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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
I saw the trailer for Tintin today. What exactly is Tintin? Based on the trailer, I have no idea. It’s apparently about a strange looking British boy who finds a model ship. Anyway the trailer is awful. It should be in the film school curriculum as an example of how *not* to do a movie trailer. We don’t even get a good look at the main character’s face until the very last shot!
Does anyone in America even know who Tintin is? I don’t know. I’ve basically consumed any and every form of pop culture for my entire life and I’ve never even run afoul of Tintin. I suppose it’s possible that there people in America who are interested in this (probably people who read Andy Capp and Dick Tracy, I guess), but I cannot possibly see this picture doing well in America.
That last part probably doesn’t matter; Tintin is likely a license to print money in Europe. Could this be another Golden Compass, where a film fails to even break 100m domestically but grosses nearly 300m overseas? I’m thinking yes. The American market may not matter for this film, as it clearly doesn’t for the Narnia films. But with names like Spielberg and Jackson behind this mammoth motion capture movie, it *should* matter in America.
It’s obvious to me that filmmakers like Jackson, Spielberg, and Robert Zemeckis have yet to learn that motion capture is incredibly creepy and not exactly viable at the box office. Cameron’s Avatar, which captured a cultural zeitgeist, is the obvious exception. Tintin is much more Mars Needs Moms than Avatar.
In 2004, Zemeckis released The Polar Express, a film with characters so creepy I still haven’t seen it. The film did respectable numbers at the box office, grossing 180m domestically against a 165m budget (sadly, that’s seen as a success in Hollywood). Zemeckis followed Polar Express up with Beowulf, a flop by any measure. Beowulf failed to gross even 100m in the American markets. A Christmas Carol disappointed at the box office in 2009, and 2011’s Mars Needs Moms flopped so badly that Zemeckis’ motion capture studio, ImageMover Digital, was closed by Disney (yes, the decision was made in May 2010, nearly a full year before Mars was released, but the bloated budget and production delays on that film did not help its case).
In the meantime, Spielberg has never been lower from a commercial standpoint. His last hit film, 2005’s War of the Worlds, grossed huge numbers and was a summer tentpole. But it is not a well-liked or even well-remembered movie. War is mostly remembered for Tom Cruise’s odd summer behavior and Dakota Fanning’s meteoric rise from adorable moppet to respectable, maturing young actress. Spielberg’s next film, the Indiana Jones sequel Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fiercely divided audiences.
Jackson also seems to have hit a career low point. His film The Lovely Bones was a notorious bomb, with constantly shuffled release dates and poor reviews. He hasn’t scored a hit film since 2003’s Return of the King and seems coasting on his Lord of the Rings success. Could Tintin bring Jackson back to the highs he experienced as a director in the 00’s?
Back to Tintin: Will I see this movie? Honestly, based solely on the first trailer, I’m not interested in seeing this movie at all. I’ve lost faith in Spielberg as a director and producer. I honestly didn’t have much faith in Jackson to begin with. Motion capture seems to be a fad in Hollywood, and Tintin’s gonna have to be a pretty great film to continue to justify its use. I’ll more than likely continue to find mo-cap to be creepy, intrusive, and distracting.