Friday, July 5, 2013

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)


It was a bit of a surprise to hear that Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson were joining forces on their next project. Then it turned out it was going to be a motion capture animated film based on a character who was very popular in nearly every other nation in the world, except for the U.S. It seemed to be an odd strategy for a blockbuster, but hey, what did I know. I’d never heard of Tintin before.


Intrepid boy reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) purchases a beautiful model ship of the Unicorn piloted by the by famous Sir Francis Haddock.  But it seems that there are quite a few other people looking for the same model ship. It doesn’t take long for Tintin to deduce that a secret lies in the ship itself, and once he figures that out, the adventure begins.

On his whirlwind journey across the seas and into the deserts of North Africa, Tintin encounters a few of odd characters. Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) is a drunken buffoon, whose addled memory may hold the secret to a buried treasure. Then there’s the vicious Sakharine (Daniel Craig) who is willing to kill to unlock the secret of the Unicorn. Finally there’s the duo of Thomson (Nick Frost) and Thompson (Simon Pegg) a couple of INTERPOL officers who can’t seem to find their brains in their bowlers. Prepare yourself for chases, escapes, slapstick, explosions, sword fights, cunning traps, not so cunning traps and a fat lady singing all in the first big screen adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin.

Good Points:
  • Brings back the old fashioned adventure film back to the big screens
  • Balances humor, thrills, and amazing visuals
  • Wonderful musical score by John Williams
Bad Points:
  • The motion capture animation just isn’t going to work for some folks
  • Some of the visual flourishes are a bit much
  • Some of the slapstick tone seems at odds with darker story elements

Even though I was a Tintin newbie, I was still able to get sucked into the adventure and enjoy the ride. I’m still not sold on motion capture animation, but Spielberg does some really interesting things with it, moving the camera and executing chase scenes that would be impossible in a live action film. At times it’s gets overwhelming, and feels like showing off. But for the most part the movie is a great return to the classic adventure stories, with quite a bit of humor mixed in with the excitement. Well worth checking out.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 5
Sound: 4
Acting: 3
Script: 3
Music: 4
Direction: 3
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.    


  1. I know the purpose of motion capture is to make the movements more realistic, but sometimes it is distracting -- especially when a gesture is a bit overdone. The viewer is suddenly reminded of the sensor-laden actor responsible for it.

    I'm aware of (rather than "familiar with") Hergé's Tintin comics, which don't have the nostalgia factor working for them on these shores. They were a victim in the '50s of the absurdly restrictive Comic Book Code (see which made it impossible simply to print the original panels with translated dialogue -- utterly tame though those panels were by modern (or even just sane) standards. The chopped-up versions that were offered here at the time didn't catch on, unsurprisingly. By the time mainstream US comic publishers started ignoring the code, they also took comics in another direction. Perhaps the movie and its planned sequels will jump-start more of an interest in the character, who, as you say, is such a familiar figure overseas.

    1. Yes, they avoided the uncanny valley for most of the appearance of the characters. There were enough exaggerated features that you didn't feel something really off, like "Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within" or "Beowulf". But you're right, some of the motions just pulled me out of the film. I could tell they were having fun with the chase scenes. The camera motion was really creative and would have been impossible in a traditional film. But I'm not sure why they just didn't use standard animation to achieve the same ends. The motion capture doesn't really add much to the whole thing. Still an entertaining flick all the way around.