Thursday, 3 November 2011

Review: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Belgian comic legend Hergé – or Georges Prosper Remi – supposedly commented that if his Tintin comic books were ever to be made into a feature film, then Steven Spielberg would be the man he’d appoint the task. It was then with nervous glee that the fanboys reacted to the news that Tintin was indeed to be adapted to film, and that Hergé’s chosen director would be taking the reins on this one. It was received with even more ecstasy when word got out Peter Jackson would be taking on production duties as Executive Producer – who better to adapt the beloved childhood classics than the men behind Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings. Hence, after a couple of years of casting, rumours, sneak peeks, and mo-cap images, it is surprising that the finished article is lacking the heart and soul of its comic book origins.
For starters, after seeing the finished article, I’m not so sure that motion-capture, or mo-cap, was the best medium for Tintin. After seeing a plethora of great live-action comic adaptations such as Watchmen, Batman, Hellboy and X-Men, and as well as great animated adaptations like Waltz with Bashir and Persepolis, it begs to ask if mo-cap was really necessary to capture Tintin, and that maybe in doing so they lost the spark that live humans can bring, or the soul that animation can bring. Although the dialogue is fun and at times very funny, you can’t really escape the fact that the characters have a dull, listless look to them – in particular the boy hero (Tintin) as well as the villain of the piece, Sakharine. The skin texture and facial emotions are creepy and offputting at times, detracting from the adventure and enjoyment of the spectrum of characters. Hergé was a genius when it came to characterisation and depiction of emotions, yet here it does not come across.
It is without a doubt that the scene-stealers are Captain Haddock, played with aplomb by Andy Serkis who manages to nail the crabby accent and drunken qualities of the character, and the Thomson Twins played by regular-collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (with the third in the trio – Edgar Wright – on script duties). The twins are particularly good, and they also get one of the two best scenes in the movie, when they visit the apartment of an obsessive-compulsive pick-pocket, whose crimes were actually to sate his kleptomania of wallets rather than a desire for their contents.  
The other great scene is where Tintin meets Haddock for the first time on board the SS Karaboudjan, where the drunken captain has been kept intoxicated by his traitorous first mate in order for Sakharine to take over. The whole scene along with their escape is pure Tintin, so it’s just a shame that it only lasts 10 minutes of the film's 1 hour 50 minute running time.
Although I don’t sit with the critics and fanboys who are spewing, spitting and reeling at Spielberg’s film, I am hardly going to promote the film as a worthy adaptation of the comics (I feel the voice cast could’ve done an good live-action job). Nevertheless, as a stand-alone cinema outing Tintin is most likely to stimulate you for a couple of hours, and does have some great moments. The ending feels anti-climactic and rushed, and some of the action scenes are so busy it has the same effect of Michael Bay’s Transformers – a lot of action can be overkill. Tintin could have done with a less showy director - someone like Joe Dante, Edgar Wright or Matthew Vaughan would have been a good choice, and they would’ve captured the quintessence and spirit of Tintin instead of drowning it with dreams of a Hollywood Mega-Franchise.

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