Film Review: The Adventures of Tintin

Tintin headerThe Adventures of Tintin is a wonderful action-adventure that allows director Steven Spielberg to unleash every action beat/camera move he has never been able to do with the freedom of motion capture.

Our protagonist is Tintin, a young and respected journalist who ends up on crazy globetrotting adventures that endlessly puts him in the face of danger.  When Tintin purchases a model ship in a flea market he quickly becomes involved in a generations long pursuit of  a presumed lost secret of a naval family, the Haddocks.  As Tintin begins to investigate the mystery surrounding his model ship he stumbles across the last surviving Haddock in the bloodline. The pair, and trusty canine companion Snowy, head off on an adventure to unlock the key to the Haddock family treasure before the evil Sakharine can get it first.

Filmed on a motion capture stage and animated by Weta workshop, the film is simply gorgeous.  Spielberg pushes the effects house to the limit and more than step up to the challenge.  Not only does their animation look fantastic, photo realistic at times, but you can still see the performance in the characters; even more so than Avatar.

In fact, the greatest visual effect shot in cinema history exists in this film, a motorcycle chase that doesn’t cut once with the camera going everywhere.  The sequence is worth the price of admission alone.  The shot was filmed almost entirely in mo-cap too, it wasn’t just the animators going crazy, Spielberg apparently got most of the elements of the shot on camera; amazing.  Luckily there are plenty of other action beats to enjoy as well, the film’s pacing is relentless once Tintin sets off on his adventure. Weta also might have finally surpassed ILM this year as “the” effects house with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Tintin; though, ILM’s Rango and Transformers 3 are strong competitors.

Spielberg is so at home in the mo-cap process that he surpasses everything Zemeckis has done in the format in one film; and I am a fan of both Beowulf and A Christmas Carol.  Spielberg has no physical constraints with his camera in the mo-cap process and the aforementioned motorcycle chase is only one showcase.  There is a fantastic swashbuckling sequence that makes me crave for a Spielberg pirate movie (Hook doesn’t count) as it is as thrilling as anything in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.  The way Spielberg plots out his shots, weaving the camera in and out the ship, it is joyous to watch.  Spielberg can still shoot the hell out of a live action movie, see War Horse which is almost entirely in camera, but I hope this isn’t the last mo-cap feature from “The Beard.”

The actors in the film bring a lot of character to their parts and it is fun to see Andy Serkis playing a human in a mo-cap role.  Serkis is the best mo-cap performer around, but he has been regulated to playing deformed hobbits or simians up until his role as Haddock.  With Haddock, Serkis gets to be weird and go a little crazy in the part, allowing him to show off quite the range.  The drunken buffoonery provides a lot of great humor and material for Serkis and he has had quite the year between this and playing Cesar in Planet of the Apes.  Jamie Bell plays Tintin and he brings the wide eyed enthusiasm needed for the part.  Bell’s charisma and endless positive attitude makes Tintin a hero you can root for and is an excellent balance to Haddock’s insanity.  Daniel Craig is also great in an against type role that lets him play to his dark side and not be the coolest cat in the room.  Craig as Sakharine allows him to step into the shoes of a villain, something we almost never see him do, and he should take it up more often.  Making brief appearances are Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Toby Jones, and when they all get together the results are quite great; if a little bit silly.  Special mention should also be made to the animators who created Snowy as he is one of the best movie dogs of all-time.  You can’t walk away from this film and not wish you had a little Snowy companion at your side for your life’s adventures.

In the end, The Adventures of Tintin is a rousing good time that any action, Spielberg, or animation fan should seek out this Christmas.  Spielberg executes some of the best action sequences of the year here and the film is full of humor and charm thanks to a great script by Stephen Moffat and Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish.  The film is also worth the extra 3D dollars, and while not as good as Hugo’s 3D, Tintin is still one of the top 3D experiences out there.  You might not know who Tintin is now, but I can’t imagine a much better introduction then Spielberg has delivered here.

The Adventures of Tintin is an A-

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