Reader Review: The Adventures of Tintin
[Ed. note: TINTIN doesn't come out until December 21st here in the US but world premiered in Belgium (home to creator Hegre) this week. JoBlo.com reader Luca Saitta was in attendance and files this review from across the pond.]
PLOT: Tintin, a young reporter whose relentless pursuit of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure faces off against the nefarious Red Rackham.
REVIEW: Despite the rather relentless marketing push Spielberg/Jackson's Tintin adaptation has received in Belgium, there's been a bit of sneering condescension from older Tintin enthusiasts at the mere notion of Americans attempting a go at their beloved icon. Harrumph, I say! It's perhaps a bit foolish to say “older Tintin enthusiasts”, since the character is so much a part of the “uncool establishment” that young people are pretty ambivalent towards him in general. In fact, in the last few months I've noticed every time I brought up this film, I quickly had to add “Spielberg! Jackson! Moffat! Wright! Cornish!” to counter the decisive eeeehhhhhhhh the mention of Tintin brought forth.
It should come as a surprise to no one that THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN (titles nowadays, huh?) is visually absolutely sumptuous. The digital landscapes – from whimsical 50s Brussels to the stormy Atlantic to the fictional North African sultanate of Bagghar – are as gorgeous as any on-location photography. Spielberg doesn't overcrowd his digital landscapes like certain friends of his did in certain other all-digital movies, and every shot is just absolutely beautiful to look at. Early responses to the realistic mo-cap style combined with Hergé's exaggerated character designs made people freak out, comparing the characters to those terrifying “Real Homer” and “Real Popeye” photoshops that did the rounds on the interwebs. In the finished movie, however, you'd be forgiven for confusing the mo-cap dudes with real dudes, despite their cartoony features. This is of course not just the advanced nature of the technology, but a coming together of the animation, the direction, the acting... in short, the magic of movies, motherfucker! In fact, Spielberg totally lays the gauntlet down in the first scene with Tintin having his portrait painted by a suspiciously Hergé-lookin' street artist, his face revealed to the audience for the first time as he holds the frame right next to him and asking Snowy, “So... what do you think?”
Jamie Bell's more expressive (and SUPER KEEN) Tintin actually allows for more empathy than the rather blank protagonist of the classic Hergé stories. I was initially annoyed at the news of a mute Snowy, but the coke colored canine gets a few awesome scenes to show off, my favorite of which may have been his initial dominating of an attacking Rottweiler, immediately followed by the two dogs amiably scampering about. Snowy loves nothing more than to crush his enemies, drive them before him and hear their playful yapping. Totally faithful to the comic, however, is Captain Haddock being the real star. From the moment he shows up, the movie goes from being ADVENTURES OF TINTIN to THE HADDOCK SHOW FEATURING HIS STRAIGHT MAN TINTIN, as was pretty much the norm in the comics as well. Serkis plays this drunken lout as a volatile manic depressive with a good heart and a self-admitted unquenchable thirst for adventure. The audience I was with really started laughing quite regularly (as opposed to the occasional chuckle) once Haddock showed up at around the twenty-five minute mark.
Possibly the biggest draw of this movie, in my opinion, are the action scenes. Being “a cartoon” (yes yes I know, Zemeckis and Cameron will get pissed atcha for calling a mocap movie that, but... come ooooonnnnnn) delivers Spielberg and Peter “2nd Unit Action” Jackson from the burden of weightless characters. I'd say that since the advent of CGI, very few filmmakers have been able to get around the etherealness that a mostly green-screen action sequence all too easily allows – it's one of the few genuine compliments I can give to Bay's TRANSFORMERS: those things look heavy. But hey, you know what? There're sympathetic characters in these action scenes with clear motivations and you can totally see what's going on at all times, barring perhaps the appearance of a strange tank outta nowhere in the Bagghar chase reminiscent of that Police Story/Bad Boys 2 slum destruction scene. Honestly though, that just makes things more awesome. Here's a tank covered in a hotel, asshole! Now Tintin is doing Ethan Hunt shit on his bike! Now Snowy is wrestling a f*cking falcon because why not?!
TINTIN is a warm, charming, exciting, whimsical movie, made with reverence and an obvious amount of love for the source material. Tense and action-packed without being dark and violent, this is truly an action adventure comedy for all ages. Oh, and Captain Haddock drinks rubbing alcohol on two occasions. Just throwing that out there.