Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"The Adventures of Tintin"

Directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish, based on the comic series by Herge, starring Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, and Andy Serkis - Rated PG

I had a hell of a lot of fun with this movie.  If it's a children's movie, then consider me a child. 

When The Adventures of Tintin was announced I wasn’t sure what the big deal was.  Sure, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson were teaming up for it, but I didn’t understand why.  I, like most Americans, had never heard of Tintin, the young detective that most children grow up reading in Europe.  Initially, I planned on skipping Tintin and just waiting for the DVD, but an action-packed preview and good word of mouth convinced me to check it out.  I am certainly glad I changed my mind, because Tintin turned out to be one of the most fun, exhilarating experiences in the theatre this year.
After ten minutes of Tintin, it is very clear why Steven Spielberg wanted to make this film: without Tintin, Indiana Jones would not exist.  The Adventures of Tintin is the Indiana Jones movie that Spielberg never made.  It’s a mystery set in the past that spans the globe, filled with goofy characters and top notch action.  That sentence describes Tintin and any Indiana Jones film.  In fact, it’s safe to say that anyone who was disappointed by the last Indiana Jones movie will find satisfaction with Tintin. 
Tintin follows the adventures of the young reporter and his dog, Snowy, as they unravel the mystery of the Unicorn, a lost ship rumored to contain an immense treasure.  Along for the journey is the drunken Captain Haddock, whose ancestor was the captain of the Unicorn.  Tintin and Haddock go on a wild journey as they race against the evil Sakharine to get to the treasure first.  Turn the villain into a Nazi and add a supernatural element and this would be Indiana Jones.  As it is, it is a very fun, family friendly film.
I use the term “family friendly” because this film seems to be dismissed by some as a movie meant for children.  If you want to get cliché, you could say it’s a film for the child in everyone, but that’s weak.  Children will no doubt enjoy this film, but that doesn’t mean it is solely for younger audiences.  I myself was reminded of the first time I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Family friendly, children’s movie, whatever.  Tintin has such engrossing and amazing visuals and action sequences that you’ll forget what genre this film is supposed to be in.  If you’re like me, you’ll get so lost in it that you even forget this is an animated movie. 
The fact that Steven Spielberg has made his first animated movie should be enough to garner interest for this film.  Not only is this his first animated feature, but it is motion-capture animation (or mo-cap), and it is in 3D.  Spielberg is an absolute natural for this type of filmmaking and he truly takes advantage of the unlimited opportunities that mo-cap and animation open up. 
As for the look of the film, the mo-cap work here is just as good as any of the other standard bearers out there like Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  The animation is nearly photo-realistic at times while also maintaining a comic appearance.  The 3D is exactly what 3D should be.  You feel immersed within the film rather than having the film thrown at you.  Some of the more insane action sequences may have you rubbing your eyes, but that’s a good problem to have.
Motion capture means that the performances for the film were not just voice work.  Jamie Bell portrays Tintin with perfect innocence and energy.  Daniel Craig adds enough evil into his voice to the point that he is hard to recognize as Sakharine.  But, of course, Andy Serkis steals the show as Haddock.  Serkis is already the king of mo-cap and rightfully so.  His performance as Haddock is by far the most enjoyable performance of the film.  Some of the physical gags for Haddock are a bit goofy, but the character is consistently funny on many levels. 
Tintin is an amusing movie, even for a newcomer to the series.  Even though I was not in the know, I still recognized moments that were meant to play fan service.  I obviously wasn’t able to get that much enjoyment out of any character references or hidden jokes, but if you are aware of the series, there should be plenty going on in the background to keep you entertained.  If you’re just a Spielberg fan, though, there is a bit of fun had with some Jaws references, so American audiences shouldn’t feel too polarized.
Overall, Tintin turned out to be the surprise of the year for me.  I knew it wouldn’t be terrible because of the filmmakers involved.  But I was worried about the source material, since it was so unknown to me.  That fear was completely unfounded because it doesn’t matter what you know about the material as Spielberg has already prepped you for this film with the “Indiana Jones” series.  Tintin is just Spielberg’s love of a good adventure film coming to fruition in beautiful 3D, mo-cap animation.  So if you haven’t heard of Tintin before, now is a good time to get to know him.
Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)

After this film, I now think Spielberg is the obvious choice to make an Uncharted movie.  Although, I guess that would be too similar to this film and Indiana Jones for him.  Still, I couldn't help but think of that videogame while watching Tintin

Not complaining or anything, but they could have just lifted any John Williams score from the Indiana Jones series since his music for those films just seems natural for a film like this. 

The Thomson and Thompson characters were a bit annoying, but I guess fans of the series will enjoy them.  I did like the use of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for their voices, though.

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