The Adventures of Tintin

30 Oct

Adapting a much-loved comic book series is never easy. When the creator is unhappy with the previous four attempts and believes you are the only one capable of doing justice to his work it’s even harder. This was the task facing Steven Spielberg when he decided to finally make his Tintin movie, over 25 years since he discovered the comics when a comparison was made between them and his own Indiana Jones series. The first film in a planned trilogy, The Adventures of Tintin amalgamates three of the original stories into a film that follows the ever-curious eponymous reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) on a trail for the treasure of a sunken ship that was captained by Captain Haddock’s (Andy Serkis) grandfather while trying to outfox Sakharine (Daniel Craig).

Thanks to a suggestion from producer Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings), Spielberg has opted to film The Adventures of Tintin using a motion capture technique previously implemented in Robert Zemeckis films The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol and the Na’vi scenes in James Cameron’s money-printing Avatar. The film boasts some jaw-dropping visuals and manages to stay on the borders of the uncanny valley – realistic but caricaturish.

Stealing the show on the acting front are Andy Serkis and Daniel Craig who respectively play Captain Haddock and Sakharine. Serkis is the motion capture master, having played Gollum (The Lord of the Rings), Kong (Peter Jackson’s King Kong) and Caesar (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) using this method. This time he plays the all-together more human Captain Haddock – a hilarious, Scottish sea captain with a wee bit of a drink problem – who provides much of the humour of the film and he plays him, as usual, terrifically. However it’s a departure from the norm for Daniel Craig who plays the wily villain Sakhirine. He pulls it off impressively, imbuing Sakharine with a ruthlessness that could match any Bond villain and a sly, sophistication that would seem at home on a politician.

Jamie Bell was cast as the iconic Tintin and he does the best that he could with a character so devoid of personality. The books – and the film for that matter – manage to balance this blandness with a Dickensian supporting cast but the character simply doesn’t translate well to film. In the comics, Tintin was you, the reader – a vessel into which you can enter and explore the timeless, sensual world that Hergé created – a first-person experience that cinema can never replicate. To offset this issue, the writers have turned the humour up to 11 and it comes in spades.

The biggest problem I have with The Adventures of Tintin is the ridiculous pacing that made me wonder if the projector was running at 2X speed. If you have a very-very-very-short attention span then this might be the best film ever made but for me it was a bit dizzying.

If you’re a fan of the comics I have a feeling that this, and the incoming sequels, will be the best possible translations to the big screen. They do Hergé’s work justice but they are both very different experiences. The film feels like a European Indiana Jones for kids but I mean that in a good way. Really.

One Response to “The Adventures of Tintin”

  1. trixfred30 October 30, 2011 at 7:33 PM #

    I must have a very short attention span! I really thought they nailed it with this film. Great review!

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