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Last winter saw the release of the Steven Spielberg directed The Adventures of Tintin. This is a movie that received very harsh, undeserved pre-release criticism online due to the somewhat secretive nature of its early marketing campaign. However, the film proved to be a box office success and was positively received by critics. Much to my disappointment, I did not get a chance to see Tintin in theaters. However, DVD releases are wonderful things. So, the question remains: did Tintin deserve that early internet hate? The answer is absolutely not. But is it a four-star, two-thumbs-up feature? Eh, not quite.
Based on the French comic of the same name by Herge, The Adventures of Tintin is an Indiana Jones-styled adventure. Supposedly this was a passion project for Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson, and it really shows. There is a great amount of attention to detail in the film that shows they were really trying to make something special here. Largely, I feel they succeeded, but in some ways they somewhat fumbled.
For example, the characters in the movie are great and play off each other very well. The interplay between Tintin (Jamie Bell) and Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) is hilarious. They work so well together and the actors have a great chemistry. Haddock is so utterly insane, you can’t help but enjoy his drunken antics. That said, there are things that don’t work. The first quarter of the film has Tintin basically thinking/talking out loud in order to clue the viewer in on what’s going on. Also, Haddock is a bit erratic in how he gets from point A to point B in his thought process. Perhaps this was intentional, but it doesn’t quite work. There are also some leaps in logic in the narrative that had me raise an eye brow early on.
On the plus side, I love how Spielberg crafted the exposition dumps of Haddock retelling his grandfather’s exploits. I don’t want to spoil it (and it is difficult to explain it succinctly), but it is wildly and visually entertaining.
Also, Daniel Craig is a great villain. Mr. Spielberg, if you make Indiana Jones 5, cast Craig as the villain.
Personally, I thought the animation was terrific. I don’t have a negative attitude towards motion capture if it is done well. Here, I feel it is. What helps is that while the actors were motion caped, they were also given a CGI make-over to reflect their characters’ comic counterparts. For me, this is a good use of motion capping. What is the point of motion capping for an animated feature if you are just going to have the CGI characters look exactly like the actors (I’m looking at you Beowulf)? Here, they were capped to give the characters realistic movements, but gave them the cartoony features. This also helped avoiding the uncanny valley effect. In short, it worked for me.
Surprisingly, Tintin is Spielberg’s first time directing an animated film (though, he has produced many in the past), and it is clear he was having a lot of fun with the tools and options that only is available in animation. I feel that not enough directors take advantage of what animation has to offer and storyboard animated films with the same mentality of a live-action feature. Spielberg doesn’t do that. His action sequences are fantastic, and his use of one continuous shot during chase sequences really make the viewer feel the intensity and excitement of the moment. I am a big fan of the continuous shot technique and always love it when directors utilize it in new and interesting ways.
I really enjoyed The Adventures of Tintin. It isn’t revolutionary by any means, but it is a fast-paced adventure with some solid story, fun characters, and great animated sequences. It takes a bit to get going and some of the character beats are a little forced, but it isn’t enough to dismiss the film. I fully recommend this movie if you want to kick back and watch an old-style adventure flick. Pre-production has already begun on a sequel (this time directed by Peter Jackson). I’m game.