Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig
Pros: Incredible use of motion capture animation. Exciting action set pieces and very creative scene transitions. Witty Indiana Jones esque humor.
Cons: A not so sharp lead character. Tintin’s dog is too smart. Pointless characters.
It’s been three years since Spielberg brought us a new film, 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Now we get two brand spanking new movies in one month: War Horse, his first war story since Saving Private Ryan (1998) and The Adventures of Tintin, Spielberg’s first foray into an animated film, or at least motion capture. If you were disappointed by Spielberg’s last Indiana Jones outing (not me), than The Adventures of Tintin is the movie for you.
Spielberg switched worlds with Brad Bird, directing this motion capture film based on the comic book written by Georges Remi from the 1920’s to 70’s. I had never heard of the property before Spielberg’s involvement in the movie with fellow director Peter Jackson was announced.
Just by the previews, this movie felt like a classic Spielberg action/adventure in the same vein as his early 80’s films and the finished product delivered. From beginning to end, Tintin does not let up.
Surrounding two families and a lost pirate treasure, there is nothing too complex here. The mystery begins right at the onset and doesn’t end until the moment before the credits. Spielberg and company do a very impressive job of filling up the entire 107 minutes and never include a dull moment. There is no fat to be found in this movie.
I was surprised to find out Daniel Craig portrays the villain of the story, Rackham, which means Craig had four movies in 2011 after going three years without a film release. Tintin is by far my favorite of the three movies of his I saw.
The most impressive element of Tintin is the motion capture animation. Once the love child of Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis, motion capture has been seen in movies like A Christmas Carol (2009) and Beowulf (2007), however it has never been used as effectively as Spielberg uses it here, where many times an animated character could easily be mistaken for an actual person.
During a sequence that takes place in an African desert, the films protagonists, Tintin (Jaime Bell) and Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), are drenched in their own sweat and let me tell you, it is very believable sweat.
I also really like the transitions that Spielberg utilizes. Where George Lucas patented the screen wipe in his Star Wars films, Spielberg morphs his scenes from one to the next.
Now there are a few downsides to this movie, with the first being Tintin himself. For a journalist, the red headed sleuth doesn’t come across as being very bright sometimes. This is no slight against Bell’s portrayal of the character, he does a great job, but the writing of the character is weak for me when it specifically pertains to solving clues.
Tintin isn’t even the most interesting character in the movie. Captian Haddock, the drunken ship captain who holds the secret to the stories treasure is what holds your interest. His story of trying to redeem the honor of his family name is the emotional core of the film, though it doesn’t over power you.
Also, I know it was in the comics, but Tintin’s dog does not make sense. The dog is the smartest canine that has ever lived, smarter than Tintin himself sometimes, and is the only reason the heroes of the film make it to the end. I know he’s great for the child audience, but dogs do not belong in action-adventure films, even if it is an important part of the source material.
The weakest aspect of the film is the two Interpol agents named Thompson, portrayed by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Once again, these characters are important aspects of the source material; however, I feel they don’t do enough over the course of the movie to justify including their bumbling detective work. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be in the movie, but if you’re going to include them, give them more to do.
Despite these flaws The Adventures of Tintin is a just plain fun film. You won’t regret spending an hour and a half with these characters, because you’ll be treated to genuine Steven Spielberg fare, which has been missing for a few years.