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Review: The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

Dec. 23, 2011by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: After inadvertently acquiring a model ship sought by the villainous Sakharine (Daniel Craig); intrepid, boy reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell), and his faithful dog Snowy set off on a globetrotting adventure. Along the way, they meet the alcoholic, kind-hearted Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), whose bloodline may hold the secret to the mystery theyve found themselves embroiled in.

REVIEW: Being born and raised in Montreal, Quebec- Belgian artist Hergs TINTIN comics were an essential part of my childhood. In elementary school, we were taught French through the Tintin comics, and to this day I have a hard time pronouncing Tintin in English, or referring to the dog as Snowy, rather than Millou. Considering the comics massive popularity in La Belle Province, Steven Spielbergs big-screen adaptation of the comics, THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, hit theaters here two weeks ahead of its release in the rest of North America.


Based on the early trailers, I wasnt sure what to make of TINTIN. I pretty much figured Spielberg would be able to nail the tone of the comics, as they were (apparently) a huge influence on the Indiana Jones films (not to mention most other action-adventure franchises of the last fifty years). My only concern was the motion-capture animation style being used- which is the same as the one being championed by Robert Zemeckis in films like BEOWULF, and THE POLAR EXPRESS. I usually hate this style of animation (although it works beautifully when integrated into a live action film like LORD OF THE RINGS), and I was all but certain it would ruin the film for me.

Luckily, it didnt, as I was pretty much drawn right back into the Herg universe I loved so much as a child from the opening credits, which play homage to the style of drawing used in the books. From there, it immediately introduces us to Tintin, who- like in the comics is totally ambiguous in age. He looks like a kid, sounds like an adult, lives on his own in an apartment, carries a gun- but it constantly referred to as a kid by everyone in the film. Imagine a badass Pee-Wee Herman, and you get the idea.


As Tintin, Jamie Bell is inspired casting. It needs to be said, Tintin, as depicted in the film, doesnt look at all like Bell, but the facial tics of the character suggest that the motion capture performance did indeed add something to the performance. Vocally, hes absolutely perfect, suggesting both Tintins boyish enthusiasm, and his boundless sense of daring.

Like Bell, Andy Serkis, as the beloved Captain Haddock also strikes me as perfect, although his Scottish accent took me awhile to get used to, as I never imagined one when reading the books (although its probably perfect). A master of the motion-capture performance, Serkis is wonderful as the drunken, but extremely likable Haddock, although I thought the animation made him look a slighter than he does in the comics.

While Im not a big fan of this method of animation, I have to admit that Spielberg probably couldnt have pulled off Tintin using any other technique. It would have never worked as a live-action film, for the sole fact that Snowy, the dog, would have been impossible to depict- although, come to think of it, the dog in THE ARTIST is pretty Snowy-like.


One things for sure- if Spielberg had opted to go in a total CGI route, we wouldnt have gotten the freedom of camera movement brought to the film. Once you get into it, TINTIN feels more like a live-action film than an animated one, and some of the set-pieces are phenomenal. Many have said THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN is what INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL should have been, and Im inclined to agree. Spielberg certainly doesnt shy away from the Indiana Jones comparisons, with a very Indy-style score by John Williams, and an elaborate chase where Snowy chases his kidnapped master through an open-air market seems like a direct riff of the classic Indy/Marian chase in RAIDERS.

The two best action set-pieces come a little later in the film, with one being an extended gun-battle/chase on-board Haddocks hijacked ship, that would have been at home in an Indiana Jones film The final, and best set-piece is an incredible motorcycle chase, done all in one, long tracking shot with no cuts, as Tintin and Haddock essentially demolish a Moroccan village, which running from the bad guys.

Watching this scene made me regret opting to see it in 2D, as my 3D aversion got the better of me. In hindsight, I should have paid the extra five bucks and watched it the way Spielberg intended, as it probably would have been great. Still, even without the third dimension, I enjoyed the hell out of TINTIN. More than anything Spielbergs done in a while, TINTIN has the sense of fun thats been absent from his work since CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. It helps that Spielberg not only had producer Peter Jackson to work with, but also the great Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish (ATTACK THE BLOCK) to contribute to the screenplay. It has the sense of joy evident in the work of these newer directors (not to mention juicy cameos for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Thompson & Thomson).

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN really works on every level, whether, like me, youre a huge fan of the comics, or have no knowledge of them whatsoever. Its a terrific flick, and I hope it does well enough to get us another instalment, as there are lots of classic TINTIN stories that would make wonderful films.

Source: JoBlo.com

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12:52PM on 12/26/2011
One of my Christmas wishes came true. This crap bombing in the USA restores my faith in American exceptionalism. Keep this trash over the pond, thank you.
One of my Christmas wishes came true. This crap bombing in the USA restores my faith in American exceptionalism. Keep this trash over the pond, thank you.
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4:57PM on 12/23/2011
I loved it as well. Here's my full review:

[link]
I loved it as well. Here's my full review:

[link]
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12:55PM on 12/23/2011
the movie has already made like 200+ worldwide, there will be another.
the movie has already made like 200+ worldwide, there will be another.
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7:33PM on 12/21/2011
It was IMPECCABLE!!!! Best tracking shot since Children Of Men
It was IMPECCABLE!!!! Best tracking shot since Children Of Men
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7:31AM on 12/13/2011
For the most part, I agree with you. The movie is one the best of the year to my opinion. And, as French, I was raised with Tintin as well. I liked the "digital cameo" of Herg, drawing Tintin at the beginning of the film, nice homage! A few details though... As far as I know, the movie is in PERFORMANCE Capture (Avatar) and NOT MOTION Capture (Beowulf), and therefore mostly avoid the "dead eye syndrome" of the latter. As of the score, Even though the action scenes DO sound like IJ a little
For the most part, I agree with you. The movie is one the best of the year to my opinion. And, as French, I was raised with Tintin as well. I liked the "digital cameo" of Herg, drawing Tintin at the beginning of the film, nice homage! A few details though... As far as I know, the movie is in PERFORMANCE Capture (Avatar) and NOT MOTION Capture (Beowulf), and therefore mostly avoid the "dead eye syndrome" of the latter. As of the score, Even though the action scenes DO sound like IJ a little bit, I think the main theme is one of the WORST Williams has make in a very long time.
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+1
11:48PM on 12/12/2011

I am so glad that...

this film is sounding as awesome as I hoped!
this film is sounding as awesome as I hoped!
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2:04PM on 12/12/2011
When I saw the trailers, it reminded me a lot like Uncharted and I said to myself that I needed to see this.
When I saw the trailers, it reminded me a lot like Uncharted and I said to myself that I needed to see this.
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1:48PM on 12/12/2011

A truly joyful experience.

Never was a big fan of the comics, although I found them entertaining for sure. The movie however, was one of my best cinematic experiences of 2011! It had everything,action (people actually shoot each other and die) and those visuals in 3D..WOW, truly amazing, my hat goes off to the master himself, Mr Spielbergo! Cant wait for Peters take on it:)Highly recommendable to those who want to be entertained in style.
Never was a big fan of the comics, although I found them entertaining for sure. The movie however, was one of my best cinematic experiences of 2011! It had everything,action (people actually shoot each other and die) and those visuals in 3D..WOW, truly amazing, my hat goes off to the master himself, Mr Spielbergo! Cant wait for Peters take on it:)Highly recommendable to those who want to be entertained in style.
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12:56PM on 12/12/2011

Pretty much my assessment too

I loved the humour and the action. The only downside was that the character of Tintin hit the Uncanny Valley. Not my fave animated film of 2011 but a fine film nonetheless.
I loved the humour and the action. The only downside was that the character of Tintin hit the Uncanny Valley. Not my fave animated film of 2011 but a fine film nonetheless.
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12:39PM on 12/12/2011
Agreed. Saw this about a month ago and found it to be my favorite animated film of the year. My review will be out on the 21st.
Agreed. Saw this about a month ago and found it to be my favorite animated film of the year. My review will be out on the 21st.
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12:01PM on 12/12/2011
I lived in Germany for a few years as a kid, and as such, was (partially) raised on the comics. I am super excited for this movie,glad to hear it's great.
I lived in Germany for a few years as a kid, and as such, was (partially) raised on the comics. I am super excited for this movie,glad to hear it's great.
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11:29AM on 12/12/2011
I've seen the film a month ago in IMAX 3D, and liked it a lot! When there is humor in the film (mostly the conversations between Tintin and Haddock), it's gold.
I've seen the film a month ago in IMAX 3D, and liked it a lot! When there is humor in the film (mostly the conversations between Tintin and Haddock), it's gold.
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10:21AM on 12/12/2011
I enjoyed it too! It's a very good looking action ride with scenes that made me laugh very hard. Reminded me of the old Indiana Jones feeling.
Also, for the first time I've seen believable CG-characters that feld like breathing living people (with cartoonish faces).
I enjoyed it too! It's a very good looking action ride with scenes that made me laugh very hard. Reminded me of the old Indiana Jones feeling.
Also, for the first time I've seen believable CG-characters that feld like breathing living people (with cartoonish faces).
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10:09AM on 12/12/2011

Great review

I grew up in Mtl, Qc just like you CBum and that emans i was obivously raised on these books as well. I went to see it in the French version, to get the full-on Herg vocabulary experience (it isn't a Tintin adventure without Haddock dropping a ''Tonnerre de Brest'' once in a while hehe) and I fucking loved this movie form minute 1. huge respect for the source material and tone of the series. Also, spielberg peppered tons of homages and eaters eggs for fans of the books. I highly recommend it
I grew up in Mtl, Qc just like you CBum and that emans i was obivously raised on these books as well. I went to see it in the French version, to get the full-on Herg vocabulary experience (it isn't a Tintin adventure without Haddock dropping a ''Tonnerre de Brest'' once in a while hehe) and I fucking loved this movie form minute 1. huge respect for the source material and tone of the series. Also, spielberg peppered tons of homages and eaters eggs for fans of the books. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves action and adventure especially if you're an indy fan!
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