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What is the most fun movie that you have ever experienced? That’s the question I asked myself as I left the theater, trying to think of an example to top The Adventures of Tintin. The opening shots of the film set the tone for the mystery already at hand in the first sequence.
Tintin is driven by a desire to uncover the truth, and his enthusiasm for uncovering that truth sets the adventure rolling from the very beginning. And not far into the film, the classic Tintin characters “Thomson” and “Thompson” – identical twin police inspectors – present the comical side of the story. The mystery, adventure and comedy play off of one another enjoyably throughout the entire film, and the search for the truth keeps Tintin digging deeper to the end.
This Reporter-Detective, Tintin, wants to know the mystery behind “the Unicorn,” an old ship that he comes into contact with through a model version of the vessel. His sharp wit and drive to know the facts are immediately apparent, as he recognizes the model ship as historically significant. Good and evil are promptly established, as well. A clear-cut line is drawn between positive and negative values in the film: thievery and honesty, respectability and malicious behavior, etc. Tintin is the honest and respectable side of the coin.
The Adventures of Tintin comic books were written by Hergé, a Boy Scout from Belgium who illustrated the Scout Magazine. This is where he first drew Tintin, in the form of a Boy Scout named “Totor.” The Boy Scout in Tintin comes through in the comic book, and the comic book is in turn portrayed well in the film. The film’s introduction of Tintin is marvelous, and it expresses the faithfulness with which the movie has been adapted. The classic characters from the comic book, including Tintin’s dog “Snowy” and “Thomson” and “Thompson” are very well-executed.
All of the characters in the film are done well, their expressions playing nicely visually and their character voices emerging as distinct. Andy Serkis shows a different side of himself as the Sea Captain “Haddock,” and Jamie Bell enlivens Tintin to a tee. Daniel Craig’s performance as the villain is one-note at times, but some of the character’s expressions that come across in the animation are classically villainous.
It's impressive to see any film in 3-D, but Spielberg utilizes that third dimension primarily as a storytelling tool in The Adventures of Tintin. It is clear that he thoughtfully took the 3-D medium into account to make precise moments in the film stand out. Animation is also used to stretch cinematography to its limits, and in this 3-D animation there are some sweeping examples (such as the moment when Tintin gets caught in the midst of traffic flying by him in every direction). Of course, the film’s medium of 3-D animation is key to maintaining the style of the comic book. Funny and memorable characteristics like big noses, characters’ sizes in relation to one another, and Tintin’s red, flipped-up hair make the film that much closer to the comics.
There are certainly moments when the film seems more like Indiana Jones than Tintin. [SPOILER WARNING] There is a chase sequence – ironically in a motorcycle with a sidecar – toward the end of the film that is very fast-paced and action-packed. The sequence is a well-executed, and even has comical aspects, but it stretches the style and pacing of the film that have been so excellently executed up to that point. It is reminiscent of scenes from Indiana Jones, and seems to re-use certain bits from those films. While the action in Tintin consistently builds beyond any Indiana Jones cliches, this particular section ends up so complicated and fast that it’s not as memorable as the rest of the film.
However, the strengths of Peter Jackson’s skill with 3-D animation and Spielberg’s expertise in direction of distinct characters and adventure stories all come together to make a lovable film out of a lovable comic book. Spielberg has not overlooked the historic advances in the medium of 3-D animation. He uses motion capture and 3-D as they have never been used before.
And Jackson’s recent experiences with The Hobbit can only have strengthened the film in the area of adaptation. All in all, The Adventures of Tintin is not a disappointment for those expecting to see a great collaboration piece by two of the most excellent storytellers in filmmaking today. The ending of the movie and the quality throughout suggests that a promising trilogy is under way.
Parents of younger children should be aware that there is violence in the film. [SPOILER ALERT] When a man comes to warn Tintin of danger toward the beginning of the film, gunfire bursts through the doorway, and Tintin opens the door to find that the man has been shot in the back. There is blood on the man’s hands, which he uses to write a clue on a newspaper. In another scene, Tintin fires a pistol at armed men on the villain’s ship and one man falls overboard (later he is seen hanging by his foot from the side of the ship, still alive).
The other violent sequence in the film is comprised of a battle involving sword fighting, gunfire, and cannons. While the scene is far from gratuitously violent, there is blood shown at one point. Pirates and villains are seen falling over the side of the ship into the water. There is brief use of foul language as well. This language and violence renders the film inappropriate for most young children.
In addition, there is one ally of Tintin’s who has an obsession for whisky. He repeatedly comes across hidden bottles of alcohol. Though the character is funny, his drinking problem is ultimately taken lightly. [SPOILER ALERT] There is a statue of St. John referenced at one point in the film, as a part of the search for the long-lost treasure. As in the Indiana Jones series, the only reference to Christianity is purely historical. The suggestion is that St. John, his writings, and Christianity are all things of the past.
While not representing Christianity, this film does present good and evil, as well as a search for truth. Tintin is a respectable young man—a Boy Scout. He sides with respectable allies, while the enemies in the story are defined by their cruel intentions.
Having walked, swam, sailed, flown, and driven with the famous Tintin, I can say that I have enjoyed his company very much indeed. Given his good values as a Boy Scout and the entertaining, comical characters that he surrounds himself with, I look forward to meeting him again in the next installment of the Tintin trilogy. The Adventures of Tintin is quite an adventure.
Check out these similar titles:
Treasure Island (Disney, 1950)
Up (Pixar, 2009)
The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (Walden Media, 2007)