Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Lowdown: Tintin, the comic book journalist, arrives at the big screen.
My main conclusion after watching Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (henceforth “Tintin”)? He lost it. Spielberg. His ability to create an exciting film out of nothing, not to mention the great heritage of the Tintin comic books. Gone.
Allegedly in a similar manner to the books on which it is based, Tintin offers no introductions or background settings. We follow an investigative journalist / child, Tintin, as he buys a ship’s model at a flea market. That model turns out to be sought after by at least two others, at least one of which would not hesitate to apply violence when something – or Tintin – stands in his way. This starts a rollercoaster of an adventure that sees our Tintin and his loyal dog Snowy in ships, on motorcycles and all over the world.
Tintin is all set in a very Indiana Jones like world and everything that happens is very Indiana Jones like. Given Spielberg was in charge of both ventures, the inevitable comparison leads me to the conclusion I started this review with. Like Spielberg’s previous film, Indiana Jones 4, Tintin is full of seemingly exciting events yet it is a rather un-involving affair; it’s a marvel to watch but I didn’t care much for what was taking place. Now, compare that to Raiders of the Lost Ark or Temple of Doom, films that made me and still make me dream of becoming an archaeologist!
Perhaps the fault is with me growing old rather than Spielberg losing his touch. I, however, would like to offer an alternative explanation: perhaps it is Spielberg fixation with the technology behind his film that is at fault here. Tintin is very spectacularly animated using Avatar like motion capture of live actors. Being entirely virtual, this allows Spielberg to offer us camera angles and movements virtually impossible to achieve with live shots, all of which are being extensively deployed with Tintin. Clearly, though, there is more to a film than looking spectacular, no matter how spectacular these looks are.
In other notes, some of the voice acting and live modelling talents here are worth mentioning: Andy Serkis as the drunk ally, Daniel Craig as the baddie, and the duo of Simon Pegg + Nick Frost as the incompetent police officers Thomson and Thompson (their very British manifestation made me wonder if that was the original intent of the comic, given its Belgium/French origins). The jazzy music by John Williams is excellently recorded to add flavor, but even that – as well as the rest – do not manage to turn Tintin into anything half as exciting as the original Indiana Joneses were.
Overall: A technical masterpiece, perhaps, that proves great technicalities do not make a film great. 3 out of 5 stars.

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