December 22, 2011
Review - " The Adventures of Tintin "
(in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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The Adventures of Tintin
directed by: Steven Speilberg
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost, Simon
Pegg, Toby Jones, Gad Emaleh
After a tiresome four-minute credit sequence Steven Spielberg's The
Adventures of Tintin begins with a perfect example of just exactly what
kind of film it's going to be, a film for the fans of the graphic novels
from which it's based.
The first bit of imagery after the title sequence is that of original
"Tintin" author and artist Georges Prosper Remi, or Herge as he's
best known, rendered in full CGI and painting the titular Tintin (voiced
by Jamie Bell) just moments before the plot begins to unfold. I only
know this was Herge because I looked up a photo of him when I got
home. I haven't read a single page of the "Tintin" graphic novels and
had no idea who the character was or what he was about before
walking in. I was at a clear disadvantage.
As it turns out, Tintin is an investigative journalist who is best
described as something of an Indiana Jones with a typewriter and
without much delay he's on the hunt for the secret a small model of a
17th century ship called the "Unicorn" may hold and how it relates to
the Haddock family of seamen and the nefarious Red Rackham
(voiced by Daniel Craig). Joined by his Wire Fox Terrier, Snowy, Tintin
journeys across the globe as his nose for a story tells him there's a
good one here.
The story is easy enough to follow and Spielberg injects all the action
and adventure we've come to enjoy from the filmmaker, particularly his similarly themed Indiana Jones features. The only
problem here is that I was never able to care about what was going on. A connection to the characters is never made as
much as the audience is simply thrust into the story and sent off on a wild goose chase of a mystery that appears to have
been concocted simply out of the need to tell a story, rather than as a natural progression of events.
Within minutes after this introduction, Tintin stumbles upon the model of the "Unicorn," pays for it and is promptly accosted
by a pair of blokes, one suggesting he get rid of it the other suggesting he sell it to him. Wait. What? Who are these people?
I just got here, why are you beating me over the head with villains and sinister plots? Who is the kid with the boat again?
Maybe we'll learn more about him later… maybe not…
Spielberg treats the material as if we
are already familiar with the character
and have an intimate knowledge of his
quirks and characteristics. As
someone that has never read the
novels from which Steven Moffat,
Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish adapted
the script all I can assume at this
moment in the film is Tintin must collect
tons of model ships and this is the
piece he needed to complete his
collection. Once back at his apartment
we learn that isn't true and, in fact, it
appears he collects typewriters. But
considering the hubbub over his latest
purchase he's now keenly interested to
the point it consumes him and the rest
of the film.
The Adventures of Tintin simply bounces from one location to the next revealing a few new clues in relation to the mystery at
the center of the plot, but the characters are so one note it's impossible to care about the story or the ultimate outcome
because you don't care about the characters involved. It doesn't help, either, that they are all rendered in emotionless CGI.
Uncanny valley or not, there is always something off with this kind of motion capture animation and Tintin is no different.
This isn't to take away from the film's
overall design and presentation.
Outside of the distraction I found in the
characters' faces, the animation is
actually quite impressive as is John
Williams' bouncy score and the action
sequences, particularly a one-shot
above the streets of Baghar that runs
for nearly two-and-a-half-minutes
without a single cut. It plays like a
Universal Studios theme park
attraction and is the true standout
moment in the film as little else
manages to offer up nearly as much excitement.
From a supporting character perspective, comedy relief is meant to be found in a pair of bumbling detectives, Thompson &
Thompson (voiced by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) and the drunken Captain Haddock (voiced by Andy Serkis) who relies on
the continuous use of such phrases as "blistering barnacles" and "pilfering parasites" or any such variation of the two. It got
to a point I began cringing each time he said it and during that previously mentioned one-shot I think he rattles off at least
five such phrases. And Daniel Craig is quite spindly and sinister as the film's lead villain, but I really don't see what makes
him so evil outside of the fact he just doesn't know how to ask for things nicely.
But as I've been saying the whole time,
the biggest issue is with the fact the
characters are entirely unfamiliar and
remain so throughout. Motivations and
intentions are clear, but a greater
understanding of these characters
can't be found. Instead of wasting four
minutes on a meaningless credit
sequence to open the film, perhaps
Spielberg could have used that time
with a sequence such as the opening
of Raiders of the Lost Ark to give us
greater insight into what kind of life
Tintin leads and his personality rather
than placing all the emphasis on the
adventure portion. A little character
goes a long way, I'm not asking for
Tintin, as portrayed here, is just a
straight-laced young investigator with a
nose for trouble, which is fine, but it's
not very interesting. While Tintin brings to life some great moments of action, it all becomes meaningless noise amidst a
story and a mystery I never cared about or would care to revisit. Should a sequel be made something will have to be done to
make Tintin more engaging rather than telling us he's excited by a mystery and therefore we should be too. There were sly
references to Jaws, Indiana Jones and probably a dozen other Speilberg productions that I missed. I didn't catch Tintin in 3D
but maybe I should have. Many of the sequences were designed to pop out at you - but to me a film still needs to stand on
it's own in 2D, most of us have yet to invest in the 3D TV & DVD players. Overall I liked it but I didn't love it.