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The Adventures of Tintin

December 23, 2011
The Adventures of Tintin

When, before his death in 1983, the Belgian artist Hergé gave his blessing for a movie to be made out of his famous character, Tintin, it was specifically to Steven Spielberg that he gave it, as he “thought Spielberg was the only person who could ever do Tintin justice”. Now, Tintin has — especially on this side of the Atlantic — such a niche popularity that of course there are going to be die-hard fans who won’t be satisfied with any adaptation. But taken on its own merits, The Adventures of Tintin is a fair tribute to the spirit of the original comics: a wide-ranging action-adventure mystery that’s a lot of fun to watch.

Tintin (Jamie Bell) is an investigative journalist, sharing a small apartment with his white dog Snowy. At an open-air flea market he finds a beautiful old model ship which he buys for a pound, only to have two mysterious men make offers for it right away. The first warns Tintin for his safety, while the second — a Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig) — seems like he could be threatening, indeed. Intrigued, Tintin investigates the history of the Unicorn, on which his ship was modeled, and finds rumors of a lost treasure that only a Haddock — a descendant of the original captain — can locate. And the secret is contained in a scroll concealed in the model ship itself, as Tintin finds quite by accident before first the scroll is stolen by a common pickpocket and second Tintin himself is kidnapped by Sakharine men.

Onboard Saccharine’s ship, Tintin meets it’s real captain, Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis), who is perpetually soused and can’t remember anything about his family’s history. Meanwhile, back at home, local police detectives the Thompson Twins (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) track down the pickpocket in their own bumbling fashion, never realizing just what a treasure hunt they’re part of.

The animation used is not exactly the style Hergé drew, but it does pay a significant homage to his work. The technique is basically the same as in 2004’s The Polar Express, but thankfully the technology has improved since then; these are not the creepy, dead-eyed, motion-captured characters from that movie. Indeed, they strike a great balance between the expressiveness of live actors and the visual appearance of Hergé’s drawings. Tintin, Haddock, and the Thompson twins are all instantly recognizable as themselves. The other characters also feel drawn from Hergé’s world, if not exactly as he’d have drawn them. Credit must go to co-producer Peter Jackson for the idea of using this method, and for how well it turned out.

It seems Hergé may have been onto something, though it was almost thirty years ago that he became aware of Spielberg; this is the Spielberg of Indiana Jones and The Goonies, who seems to have vanished in recent years. The Adventures of Tintin is a great swashbuckler with a thirst for adventure that won’t be easily sated. If you’re a die-hard Tintinist, try to hold in your knee-jerk and give this movie a chance; if you don’t know much about Tintin, you’re in for a treat.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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