Blistering barnacles, good ol’ Stevie Spielberg has done it again! The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Spielberg’s first animated feature, hit North American theaters on December 21, 2011. With Spielberg’s War Horse hot on its heels…it’s a wonder the guy gets any sleep at all.
If you’re thinking “Tintin? Who dat?”, here’s a bit of background information for you: The Adventures of Tintin (Les Aventures de Tintin) is a classic series of Belgian comic books written and illustrated by cartoonist Hergé in the 1930s. The series revolves around an intrepid young journalist named Tintin and his trusty canine sidekick Snowy (Milou en français). While he may not possess superpowers, Tintin IS armed with an inquisitive mind, a zeal for exploration, and an unwavering eagerness to chase the next big story down. The Adventures of Tintin follow Tintin and Snowy as they chase zany villains around the globe (and sometimes into outer space!), solving over-the-top mysteries and crimes. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s newly released motion-capture 3D film, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is based on the following Hergé novels: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s Treasure.
Having myself grown up with Tintin books and movies (in their original French language), I was skeptical when I first saw the trailer for this movie. My first thought was “How dare you attempt to take my beloved Hergé characters and force this technologically-impressive yet soulless Polar Express-meets-Avatar style onto them?” I guess I was just trying to keep the traditional pen-and-ink Tintin of my childhood alive and was, in turn, overly mistrusting of Spielberg’s cinematic ways. When I finally decided to give the film the fair chance it deserved, I then wondered how badly this European favorite would flop on American shores (without having much of a fan-base here in the United States). In the words of Spielberg himself:
“…sadly, America never had a shot at Tintin. Hopefully, the motion picture will give America its first real shot at Tintin, and perhaps they’ll go out and buy the books, and a whole new generation will discover the genius of Hergé.”
But after having seen this action-packed, CGI-animated Tintin on screen (wearing my 3D glasses, no less!), I can now say that I was wrong in my premature judgment of the movie…great Scotland Yard, was I wrong! Tintin (played by Jamie Bell of Billy Elliott) and his dog Snowy team up with a drunken Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) on a fast-paced hunt to find the rumored pirate treasure of the shipwrecked Unicorn. Of course, no Tintin adventure would be complete without the requisite strangely-named bad guy and his goons. The sinister Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (who looks curiously like a young Steven Spielberg) is voiced by none other than Mr. James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. Like Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark on CGI crack, the visually-stunning Tintin leads you on a wild goose (or falcon?) chase across continents — careening through the streets of Morocco and sailing through the treacherous seas. Fans of the original Tintin series will enjoy cameos by characters Thomson and Thompson (two clumsy detectives who aren’t related but just happen to look like twins) and Bianca Castafiore (a flighty, melodramatic opera singer who is unaware of her annoyingly ear-splitting voice). Snowy’s scene-stealing antics are excellent and I often wonder where Tintin would be without the help of his perceptive and witty terrier!
Sure, the characters’ gags are a little contrived at times, but I think this helps capture the outlandish feel of the original Tintin series. Also, some reviewers have criticized Tintin’s character for being ageless and lacking personality, but this is also true of the classic comic-book Tintin. He essentially represents the Everyman and that’s just fine with me. I won’t pick apart every aspect of this movie nor do an in-depth analysis of everything that was or wasn’t wrong with it. I think it was a beautifully-detailed film for all ages with some of the finest scene transitions I’ve ever seen (there’s the artist in me talking).
With Peter Jackson apparently set to direct the Tintin sequel (and trequel!), I look forward to seeing the zany gang back on screen in the next installments of the trilogy. Well done, Spielberg and Jackson, well done.
Watch the Tintin movie trailer here:
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Produced by: Peter Jackson
Rated: PG for adventure action violence, some drunkenness, and smoking
Running time: 107 minutes (1 hr. 44 min)
Genres: Action & Adventure, Animation, Kids & Family