Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

Known in the UK as The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, this film charts a particular adventure of HergĂ©’s famous comic book creation Tintin. Young Belgian reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) buys an old model ship at a market. Straight away he is approached by two men who offer to buy the ship from him for any price. After he declines Tintin’s ship is stolen and while tracking it down he uncovers a mystery involving lost treasure. With the help of his intrepid dog Snowy and a drunken Sea Captain called Haddock (Andy Serkis), Tintin sets out to find the hidden loot and uncover the secret of the Unicorn. 

I used to watch Tintin cartoons when I was very young and though can’t remember much about them now, I do remember enjoying them. I wish I could say the same for this film. I’d read that the film was an adventure in the mould of Indiana Jones but I found the plot incredibly dull and predictable. The film was saved only by some first rate animation and a typically impressive John Williams score.

I had high hopes for Tintin given its director’s track record and I’m also a huge fan of co-writers Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. Moffat created one of my all time favourite sit-coms, Coupling and is also behind the recent BBC1 adaptation Sherlock. Edgar Wright is famous for his work with Nick Frost and Simon Pegg but also directed the hugely underrated Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Joe Cornish is just about my favourite Radio DJ (along with co-host Adam ‘Dr. Buckles’ Buxton) and is the writer/director of the terrific Attack the Block. Despite three huge talents at the writing stage I thought the script was awful. It honestly pains me to say that but it’s true. I always felt like I was one step ahead of the script and able to second guess every scene and twist. The dialogue felt tired and boring but this may just be as a result of remaining close to original text, I’m not sure. The actual plot never grasped my attention and despite enjoying the Haddock character, I didn’t really care what happened. The villain wasn’t villainous enough and had too little screen time and Tintin himself was almost like a background character. He didn’t force his way into the film but rather blended into the background. I don’t want to be totally negative though. There were a few occasions when I laughed though these were often at sight gags such as an Hotelier adding an extra Star to his hotel sign after it had been lifted to the coast on a giant wave. The film is lightly scattered with similar jokes which could go easily unnoticed.

Where the film is excellent though is in its animation. Despite being bored poopless by the plot I thought that the animation was probably the best I’d ever seen. The motion capture worked wonderfully to capture expression and movement and the background detail was exquisite. Both my girlfriend and I kept turning to one another to say “Wow! Look at that!” and “Look how realistic that looks”. It’s a marvel to behold such beautiful and complex animation. In conjunction with Spielberg’s direction the animation comes alive in one specific scene in which Tintin chases the bad guys through a Moroccan town, followed by a cascading wall of water. This one scene truly is exhilarating, passing anything the likes of Indiana Jones can offer. The camera swings through the town like a bird, following the action in every direction it goes; through windows, under buildings, across water, through the air and inside crumbling houses. This scene is the absolute highlight of the film. All the way through though the animation is superb.

On the acting front, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I really enjoyed king of Mo-Cap Andy Serkis’ Captain Haddock, although he was a bit of a caricature. Serkis was excellent and provided a much needed presence along with a terrific Scottish accent. Jamie Bell felt a little forgotten if anything behind Serkis’ overbearing drunk Captain character but wasn’t bad as Tintin. The rest of the cast played only very small roles with no one really excelling. I only just noticed though that the villain of the piece was played by Daniel Craig and although he didn’t really stand out, the fact that I had no idea it was him is a plus point. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg didn’t have a lot to do as bumbling detectives Thompson and Thompson but were fine when they were on screen. I seem to remember their characters having a larger role in the cartoon.

Overall I found Tintin to be a huge disappointment. If it wasn’t for the incredible design and animation it would be verging on 3-4/10. I thought it was dull and predictable but the animation is simply superb and for that fact alone it gets some more points.  


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