given marks for disappearing into his role and Pegg and Frost argue for their inclusion among the great comedy teams of all time. Since this movie has the double edged sword of introducing these characters to out of touch audiences as well as speaking to those who never knew they existed before, everything has to be spot on. Thankfully, the casting makes The Adventures of Tintin all the better, giving life to what could have been some very flat, very superficial participants.

Of course, the question remains, can Spielberg and Jackson turn the Belgian boy reporter into an American household name? Can they overcome decades of US ennui to establish the character as someone to champion? Perhaps. What's more likely, however, is that the rest of the world will embrace the film (it's already made close to $300 million) while the audience it was specifically aimed at falters - and this with the box office power of two moviemaking titans behind it. If Spielberg and Jackson can't make Tintin a commercial property, than nothing can. Sometimes, an entire nation acknowledges their artist limitations and goes back to the drek they love best. Hopefully, America will embrace The Adventures of Tintin. Based on what's on the screen, there's no legitimate reason not to.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image