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Old 12-20-2011, 09:18 PM
Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

In the first of his two films coming out this month, Steven Spielberg brings us his first animated feature, an adaptation of the beloved Belgian comics “The Adventures of Tintin” by Georges Rémi, aka Hergé. It has been said that Hergé believed that Spielberg was the only one who would be able to do justice to his work, and after having spent over 25 years trying to get the film made, Spielberg has finally delivered a result that is quite extraordinary.

It all begins with a model ship that Tintin (Voice of Jamie Bell) purchases. Immediately upon doing so, he is confronted by a man, Barnaby (Voice of Joe Starr), who first tries to buy the ship from him, but then warns him to get rid of it before running away. Another man, Sakharine (Voice of Daniel Craig), also wants to buy the ship, but after explaining that it’s not for sale, Tintin returns home. Back at home, Tintin displays the ship on his desk, but thanks to his loyal dog Snowy, it gets knocked over and broken.

Not long after, the model is stolen and Tintin’s home ransacked, but again, thanks to Snowy, he discovers that there was something hidden in the ship that came out when it broke, a small metallic pipe containing a scroll with a poem on it. This sets Tintin off on an adventure that puts him on a ship bound for Africa where he meets Captain Haddock (Voice of Andy Serkis), the last of a famous family of seamen. Together they must retrieve scrolls like the one Tintin already has and solve their mystery before Sakharine does.

What immediately jumps out about “The Adventures of Tintin” is just how amazing the animation is. Apparently Spielberg originally wanted to do a live-action version of the film, but producer Peter Jackson convinced him that live-action wouldn’t do justice to the comics, suggesting that he use motion capture instead. The result is some of the most lifelike animation I’ve ever seen put to film.

The story is apparently a mixture of different tales from the comics, but they blend quite well into a very engaging adventure. Very superficially, it may even remind some of Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The film wastes no time in getting right into the story by presenting a thrilling first act. The film does slow down a bit for its second act to allow for some character and story developments, but picks right back up for an exciting conclusion.

Another great feature of “Tintin” is the excellent action sequences that are strewn throughout the film. In the first act, there’s a notable chase sequence where Snowy is trying to get to Tintin, who’s been kidnapped. In the second half of the film, there’s an extraordinary sequence that is animated as one continuous scene in which Tintin and Sakharine are trying to steal the scrolls from each other. This scene continues for several minutes and continually has characters popping into and out of frame as they attempt to possess the scrolls.

The voice acting is top-notch and includes such voices as Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. While Bell is not particularly well-know, he does a great job with the lead role, giving the character just the right attitude and inflections. Craig likewise does a wonderful job as the villain, providing a nice creepiness to his character.

Serkis, whom most people know as a motion capture extraordinaire from films like “The Lord of the Rings,” “King Kong,” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” once again brings his excellent vocal work and magical sense of movement to the screen. His Captain Haddock, sounding like a spot-on impersonation of Gerard Butler, is perhaps the most memorable character of the bunch what with his shifts in personality, depending on whether he’s drunk or sober, as he tries to remember the story of the ship.

It was a rather strange decision to hold the film’s release off until late December, especially since it’s been playing in most of the world for over a month now. The studio probably feels this has a good shot at a few awards and decided to line it up accordingly. At this point, it seems a very strong contender for Best Animated Feature as it’s certainly the best animated film I’ve seen this year. It’s a fun, engaging, and very entertaining adventure that leaves you yearning for the already-planned sequel, something we can look forward to in the coming years. 3.5/4 stars.
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