The Adventures of Tintin
Belgian artist Hergé’s series of classic European comics is given the big budget movie treatment from none other than Steven Spielberg. It’s also produced by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) and written by Steven Moffat (UK sitcom Coupling) Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block). That’s an impressive array of talent. Needless to say my expectations were incredibly (or should I say unreasonably) high. Rousing adventure is entertaining enough and it’s got some nice spectacles, but the whole affair left me wanting more. The story is actually based on three of the original comic books: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s Treasure. Perhaps they should have just focused on just ONE of those classic publications. The saga is a bit chaotic at times and there are an inordinate amount of chase sequences at the expense of character development.
Steven Spielberg uses performance capture to animate the feature. Personally I tend to favor Disney or Pixar to motion capture, but to each his own. This is so close to the real thing, it begs the question, might this have been more effective as a live action movie? The cast is comprised of real actors whose motions were snatched and used to give life to the rendition. Let’s start with the bad guy. After all, what good is a comic without a villain? Daniel Craig voices the main antagonist Mr. Sakharine, a wealthy collector of model ships, and descendant of pirate Red Rackham. None of the actors resemble their parts physically but Sakharine strangely appears to be a dead ringer for director Spielberg. Jaime Bell is engaging as the titular hero. Apparently he’s a reporter, but he seems more of an explorer than a journalist as I didn’t see him do any reporting. With his trusty dog Snowy by his side, Tintin is a resourceful and intelligent fellow. He’s reliable with nary a flaw or imperfection. In direct contrast is Captain Haddock, a seafaring Merchant Marine played with gusto by Andy Serkis. They become fast friends and he accompanies Tintin unceasingly after they meet aboard Haddock’s boat. Unfortunately I found this most important role of Captain Haddock rather annoying. A complete drunk, Haddock is about as useless as Tintin is proficient. Time and again Haddock’s drunkenness is so debilitating that it makes him act like a complete idiot doing more damage than good.
The narrative is a succession of rousing action set pieces. They’re enjoyable enough but the picture often favors chaos over characterization. After an enchanting start with expository detail, we get one impressive extravaganza after another, each one more far fetched than the last. Case in point, After the drunk captain blows up their lifeboat by starting a fire to keep warm, they’re left adrift in the ocean. A seaplane starts shooting at them and Tintin, with only 1 bullet, shoots the plane down while stranded in the water. He then swims underwater to the downed plane, gets the pilots to surrender by threatening them with his empty gun. He then studies the pilot manual and escapes by flying the plane with the captain in tow. Seriously?! I’ve heard of suspension of disbelief but that’s kind of ridiculous.
I know. That’s the point. It’s a fantasy, but it kind feels stuck between animated fabrication and authentic adventure. Given the realistic look of the drama, a little more depth might have pushed this chronicle to the next level. It’s just too content to be a simplistic tale without much substance. Given the pedigree of people involved I guess I was just expecting so much more. It’s not a bad film. As it stands, it’s an enjoyable flight of fancy with some well choreographed chase sequences. The first animated film Spielberg has directed works best if you view it as a theme park ride. It’s fun to experience but not much more.