Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.
A film long in gestation, The Adventures of Tintin (depending on what country you’re in, there could be the subtitle The Secret of the Unicorn) finally reached cinema screens this year, developed by the powerhouse duo of director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson.
Based on a series of graphic novels (the grown-up term for a ‘comic book’) by Belgian artist Hergé, Tintin (Jamie Bell) is a young journalist who gets caught up in an adventure involving the mystery of a fabled lost treasure.
Accompanied by the rarely sober Captain Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis) and his faithful canine companion Snowy, Tintin successfully incorporates everything you’d come to expect if you’re familiar with the comic books – an intricate plot, exotic locations, and a fair dose of action.
Guided by a cryptic scroll hidden within a model ship (the titular Unicorn) Tintin and Haddock are pitted against the dubious villain Sakharine (Daniel Craig), who has unclear motives and is potentially a reincarnated pirate.
An adaptation of the Tintin comics has long been a pet project of Spielberg and Jackson, who took quite a risk by creating the film using motion capture technology.
Previous films to use this technique include The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol, and Mars Needs Moms. By mapping an actor’s movements onto a 3D model, film makers have got as far as a character that can move realistically, but doesn’t look right. The result is a plastic, wax-like version of humanity that is distracting to watch and missing a spark of life.
To a certain extent, The Adventures of Tintin manages to avoid this problem. The bulbous noses and comical features of the characters will stop you from mistaking them for real-life actors, but they’re still human enough.
The occasionally exaggerated facial expressions, especially when speaking, can be a little jarring. The spark of life is missing from behind the 3D eyes. It’s this unreal likeness that will keep viewers from fully immersing themselves in the world of Tintin.
With their combined creative genius and substantial studio funding, Spielberg and Jackson still weren’t able to recreate what Hergé managed with just a few well-placed lines of a pen.
Despite these faults, the movie is lively and vibrant, and is on a much grander scale than it would achieve with the budget of a live action movie.
Watching it becomes less about the performance of the actors, but more about the story of the characters. It also allows the two physically quite different comedians of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to portray the identical twins, Thomson and Thompson.
While it’s very much a standard blockbuster Spielberg movie full of dumb, fun stunts, there’s the ghost of Hergé guiding it. Spielberg and Jackson were big enough fans to stick relatively close to the source material, and the movie is better for it.
The plot is significantly more intelligent than standard 3D animation fare, and still keeps it accessible for the target family audience. Tintin will keep everyone entertained, if not without a tinge of disappointment.