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The Adventures Of Tintin—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
December 21, 2011 1:00 AM
17 Comments
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Being completely unfamiliar with Hergé’s popular illustrated stories, I came to this movie as a blank slate, with no expectations. After an imaginative opening title sequence (scored by John Williams in a sprightly mode reminiscent of Catch Me if You Can), I was enveloped in the spirit of a rousing, old-fashioned adventure yarn. I only wish I felt the same way when the movie concluded.

Director Steven Spielberg and his producing partner Peter Jackson have said that they wanted to recreate the look and feel of Hergé’s work, to the point that one could freeze any frame of the film and find its equivalent in one of the Tintin books. That’s a key reason they chose performance-capture technology, in order to transform Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis and other actors into the familiar characters drawn by Hergé, with all their visual oddities intact. I don’t know how Tintin aficionados will react, but it took some time for me to acclimate, especially to the oddly-proportioned Captain Haddock, played by Serkis.

Still, the ingredients for mystery and adventure are neatly laid out, as Tintin’s purchase of a model ship makes him the target of a bad guy who desperately wants a map hidden inside the model. This leads Tintin and his loyal pooch Snowy into one fantastic exploit after another, as our hero is kidnaped. He winds up allying himself with the drunken Captain Haddock, whose seagoing ancestor hid a valuable cache of treasure hundreds of years ago.

I was primed for adventure laced with humor, and got just that for a while. It would have been nice to learn a bit about Tintin, who is something of a cipher, as opposed to the instantly-endearing Snowy. But I was utterly unprepared for the second half of the film, which turns into one gigantic action sequence—a propulsive, nonstop videogame-like experience without letup. As a feat of moviemaking it’s impressive, but merciless; it overtakes the film and overwhelms the characters, not to mention us in the audience, trapped behind our 3-D glasses.

By the end of the picture I was exhausted, not exhilarated. The Adventures of Tintin drained me. Part of the fun in this kind of story is feeling that you—the reader, or the viewer—are partaking in the venture yourself. I never felt that way watching this film, which is especially odd since 3-D is supposed to be an immersive medium. Instead, I felt a curious remove. Some of that feeling may be due to my unfamiliarity with the characters and their world, but that doesn’t account for my overall indifference to the picture. Spielberg is a master storyteller, but it seems even he was engulfed in the spectacle of his film. It is, perhaps, not insignificant that Hergé’s stories were short, and not meant to sustain the length of a feature film.

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17 Comments

  • The StarWolf | March 13, 2012 6:00 PMReply

    I thought the film captured the spirit of Hergé's universe to perfection and was quite true to the characters. It's quite rare when Hollywood manages this. I liked it. Lots.

  • jay | January 18, 2012 8:57 PMReply

    I agree, Leo. At least the picture is less boring and tedious than the animated movies of 1969 and 1972. The Aardman guys should win the Oscar!

  • rich | January 11, 2012 7:45 PMReply

    accurate, LOL

  • RICH | January 11, 2012 7:44 PMReply

    Pretty accyrate review

  • Deeper Into Movies | January 6, 2012 3:54 PMReply

    For all the millions spent on this production, it's hard to picture how anyone could generate such a generically lackluster teen hero. Only HAL 9000 might warm up to Tintin, a carrot-topped boy journalist who stumbles into a mysterious plot thick with thieves, treasure and ships in bottles.
    Despite his G-rated retorts ("Great snakes!"), this kid also bizarrely packs a handgun, setting off a slew of frenetic chases and shootouts befitting a low-caliber action movie. For a director who went so far as to digitally delete the guns in his "E.T." re-release, Spielberg seems to have sailed off into a weird new dimension, and a shallow one at that.
    ---------------
    (Entire review now playing at deepintomovies.blogspot and on Facebook as Deeper Into Movies.)

  • Rob Marsel | January 2, 2012 11:56 PMReply

    It amazes me how everyone tries to be armchair critics. I just came back from watching Tintin, and as a long time fan (since childhood), i found the characters to be not just true to the originals, but even more interesting. I can't imagine the amount of effort it took to make this wonderful movie. Shame on you critics! Small details such as Haddocks stance in the desert were spot on. I for one was thoroughly impressed. If you grew up with Tintin, be sure to catch this movie. You will be pleasantly suprised. The graphics are nothing short of incredible. Hurra, Tintin!

  • manvi sharma | January 2, 2012 1:20 AMReply

    nice movie want to see again.................

  • The Adventures of TinTin (2011): A Tale of an Alcoholic Sea Captain | December 27, 2011 12:39 PMReply

    What makes this seem pretty real at times is the fact that one of the characters in the film,
    href="http:/http://sureitsrelevant.blogspot.com/2011/12/adventures-of-tintin-2011-tale-of.html/">Captain Haddock, is a barely functioning alcoholic

  • Jerome Silk | December 26, 2011 10:18 PMReply

    I expected to love this movie, but it was so frntic, I tuned out and actually fell aleep. It lacked soul, and the plot flew at you so quickly, there was no time to enjoy anything. Story of our times: all technology, little humanity.

  • Miguel Cruz | December 26, 2011 8:59 PMReply

    As a Spielberg fanboy I was dismayed at how hard it was to keep my eyes open during this movie. At almost no point did I care about what was happening. The MacGuffin was not that interesting, the villains had no credible menace, and the protagonist was mostly dull. Haddock had potential, but they really beat the alcoholic joke into the ground.

  • Anonymous | December 26, 2011 4:19 AMReply

    An accurate review. Just saw this movie, enjoyed it for what it was but was exhausted after the unrelenting action sequences. See it on a cheap movie Monday/Tuesday and you'll have gotten your full money's worth and then some.

  • cp | December 25, 2011 9:57 PMReply

    Firstly I wanted to note that the it isn't "a map hidden inside the model" but a note with a handwritten secret clue/riddle that the bad guy is looking for.
    Mostly this movie succeeded in the merging of motion capture and animation. The 3D seemed extraneous -- the beautiful 2D drawings of Herge and framing are imitated well in the camerawork so other than being au courant, there is no real reason this should have been a 3D feature. My one complaint was the ending on the obvious cliffhanger pointing to a sequel seemed just too manipulative and disrespectful to good story telling.

  • Gabriel Noel | December 25, 2011 12:38 PMReply

    I've watched Tintin, in various incarnations, a great deal of my life, and the film is as adherent to the original stories as possible, especially in that Tintin IS, and has always BEEN a cipher. This man/child is the medium through which we experience the foreign sights and eccentric characters depicted.

  • Norm | December 21, 2011 7:18 PMReply

    Well, if you can get the "War Horse " inside of a freezer and blow it up within the radius of an Atomic bomb, Spieberg may salvage his career. Tin Tin , should never have been displayed without character development since he isn't that well known in the USA, but I guess this Director just lost the "narrative thread", a long time ago...aarrgghh...

  • grrljock | December 21, 2011 5:59 PMReply

    I read the Tintin comic books as a child, and had a quick refresher of them via a visit to the Comics Center in Brussels. Apparently Herge did mean Tintin meant to be a cypher, as a blank slate and stand-in for the reader. As an adult I would have trouble accepting the premise of a "boy reporter" whose was never shown filing his stories/having a more believable back story. The fun in the comics comes from the other characters: salty Captain Haddock (my favorite character), loyal sidekick Snowy, absent-minded scientist Prof. Calculus, the bumbling cops Thompson and Thomson, and the diva Bianca Castafiore. So I could see how the movie fails if it doesn't build on characters other than Tintin.
    Incidentally, I passed on seeing this movie even though I happened to be in France when it opened. I could not get over how weird Captain Haddock looks in the trailer so could not imagine being that creeped out for the whole movie.
    Which brings me to a general question: why do filmmakers use performance capture instead of just animation? I've always found the former technique so creepy (dead eyes) and ugly. Is it cheaper?

  • Patrick M. Gouin | December 21, 2011 3:33 PMReply

    Highly anticipated film especially in the French speaking world. First, visually the film is amazing. The true to life reproduction of Hergé’s universe is without reproach. The original story taken from unrelated stories in the series is also very interesting. We were well warned and is easily accepted. We really get the impression of seeing a whole new adventure without knowing what will come next.
    What comes next, are characters that are underdeveloped. This is particularly true of the two main heroes, Tintin and Haddock. The exception here might be Snowy. We don’t find the essence of their personalities so well defined trough the 24 albums of the series. Where are all of Haddock’s unique expressions? This original story is full of totally impossible situations that the albums never reached, which unfolds at a frightening pace. Finally, I found the humour sparse and not really that funny.
    It’s obvious that the market aimed for are the young video game playing boys. If this film brings a whole new generation to Hergé’s universe, that would be a good thing.
    The next film of the series is likely to be closer to the essence of Tintin, as Peter Jackson will be the director. He is admittedly a Tintin fan since his childhood. Spielberg came to Tintin in his late thirties, after being told of a vague resemblance to a well-known archeologist.

  • Alberto Farina | December 21, 2011 3:02 AMReply

    Hergé's stories were not quite that short... most of the 23 books average 40-something pages that are dense with both action and dialogue. And a few adventures even spread out on two separate books, including the one this film has been based on (that said, Spielberg's pic leaves the follow-up to Jackson's sequel). A long-time Hergé fan, I also felt the same remove from the film: as awe-inducing as the visuals are, I think the main problem lies in the less than perfect combination between the action and the comic relief. It's an elusive mix to recapture and that's where I felt the movie failed, in spite of its generous and almost heroic efforts to pay homage to the original comics. "The Adventures of Tintin" does break boundaries: only, it doesn't quite seem know where to go once on uncharted territory.

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