Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

            This was the year for my childhood at the movies.  We got Winnie the Pooh, The Muppets, and now Tintin all in the same year?  It’s wonderful.  Tintin is likely the one the mainstream knows the least about, but to me, it’s a mixture of comedy and adventure that’s just plain enjoyable to read.  And Spielberg knew exactly what he was doing when taking it to the big screen.
            Tintin (Jamie Bell) picks up a model ship from a street market, shortly before an American and Sakharine (Daniel Craig) come around trying to buy it from him.  Getting Tintin’s interest, he starts to investigate, only to get kidnapped by Sakharine’s goons and put on a ship with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), who just happens to be the descendant of the owner of the real owner.  Naturally, they team up to try to solve the ship’s secrets.
            Now, I’ll admit outright that it’s been quite a while since I read the original Tintin comics by Hergé, and this is important because, throughout the movie, I thought it was a pretty straight adaptation of the “Secret of the Unicorn” story.  It was only afterwards I realized it was a combination of two completely different Tintin stories, with plenty of changes made along the way.  I say this because that is how perfectly this movie captures Hergé’s tone.  Remember that mixture of comedy and adventure I mentioned?  This movie hits it spot-on.  With a script that had Steven Moffat’s (of recent Dr. Who fame) and Edgar Wright’s (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim) hands on it, it’s really to be expected.  The movie will give you an absolutely thrilling action sequence, only to turn around and make you laugh at the next instant, usually without even switching scenes.  It gives the audience a lot of exposition at one point while balancing it out with Haddock’s drunken antics.  And it’s all in the spirit of Hergé.  You can practically see his simpler versions of the characters in the places of the movie’s characters.
            That’s not what you see, of course.  Instead, the movie uses the motion capture work that was also used for The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol.  This is one of those animation techniques that’s easily a love it or hate it thing, mainly thanks to the easy possibility of the uncanny valley, but it works well here.  The characters and environments look perfectly realistic, but there’s still some cartoony features around, like Haddock’s huge nose.  And you get the idea that Spielberg had a lot of fun with his first animated film, especially on some of the “single-take” shots.  He’ll zoom out on a small boat in the middle of the sea until the sea becomes a puddle, and suddenly you’re in the middle of the street.  And there’s an absolutely jaw-dropping action sequence that’s done start to finish with one shot.  Possible in live-action?  Of course.  Easier when animated?  Yep.  Still impressive?  Definitely.
            The Adventures of Tintin isn’t just the Tintin film I was hoping for.  It’s the rollicking adventure that it should be, with mystery, action, comedy…and most importantly, it never stops being fun.

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