'The Adventures of Tintin': A Faithful Adaptation of a Classic

Purists may quibble with the decision to use motion capture animation for this film, but The Adventures of Tintin is faithful to its source material while presenting an adventure story that modern audiences can appreciate.

The Adventures of Tintin

Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig
Distributor: Paramount
Rated: PG
Release date: 2012-03-13

Adapting any well-loved characters' story to film is always a perilous process. Whether they originated in comics, prose, a stage play, or music (i.e., The Who's Tommy), their fans often have very specific ideas for how the movie should be handled, and odds are plenty of those fans will be disappointed in the outcome, in one way or another.

In the case of Hergé's beloved Tintin, several generations have grown up with the comic books and two animated incarnations of the intrepid teen reporter and his supporting cast. Personally, I only had passing exposure to the comics, and I hadn't seen any of the animated TV shows until watching the first season of the 1991 series with my kids late last year.

So it was that we settled in to watch The Adventures of Tintin on Blu-ray, and we enjoyed ourselves. As director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson explain in the bonus materials, they're both long-time Tintin fans, and it shows in their treatment of the source material. I can see where purists might be bothered by the motion capture animation, but Spielberg's only other option was live action with heavy use of prosthetics, which was what he was going to use when he originally began developing a Tintin film in the '80s. I don't think that would have worked nearly as well as the CGI in this film does.

Sure, there was a third option: traditional animation in the style of Hergé's art, like the two animated TV series, but that likely wasn't a realistic consideration given what audiences expect these days. If Tintin was going to reach the big screen with a serious budget behind him, motion capture was the way to go. The technology has come a long way since its use in films like Polar Express, where it came off a bit flat; the end result in this film is a stylized look that feels grounded in the real world.

If you're familiar with the comics, you know the stories The Adventures of Tintin draws from: "The Crab With the Golden Claws", "The Secret of the Unicorn", and "Red Rackham's Treasure". The plot largely uses the last two, with the first one employed for a few elements here and there. As in the comics, the story is set in motion when Tintin buys a model sailing ship at an outdoor market. When two other men try to buy the ship from Tintin, he suspects there's something important about it. After the ship is stolen and one of the would-be buyers is shot in front of him, Tintin knows the model is key to a deeper mystery.

Eventually, he finds himself kidnapped and taken aboard a ship, the SS Karaboudjan, where he meets the infamous drunken Captain Haddock. The pair, along with Tintin's tireless dog Snowy, escape and make their way to Morocco for the final stage of the adventure. The film's ending feels incomplete, but it serves to set up the sequel that Spielberg and Jackson have both confirmed is in the works. There's a fun underwater sequence in "Red Rackham's Treasure" that isn't in this film and will almost certainly appear in the sequel, given Tintin's realization that the coordinates he has found lead to the ocean.

Spielberg says in the bonus materials that in 1981 he read a review of Raiders of the Lost Ark that kept mentioning Tintin, which prompted him to learn more about the character. There's definitely some of that Indiana Jones flavor to Tintin's adventures in this film, although two sequences in particular stuck out like a sore thumb and felt more like a videogame: Tintin's attempts to catch a wayward cat in his apartment and his pursuit of a hawk while riding a motorcycle in Morocco. Both went on longer than they needed to and didn't seem to serve much purpose other than show off the tricks made possible by motion capture, including camera angles that would have been very hard to pull off in live action. While the pursuit of the hawk is a key part of the plot, it's long depiction could have been shaved down quite a bit.

The lone bonus feature on this Blu-ray is nonetheless a meaty one: a 90-minute-plus documentary by Laurent Bouzereau, who has produced excellent documentaries for many of Spielberg's other films. Bookended by video clips from Spielberg's traditional toasts when beginning and ending principal photography, this documentary covers all aspects of the film's production. Spielberg and Jackson talk about their love of Tintin, screenwriters Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish chime in with their thoughts, the motion capture process is shown in intimate detail, composer John Williams discusses his approach to the score, and more. The only segment that I found useless was the one covering the creation of some collectible statues -- it played like an advertisement, and it didn't delve into the history of Tintin merchandise.

The package I was sent also includes the movie on a standard-def DVD, sans bonus features, as well as a code for getting the film onto a portable device. So if only have Blu-ray in one place, like I do, you'll still be able to watch The Adventures of Tintin elsewhere.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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

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