The Adventures of Tintin (3D)

2012-01-03 12:14
 
The Adventures of Tintin
What it's about:

Tintin, a young investigative journalist sets off on an adventure to find a sunken ship and the treasure that went down with it.

What we thought:

The ingredients for a top notch Tintin movie are all very much in place. Produced by Peter Jackson, directed by Steven Spielberg and written by some of the hottest new British screenwriting talent around in Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock) and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs the World), it has more A-grade talent behind it than any other film this year. Add to that a very impressive group of motion-capture (sorry sorry, performance-capture) actors - including Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, Toby Jones, Cary Elwes, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and, the king of mo-cap himself, Andy Serkis - and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn should be one of this year's most spectacular blockbusters.

Oh, if only...

It's true, with that level of talent involved, there was no way that the film could possibly be anything less than a proficient piece of cinema but the truly shocking thing about this long-awaited adaptation is that it's not a whole lot more than that. In a year when films like Super 8 and Real Steel have served as constant reminders of just how incredible Steven Spielberg is at his best, it's disheartening to see the man himself deliver a film that has so little of that same magic.

Of course, at first sight Tintin does look like vintage Spielberg. It's a full-blooded adventure film that recalls the glory days of the earlier Indiana Jones films, and his ability to direct a frantic action scene with both flair and clarity is as alive and well as ever. Plus, this being an animated film, he even gets to try out new tricks that makes magnificent use of the form – it's almost worth watching the film just for the creative ways in which he transitions between different locations and from present to past.

Dig just a little bit deeper though and the film's many problems become readily apparent. Using three entirely different Tintin adventures on which to base the film might have been a necessary move (though Herge's comics do strike me as far more dense than their American counterparts) but the result is something of a narrative mess. There is so much plot that Spielberg has trouble letting the film breathe as it lurches from action set piece to expository info dumps, never allowing the viewer a chance to truly connect with what's going on on screen. The script too never comes close to reflecting any of these writers at their best either, coming in short on both innovation and wit.

Perhaps the biggest problem, though, is Tintin himself. Jamie Bell is a very fine actor and he does his best with what is in the end a rather thankless role. As has been pointed out by far more knowledgeable Herge fans than I, in the original comics, Tintin was always meant to be something of a cypher – rather than being much of a character, he was instead there as a blank canvas on which the reader could effectively project themselves. Even visually, aside for his signature haircut, Tintin's face has none of the expressiveness or character of his many supporting players. This works great on paper but on screen, Tintin comes across as a bit of a bore – and a rather smug one at that.

And then there is the issue of the film's animation. It's certainly true that the art design and background animation is pretty spectacular but the characters themselves – especially, once again, Tintin – suffer from something that has yet to be sorted out with motion-capture animation: in an attempt to make these characters look like flesh and blood, they create something truly grotesque by never quite getting there. It's called the "uncanny valley" (Google it) and it undermines all the great work that Spielberg and the team at WETA Digital have done with the rest of the film.

In a way, this is pretty symptomatic of what is wrong with the film. By coming so close to reaching greatness and yet crucially failing to ever reach it, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn becomes more and more disappointing as it progresses.

Despite the obvious good intentions and effort put into it, this is middling Spielberg: perfectly watchable, even enjoyable, but ultimately empty and forgettable.


Rather than being the smash that it should have been, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's long-awaited Tintin adaptation fails to live up to its source material.

Rooinek 2011/12/22 7:14 PM
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The correct word is "flair", not "flare".
Ilan Preskovsky 2011/12/23 2:02 AM
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@Rooinek Oops my bad. Thanks for the correction.
Jim 2011/12/23 9:51 AM
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I saw the preview last night and must admit I was impressed. When it comes to an animated feature, I'm not going to take it too seriously and would probably rather spend my R40 on something like this, than something like 'New Years Eve' etc.
Roxanne 2011/12/28 4:36 PM
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I thought the movie was fantastic.. I read all the books when I was younger and couldn't wait for the movie. Tintin is exactly as I always imagined him to be. The graphics is so well done you get completely lost in another world. I would really recommend it if you enjoyed the books.
E.T. 2011/12/29 8:10 PM
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After reading this review a few days ago, I was not planning to go and see it. I changed my mind however and thought to give it a chance. How glad am I? Very! The movie was fantastic! The money for 3D movie tickets for a family of 4 was well spent, and I can't wait for the follow up adventure that surely will come out. People, don't be put off by this review. It is just one person's opinion. Go form your own. Loved it, loved it, loved it.
Justin 2011/12/29 9:13 PM
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for crying out load, the movie was flawless. an absolute joy that i waited 35 years for. could have been better?! quite how exactly?!
Carel 2011/12/30 12:36 PM
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Brilliant! Brilliant movie! The movie captures the essence of the characters and Tintin's adventures extremely well. One of those movies that I can easily watch again.
Utopian Indigent 2012/01/01 2:57 AM
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Fantastic family movie. I differ largely with the article on the issue of the character of Tintin - I have never before connected THIS much with an animated human being. He has personality and is shockingly human. I also like the way the script centres around the greatest story element created by Herge - the alcoholic battling with failure. Brilliant work.
Wikus 2012/01/03 7:38 AM
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I also differ greatly from this review - and good to see most other people do as well... I am a big Tintin fan and for me this adaptation was nothing less than spectacular. Great animation, great effects, great storyline, etc. Would see this again and again and for me it was unforgettable and full of life!
eugene subramony 2012/01/03 10:23 AM
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i sat with a seven year old and he enjoyed the movie throughout . If a kid can enjoy the movie then its good enough for me. having grown up reading Tin Tin it was great to see him on the big screen with the other favourites.
Rodme 2012/01/04 9:37 AM
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Ilan, I think you should go watch this again. You have missed a great movie whilst thinking of writing this review. Would have watched it again straight afterwards. Keep the reviews coming though, I agree with you more often than not :). Full marks for the Jackson-Spielberg colab.
Geeta Lalloo 2012/01/09 4:02 PM
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Like everyone else I was a bit put off by the review but saw the movie. Boy was I surprised. Call the animation whatever you want to, it really worked for me. Swashbucking adventure without the reality of people actually dying. Yay enjoyed every minute of it.
edson pick 2012/01/10 10:04 AM
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Critics should base their opinion of the movie as if they were a kid.The whole point of these types of movies is to provide a sense of wonderment for kids and to allow us as adults to indulge in a little escapism.Try explaining to a kid or a fan of the books that the movie was "ultimately empty and forgettable".The movie never intended to be a serious, Oscar - winning film for script or special effects and judging by the smiles on the kids faces when leaving the cinema,i think that the movie has achieved it's objective.The reviewer should try watching the film again, but this time through the eyes of a child.
Schalk 2012/01/10 2:20 PM
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First it needs to be stated that the animation in this movie is truly amazing and it will take your breath away. My five stars is generous but three stars is definitely not what this movie deserves. Be warned watching this movie will give you an uncontrollable urge to go out and by the books! Which is a steel at R500 for the set. If you are a true Tintin fan like myself who was denied the privilege of watching the animated series on the telly on Sunday mornings all those years ago you will love the movie. Steven and Peter really stayed true to feel and comedy that Herge intended to be communicated in the books. However mums the word on the plot so go see it for yourself.
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