CON: The Adventures of Tintin with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson
While the combined talents of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Andy Serkis are mind blowing to say the least, to be completely honest, nothing we’ve seen from THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN has particularly impressed me…until today. (Of course it doesn’t hurt that Spielberg himself was in the room watching it with us.)
In his first Comic Con appearance ever, The Beard (and fan of JoBlo.com) came out to standing ovations and deafening applause from thousands of fans. (A little quieter than the TWILIGHT panel though.) He told everyone how he had never heard of Tintin until he read a French review of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK that compared the two. He picked up a copy and, despite not knowing any French, fell in love with the story and the characters just through the artwork. He bought the film rights in 1983.
Enter Oscar night nearly a decade ago when Spielberg and Peter Jackson first met—onstage as Spielberg gave the LORD OF THE RINGS director his Best Picture Oscar. Their friendship quickly led to their love of Tintin (Jackson learned to read using Herge’s stories) and six years ago the two filmed their first live action test reel, which Spielberg was kind enough to show us. The clip featured Jackson dressed as Captain Haddock, talking about himself at great length while Tintin’s CGI dog Snowy fights for attention. Eventually that leads to Snowy drinking some spilled booze, getting drunk and falling in the water. The clip was pretty amusing and when the lights came on—there was Peter Jackson standing next to Steven Spielberg.
Jackson, currently on a short break after completing day 60 of 200 on THE HOBBIT, said that test was proof that they couldn’t do it live action. They needed realism but also to stay true to the look of the cartoon and the characters, like exaggerated live-action—perfect for motion capture. “Neither Steven or I are very good at computers,” said Jackson. “I can barely send an email.”
Thank God they work with some talented people at WETA. The pair also lucked out that the company had just finished AVATAR and were able to use the same mo-cap system and animators used to create the Na’Vi. The characters, virtual sets and locations were all created 2-3 years before “filming” began, so that when Spielberg actually shot the actors he could do it like a live-action film. It was the first time in a long time that the director actually operated a camera himself, as well as other random tasks on “set.” (One credit you might see: Steven Spielberg – Dolly Grip.)
Finally they showed us some TINTIN! The first scene saw a man attempting to break down a locked door while warning Tintin he’s in danger. Suddenly the room is riddled with bullets as our hero and his dog manage to evade gunfire. The man outside—not so lucky. The door opens and his dead body falls to the ground at Tintin’s feet. The second clip is when Tintin meets Captain Haddock for the first time. The two are sneaking around on a ship, hiding from armed guards, while discussing Haddock’s past and his family’s connection to the titular ship, the Unicorn. And lastly they showed us a sizzle reel of random action that played a lot like the last trailer.
If I’m not going in to sufficient detail about each clip it’s because honestly I was so floored by the animation style and the drastic change in quality from the trailer I watched on my computer to seeing it in full 3D on the big screen. I was staring so intently at the visuals I probably missed some of the dialogue. There’s no way to say it other than TINTIN looks completely like live-action, aside from some impossible characteristics like Haddock’s nose or Snowy’s expressiveness. It took a few seconds to get used to it, but it really is the characters being brought to almost frightening-levels of real life. (Not in a POLAR EXPRESS way, thank God.) I was worried that we never saw anyone speak in the trailers, but their facial expressions and mannerisms in what we were shown today looked very natural. Spielberg said that now, after AVATAR, they’ve created a full human anatomy, from musculature all the way to skin pores so that you’re not just animating off basic skeletal structure, but really creating realistic animated emotions. I’d need to see more to really say if Spielberg and Jackson beat the uncanny valley issue, but they came decently close from what I saw. And according the filmmakers what we saw were earlier iterations and that the latest renderings are “even better.”
While I still have my personal reservations about not just shooting this in live action, it’s clear Spielberg definitely made the most out of playing in the digital toy box. The action sequences looked incredibly dynamic, with shots and scenes that would be impossible to do in real life without going to jail for the murder of 20-30 cameramen. The footage also had a touch of humor (mostly from Snowy), but the tone was fairly serious and pretty dark. It’s definitely not just a kids’ movie. (In fact, Spielberg actually called the story “dense,” which might not be too child friendly.
The panel closed with a wide variety of questions, highlights of which I’ll post below:
-Andy Serkis asked the first question in a Brooklyn accent, something about Daniel Craig wearing tights, before Jackson dismissed him to get back to work.
-JURASSIC PARK 4 will happen. They finally have a story the like, a writer to work on it and a plan to make it in the next 2-3 years.
-Much to the delight of BAD TASTE fans, Jackson said he does plan on returning to the horror genre and actually already has some ideas and early conceptual designs.
-Spielberg bluntly stated that he knows not every one of his movies are loved by everyone, but that he appreciates when people are honest about what they don’t like. Taking him to task for his mistakes helps keep him honest and growing as filmmaker. (Wow, INDY 4 must’ve seriously bummed him out.)
-JURASSIC PARK made Peter Jackson reevaluate his plan for special effects. He mortgaged his house to buy his first computer for HEAVENLY CREATURES. Now he’s working with Spielberg.
-A young child asked which of Spielberg’s movies was his favorite to make. He said ET, because he missed the kids so much after shooting was done that he realized for the first time ever that he wanted to have children. Now he has 7.
-Spielberg does have a scene he planned out should he ever have made a sequel to JAWS, but he was afraid to reveal it publically in case Universal decided to make it.
-On their childhood’s impact on filmmaking: Jackson literally hasn’t had any new interests since he was 17, which is why he keeps going back to Tolkien, WWI fighter planes, King Kong and more. Spielberg said “I’ve been a child my whole life. When I grow up that’s when I’ll stop making movies. And that’s not going to happen.”
-Spielberg’s advice on becoming a director: Be as original as possible. Don’t copy someone else, just show what you have to contribute to the conversation. Jackson: Make short films and just get practice.
-The panel ended when one guy came up to ask a question wearing a shirt that said “If possible I would love meet Steven Spielberg just to shake his hand and say thank you very much.” Spielberg invited him up on stage and then he and Jackson took turns “directing” him in various poses with them. Lucky bastard!
|Extra Tidbit:||Spielberg's favorite movie he ever produced: BACK TO THE FUTURE.|