Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: "The Adventures of Tintin"

As as a kid I used to watch The Adventures of Tintin, an animated series which ran for 39 episodes between 1991 and 1992. The series was based on a set of books by Hergé (born Georges Prosper Remi), a Belgian comics writer and artist. It was not until I was older that I learned that Tintin was originally written in French and was a huge celebrity in Europe - he even has his own stamps in France! The Adventures of Tintin, co-produced by Canadian entertainment company Nelvana, reminds me of my childhood. Nelvana also produced Babar (1989-1991), Beetlejuice (1989-1991) and My Pet Monster (1987). It took me by surprise to learn that Steven Spielberg was producing and directing an adaptation of Hergé celebrated series. The film, The Adventures of Tintin, was originally subtitled The Secret of the Unicorn, but that title seems to have disappeared since the film's poster was unveiled. Spielberg has remarked that he became a fan of Hergé after comparisons were made between Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Tintin. The screenplay was co-written by Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)) and is based on three of Hergé's comics: The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941), The Secret of the Unicorn (1943) and Red Rackham's Treasure (1944). Spielberg has had limited success since his heyday in the 1980s and 1990s. Many agree that he ruined the Indiana Jones franchise with 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It surprises me that he would choose to adapt a Belgian book series from the 1940s that has very little foothold in the United States. It is decidedly a more European story. The film has already earned over $200 in international markets. My biggest complaint with Spielberg's adaptation is his use of performance capture animation. It detracts from the comic quality of Hergé's books and the quaint quality of the animated series. The film has no need for 3D and suffers from too many lengthy action sequences. The Adventures of Tintin is a decent adaptation, but many true fans will feel cheated.

Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) is a young investigative journalist. He has uncovered many mysteries and is well known around town. One day he and his dog, a white Wire Fox Terrier named Snowy, are browsing an outdoor market and he purchases a model of a three-masted ship named the Unicorn. Immediately after buying the model he is accosted by Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig). Sakharine asks Tintin to name his price, but Tintin is not interested in selling the model. Tintin takes the model home and after Snowy has a fight with a neighbour's cat, the model breaks and a small parchment scroll escapes. After his apartment is burglarized and the model stolen, Tintin discovers the scroll and discovers a hidden message. Tintin visits Marlinspike Hall where he once again meets Sakharine and learns that there is a second model ship. Tintin is soon kidnapped by Sakharine, searching for the scroll, and taken hostage the SS Karaboudjian. Tintin, with the help of Snowy, escapes and meets Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis). Captain Haddock is the ancestor of Sir Francis Haddock, who sailed aboard the Unicorn and had three model ships (for his three sons) and hid a coded message in each model. Tintin and Captain Haddock begin their quest to discover Sir Francis Haddock's lost treasure and to get there before Sakharine.

The Adventures of Tintin ends just like The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006). Although it felt like nearly two hours had transpired, I had really expected the story to end with Captain Haddock and Tintin discovering the lost treasure. I felt a little ripped off. Months after AMC's The Killing ended with a less than satisfying first season finale, why is acceptable for a film to end where only a sequel can continue the plot? I also wish that Thomson and Thompson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) had been given a stronger role in the film. The subplot about a pickpocket was a little too juvenile for my liking. I also have to continue to complain about the performance capture animation that Spielberg used. Captain Haddock looked just as I have envisioned him in my head, with his brooding eyes and bushy beard, but Tintin was a travesty. There is a wink to the animated series at the beginning of the film when an artist is drawing a caricature of Tintin and I was completely unable to relate to Spielberg's vision of Tintin. As with all of Hergé's books, there is a great story within the film, but the magic was lost amidst the prolonged action sequences, which are too reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark. He has come full circle with his comparisons. The Adventures of Tintin is a somewhat dissatisfying adaptation of a beloved book series and can be added to the list of films that disprove the worthiness of 3D.

My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

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