Genre: CG Animation
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook
RunTime: 1 hr 50 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: PG (Violence)
Official Website: http://www.tintin.com/
Opening Day: 10 November 2011
Synopsis: Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures Present a 3D Motion Capture Film “The Adventures of Tintin” directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish. Starring Jamie Bell (“Billy Elliot,” “Defiance”) as Tintin, the intrepid young reporter whose relentless pursuit of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure, and Daniel Craig (“Quantum of Solace,” “Defiance”) as the nefarious Red Rackham. Based on the series of books The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé, the film is produced by Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy.
Following the somewhat disappointing ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’, Steven Spielberg makes a rip-roaring comeback to action adventure territory with his 3D motion-capture adaptation of the legendary comic book series by Belgian artist Herge. The platform couldn’t be more befitting- after all, Herge had thought Spielberg to be the only director capable of filming Tintin before his death in 1983. What however took Spielberg so long to realise his vision may not be immediately apparent, but once you see the jaw-dropping action on display, you’ll realise that the wait was worth the while.
The first in a planned trilogy, the British screenwriting trio of Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish have drawn largely from the comic ‘The Secret of the Unicorn’- with bits from ‘The Crab with the Golden Claws’ and ‘Red Rackham’s Treasure’ weaved in- to fashion an old-school romp that sees Tintin (Jamie Bell) setting off around the world to uncover some ancient treasure, while staying ahead of his Russian rival Sakharine (Daniel Craig). Except for some 17th century intrigue that explains the origin of the treasure, the straight-forward storytelling saves Spielberg from navigating potential narrative complexities to focus instead on the visual spectacle.
And what a spectacle it is, starting from the lovingly rendered photorealistic landscape of what may be 1930s Paris. The re-creation of this olden-day Paris is amazingly detailed- of cobbled streets, outdoor flea markets, men wearing bowler hats, well-coiffed ladies, and even the occasional pickpocket. Spielberg draws from old-school cinema’s romanticisms of Paris, and thanks to modern-day CG wizardry from Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, the result is nothing less than an absolute gorgeous feast for the eyes. Younger auds may not appreciate these details, but those who grew up with the comic and the animated series will certainly relish the painstaking effort that has gone into each vivid frame.
Our advice is to enjoy these minutiae while you can, because once the whiz-bang action starts, you probably won’t have the mental capacity to notice them. Unleashing his inner-child taste for adventure, Spielberg conjures up some of the most thrilling action sequences you’ll see this year. The first major setpiece takes place against Tintin’s daring escape from a steamer after being abducted by Sakharine. Together with a Captain Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis), whose ancestry can be traced back to the ancient fortune, Tintin pilots a seaplane right into an electric storm- and you can guess how exhilarating it gets when the Captain climbs out of the plane midflight to top up the tank located on the nose of the plane with his own whisky-infused breath.
But probably nothing can prepare you for the next elaborate sequence set in Morocco where the last and final clue to locate the treasure is hidden. In pursuit of the nefarious Sekharine, Tintin sets off on a bike chase through the narrow streets, with water with a broken dam gushing down the alleys and passageways. Most awe-inspiring is how Spielberg films the entire ten-minute sequence in just one single shot (the logistics of this alone worth checking out the extras once the DVD is released), and the relentless pace at which this unfolds will keep you on the edge of your seat to say the least. If the climactic sequence between two dock cranes controlled by Haddock and Sakharine comes off slightly less exciting, it is only because topping the earlier breathtaking setpiece would likely be quite an insurmountable feat, but not for a lack of the same visual bravado- the beautifully composed shots weaving in and out and between the cranes just as awesome.
These shots are testament to Spielberg’s prowess as a visual storyteller, and besides the splendid action, other quieter moments also stand out- in particular, a scene where Haddock while walking through the scorching desert relays his family history that unfolds with a galleon emerging and disappearing from the sand dunes as if sailing up and down the crashing waves of the sea. It’s hard to imagine how Spielberg would have been able to accomplish this live-action, and it becomes immediately clear why he had chosen to film this mo-cap style- despite the criticisms that have accompanied the format.
In the hands of such a great filmmaker however, the technology liberates rather than constraints- and thanks to the impressive work by the folks at Weta, gone too are the dead-eyes problem that plagued earlier efforts like ‘The Polar Express’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’. Spielberg also gets a leg-up from the great character work of Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig and especially Andy Serkis- quite probably the king of performance-capture work following ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘King Kong’ and this summer’s ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. There is no doubt this is the best mo-cap work ever done, and a definitive giant leap forward for the medium.
Certainly, technology alone doesn’t make a great film, but Spielberg has employed it in service of a rollicking old-school Indiana Jones-type action adventure with pulse-pounding action, some generous sprinkling of wit and humour (courtesy of the bumbling detective duo Thompson and Thompson played by hit comedian pair Nick Frost and Simon Pegg), and not forgetting a glorious score by John Williams that evokes both noir-mystery and a grand sense of adventure at the right moments. Indeed, Herge didn’t get it wrong when he thought Spielberg capable of bringing the sleuthing boy reporter to the big screen- and with a stylish Saul Bass-type animated credit sequence and a nod to the original comic strip of Tintin right at the very beginning, Spielberg undoubtedly has his heart in the right place.
(A rip-roaring old-school action adventure in the vein of his earlier Indiana Jones movies, Steven Spielberg’s ‘Tintin’ mixes action, humour and mystery into one thoroughly enjoyable ride from start to finish)
Review by Gabriel Chong