January 5, 2012

Do you like this?

Tintin is to journalism what Indiana Jones is to archAeology. Few if any archaeologists spend their careers searching for lost biblical treasures while evading Nazis and destroying dig sites. Most journalists don’t chase stories that involve pirates, treasure, the Interpol or the Foreign Legion. I wonder how Tintin’s optimism and savvy would figure into writing obituaries or covering city council meetings. He spends precious little time doing any sort of writing or note-taking, but with a memory like his, I suppose it isn’t necessary.  

All adventure heroes must have some sort of occupation, of course, lest the job itself raise suspicions on tax forms. And if you are going to be an adventurer, you might as well do something that seems innocuous. The annuals of Hollywood screenwriting are filled with murder-solving doctors and lawyers, treasure-seeking professors and mystery writers who are extremely close to their subjects.

This is more observation than criticism, as “The Adventures of Tintin” is a riotous, raucous family film, one that takes no breaks, makes no apologies and genuinely entertains. It is every Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew story ever written, high adventure around every corner, complete with youthful optimism and cheer. It even manages to be funny without pandering to adults via pop culture references.  

Without having any prior experience with the French comic it was based on, I get the impression that director Steven Spielberg has a deep respect for the source material and wanted to create a film that reflected the tone of the series respectfully.

This film is all plot. We are immediately thrown into the action at the beginning, as our hero and his trusted hound Snowy are browsing  a market in an unnamed European town. His eye is drawn to a spectacular model of a three-masted sailing ship called The Unicorn. He buys the curio, but soon is accosted by two different men wanting to purchase it from him for more than he paid for it. This activates Tintin’s journalistic sixth sense. He refuses and begins a fantastic adventure across seas and sand.  

Over the course of the film, he encounters the mysterious and evil Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine, the boisterous and drunken Captain Haddock and the bumbling detectives Thompson and Thompson.  Tintin travels from port to port and country to country seeking answers to his questions while experiencing harrowing escapades and dangerous encounters. The audience is dropped into the middle of the action and given no breathing room or reprieve.  

This is a serial comic book brought to life and the filmmakers, to their credit, make no attempt to make it more realistic or palatable to all audiences. I loved that the film made no attempt to insert a distracting love story in order to appeal to girls. Girls are just as capable of loving an adventure film for the adventure as boys are, and if given the chance, I’m sure that they will love this one. The digitally created artwork is incredibly detailed and splendidly rendered. Spielberg employed motion capture for the characters, making their movements believable and fluid. Motion-capture veteran Andy Serkis, who also portrays and voices Captain Haddock, steals the film with an exquisite and memorable performance.

There isn’t much that can be criticized here. If an animated adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson isn’t a sure bet for quality filmmaking, I don’t know what is.

“The Adventures of Tintin” is the second movie I have seen in the theaters with my 2-year-old son. The first was “Winnie the Pooh,” which was mostly unsuccessful as he ran around the theater for the majority of the film. This time, however, Tintin held his attention implicitly. Granted, the tone of “Tintin” is decidedly different than “Winnie the Pooh,” but I’m glad that his first real experience was a film that has grander goals that toy sales—“Tintin” isn’t a Pixar sequel or a film about talking chipmunks. Instead, his attention was arrested with epic sea battles and high-flying heroics. “The Adventures of Tintin” is the type of film children should grow up seeing.

“The Adventures of Tintin”

Rated: PG

Starring Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis and Daniel Craig

Directed by Steven Spielberg


January 5, 2012

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