Review: THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 8 November 2011



History of making Herge's much-beloved comic strip, THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN has certainly comes a long way since the big-screen adaptation was first proposed way back in 1983. Back then, when Steven Spielberg bought the rights, he was originally intended to make a live-action version. He did turn over to Peter Jackson's Weta Digital for special effects. But being a huge Tintin fan himself, Jackson had instead convinced Spielberg to turn the movie fully animated since live-action version would fail to capture the essence of the elaborate world created by Herge. However, special effects technology wasn't that advanced to fulfill the complicated scope of the movie needed to be accomplished. So it wasn't surprising that the movie took a painstaking 28 years long to get it made. But the long wait was certainly worth all the time and effort because as a childhood Tintin fan myself, I'm happy to announce that Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson has fulfilled THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN into one of the most visually-spectacular animated motion pictures ever made in the history of Hollywood cinema. Not only that, Spielberg and Jackson has finally does a few notches better for its heavily-criticized motion capture animation into near perfection since Robert Zemeckis first pioneered the trend. It's certainly an effective crowd pleaser that harkens back the good old-fashioned action adventure Spielberg used to make during his heydays, except that THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN isn't as great as one might expect especially coming from two of Hollywood's most top-notch filmmakers of our time (Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson). Let's just say it isn't up to the par of, say, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK kind of level. Good though, but not great.

Taken partially from three of Herge's comic strips -- The Crab With the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure -- THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN begins with a young reporter Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) and his white mutt Snowy stumbles upon a scale model of an old ship called the Unicorn at a street market. He likes it so much and buys it immediately at a very cheap price. Then two strangers immediately hurries along to try to repurchase the model from him, first one is an American named Barnaby (Joe Starr) and another one is a sinister-looking gentleman named Sakharine (Daniel Craig). But Tintin refuses them both no matter how high the price either of them willing to pay him off for the model.

Back home, Tintin tries to figure out what makes the particular model of an old ship such a hot favorite among those two men he met at the first place. Soon it doesn't take long before he begins to realize that the ship contains an important clue about the location of a missing treasure, which comes in the form of a small piece of paper written in poem. So the ever-curious Tintin begins his own investigation to find out the truth. First he gets kidnapped and shipped off to the Karaboudjan, a steamer originally commanded by the grumpy Captain Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis) who is held under mutiny by his own crew and the evil Sakharine.

Tintin also eventually discovers that Haddock is actually the last remaining descendants of Sir Francis Haddock (also Serkis in flashback sequences), a 17th-century naval commander who lost his ship, the Unicorn, in a fiery battle with pirates led by Red Rackham (Craig). Tintin gradually helps Haddock escape together, and soon they start to globe-trotting from the scorching-hot desert of Sahara to the fictional city of Bagghar, Morocco and back to their point of origin. Along the way, they also get helped by two bumbling and identical Interpol officers named Thomson and Thompson (Nick Frost, Simon Pegg).

From the technical viewpoint, THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN is a top-notch entertainment. Peter Jackson, who handles the second-unit direction, is an accomplished stylist as usual. He certainly knows very well on how to elaborate the action set-pieces as lavish and exciting as they get. Watching them is akin of experiencing a rollercoaster ride in the process. The best action set-piece is no doubt the bravura motorcycle chase through the city of Bagghar, Morrocco involving two vehicular pursuits, Snowy and Sakharine's eagle as they attempt to retrieve the two all-important papers which contained the clue for the missing treasure. In the meantime, Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is lovingly noirish while Spielberg's often-gliding fluid cameraworks, especially during the exciting moments, are simply eye-catching. Apart from that, John Williams' 60s-style piano score is wonderfully atmospheric, even though I must admit his music isn't as memorable as one might have expect. But earlier though, his sense of music does a good justice to the animated credit sequence styled to both Saul Bass and Spielberg's own CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002).

All the actors here are effective enough to carry off their roles, but Jamie Bell is strangely bland as the lead Tintin. There's a little personality within Tintin's character if compared with the rest, and despite this being the first movie, we hardly knows anything about him other than accepting him as a curious-minded and persuasive boy who is very determined to get his story no matter what are the consequences. Andy Serkis, in the meantime, gives a scene-stealing performance as the drunken and grizzled Haddock who also provides some of the movie's best comic timing. (Among them is the scene where he sets the fire on a boat and another one is during when he manages to fuel a troubled airplane with his own whisky-infused breath). Daniel Craig, who rarely plays a villainous role, gets to shine here surprisingly well as the evil Sakharine. As for Snowy the white mutt, he is simply delightful to watch for and you'll might wonder whether a real-life pooch can do such elaborate trick as CGI-rendered Snowy can does so admirably. Last but not least, is Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who both made a natural comic pair as usual, as Thomson and Thompson.

All good things aside, it's quite a letdown to see top-notch British screenwriters Steven Moffatt, Edgar Wright (HOT FUZZ, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD) and Joe Cornish (ATTACK THE BLOCK) doesn't really possess that certain manic energy needed for this kind of lavish action-adventure. Most of the times, the pacing feels inconsistent especially when the movie often shifted focus to numerous flashback scenarios. At other times, there are some clever sight gags here and there but overall, their screenplay remains stiff and patchy in places.

While THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN is hardly perfect, the movie remains one of the must-see movies of the year. (In the meantime, do pay attention to the movie's opening scene right after the credit where a street, modeled on the real Herge, does a sketch portrait of Tintin that looks exactly like one of the original comic strips). And of course, do watch this in IMAX 3D if you can -- it's simply amazing.

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