- Nov 15, 2001
- Real Name
- Neil Middlemiss
The Adventures of Tintin is not well-known in the United States though fans around the world, particularly in Europe, are legion. Creator Hergé (whose real name is Georges Remi), created a plentiful bounty of exciting tales for the young reporter Tintin to undertake. For this animated telling, several comic books have been combined (The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham's Treasure) to cover the right amount of character and quest ground for a feature film.
Created using motion capture technology (similar to how James Cameron created the performances of the Na’avi in Avatar), the animation is beautiful, moving with a flow and gravity that is just this side of reality (keeping the feel true to animation while delivering a photorealistic sense). Motion-capture as a technique has experienced some pains at the box office, mostly at the hands of filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, who’s Mars Needs Moms became one of the biggest flops of recent memory; but while Zemeckis had the best intentions of throwing his weight behind the technique, he never fully-gripped the freedom that the technology affords the filmmaker. Spielberg seems to have learned from Zemeckis’ trial and error.
The Adventures of Tintin (with the subtitle The Secret of the Unicorn outside of the U.S.) is a wonderful film ripe with technical brilliance, brisk adventure, and enriching messages of courage and belief in self – a deserving winner of Golden Globe for Best Animated Film and, if it were not for the confused rules around motion capture and animation, surely would have taken home the Best Animated Oscar at this year’s ceremony.
Studio: Paramount Pictures
US Rating: PG – For Adventure Action Violence, Some Drunkenness and Brief Smoking
Film Length: 106 Minutes
Video: MPEG-4 1080P High Definition
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS HD-Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Review Date: March 11, 2012
“There are plenty of others willing to call you a failure. A fool. A loser. A hopeless souse. Don't you ever say it of yourself. You send out the wrong signal, that is what people pick up. Don't you understand? You care about something, you fight for it. You hit a wall, you push through it. There's something you need to know about failure, Tintin. You can never let it defeat you.”
4.5 / 5
Young Tintin picks up a model ship of the famed Unicorn in a busy marketplace but no sooner has the money exchanged hands he is approached by a man offering a dire warning if Tintin doesn’t give up his newly acquired model. Not more than a moment later, Tintin is again approached about his model ship by a man name Mr. Sakharine, who emphatically offers to purchase the Unicorn – but Tintin is not persuaded. Puzzled by the attention paid to his purchase, Tintin begins to investigate, but his home is burgled and his model stolen. The Unicorn holds a secret (a scroll in the mast that came loose in Tintin’s home) and the robbers, coming up empty handed with the ship they stole, kidnap Tintin and place him on a rusty ship (the SS Karaboudjan ) bound for Morocco where the mystery only deepens. It is here that Tintin meets up with the former ship captain, a blustery drunk by the name of Haddock, and together, they break free seeking to uncover the mystery of the Unicorn, take down the baleful Mr. Sakharine and get ‘the story’ along the way.
Hergé’s Les Adventures de Tintin first appeared in Le Petit Vingtième in January 1929 and rose quickly in popularity, eventually selling more than 200 million copies of the comic books worldwide. What began as comic strips evolved into comic-books, albums, radio, television, and now a motion-capture animated film. Thoughtful adventure tales featuring a young Belgian reporter, Tintin, and his faithful fox terrier, Snowy (or Milou in the French versions), lead the red-headed boy around the globe and even into space. Throughout the stories are a collection of great characters including Captain Haddock, who is a major character in the new film, the bumbling look-a-like detectives Thompson and Thompson, Professor Calculus (not featured in this film) and a slew of nefarious types whose misanthropic and selfish ways must be thwarted by Tintin and Snowy. The Adventures of Tintin has long-been lauded for both its clever storytelling and beautiful ligne claire animation style which features clean and strong lines, realistic detail and bold colors. More than anything however, Tintin is a beloved character and the 20th Century world in which his adventures unfold are sacred to millions of fans from every corner of the globe.
Behind the adventurous and spirited Tintin film is a dream team of creative talent. Steven Spielberg directs the first animated film in his long and accomplished career, Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) co-produces, current Doctor Who show runner and writer Steven Moffat authored the first draft screenplay and the talented Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and Joe Cornish (Attack of the Block) co-wrote the final drafts. And finally, providing an extraordinarily playful and sophisticated score is the legendary John Williams.
Spielberg excels with the total freedom that directing in the digital realm provides. He pushes and pulls the camera in evermore exciting ways to capture a moment or the sense of scene. One of his trademarks, showing characters reflected, is found here numerous times (and ways), and he segues from locations with great imagination (for example, when the contours of a hand become the sand dunes of the Moroccan desert). Perhaps the most remarkable example of the freedom Spielberg exercises in animation is the three-plus minute sequence shown in one continuous shot. Tintin and Capt. Haddock are pursuing (and being pursued by) some nefarious types and as they travel down a mountain road, into a city, through the tight streets and along a waterway, the camera loops around with them, through buildings, down zip lines and about the action in a stunningly exciting twist and turn of adventure. It is a prime example of the boldness and thrill of direction by one of cinema’s most gifted storytellers.
The cast are dynamic in their voice and motion capture roles. Jamie Bell, who was cast when young Thomas Sangster needed to drop out during production (funding) delays, is expert in conveying the inquisitive and daring nature of Tintin. He provides Tintin with the required inquisitive soul and brave disposition. Playing Sakharine is a solid Daniel Craig who gives the sinister character a fine ‘bad-guy’ flair without descending into mustache twirling. The bumbling Thompson and Thompson are portrayed by the comedic duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), who are once again very in tune with each other – and very funny. The standout performance however is delivered by the go-to actor for motion capture, Andy Serkis. Having brought nuance and character to Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and intelligence and calculation to Caesar in last year’s surprise smash Rise of the Planet of Apes, Serkis delivers a rousing performance as Captain Haddock, the drunk ship’s captain with a lovable mix of gruffness and gregariousness.
Spielberg and his animation team have an exquisite eye for detail beyond the production design and set details (animated, of course) that adorn everything from the crowded market place that opens the film to the run-down nautical mess of the SS Karaboudjan (Captain Haddock’s ship). There is a bevy of activity within, around and throughout the view of the frame creating a vibrant world impossible to appreciate on a single viewing.
It is no fabrication to say that The Adventures of Tintin is as much a Raiders of the Lost Ark sequel as any of the Indiana Jones features. Spielberg himself became a fan of Hergé’s work following a French review of Raiders that drew frequent comparisons to the stories of the young Belgian reporter. Travails across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, searches for treasure, mystery, and nefarious foes seeking to discredit or do away with the hero are common staples of the Harrison Ford played hero, and Tintin – a lot younger and considerably more wide-eyed – carries that mantle firmly. Of course, the superb score by John Williams, which occasionally evoke the Raiders score without every borrowing from that classic, help to link these films as well.
The Adventures of Tintin is a delightful movie-going experience enhanced by 3D and a pleasure to watch again and again.
Producer Peter Jackson remarked of the animation they were creating for The Adventures of Tintin, that:
“We're making them look photorealistic; the fibres of their clothing, the pores of their skin and each individual hair. They look exactly like real people – but real Herge people!”
And he is exactly right. The detail from cloth, skin, eyes, iron ship walls, sand, sea and sky are wonderfully precise in their detail but never betraying the realm of animation from which the Tintin stories are born. Shadow and light are brilliantly rendered and the complexity of animation in the locations is such a beautiful thing to see. Spielberg and Jackson (who is credited with some second unit direction) clearly know how to handle actor portrayals for use in the animated territory.
In theaters, the 3D was some of the very best that I had seen. Animation tends to excel with the use of 3D and Tintin is no exception, but the level of detail and Spielberg’s craftsmanship elevate even the finest accomplishment of 3D in animation to date. There is a terrific sense of depth throughout the entire production and the placement of light sources provide the visual context that allows the 3D to work very well indeed (something that Martin Scorsese’s Hugo also accomplished to the finest degree). The 3D on this Blu-ray release doesn’t quite match the excellence of the theatrical experience, but even in home viewing, The Adventures of Tintin succeeds terrifically as a film and as a 3D experience.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is an exemplary, reference-quality option providing a superb amount of enveloping surround sound and directional effect action in addition to a full, rich and delightfully precise audio throughout the presentation. John Williams score is a joy to hear – especially his infectious theme for Snowy – and the sound design is award worthy. Pay attention to the sounds at the docks and aboard the SS Karaboudjan, with the creaks and ambient sounds of the ocean creating the effect that we are aboard the ship with the characters. The ‘pop’ sounds of the period guns firing, the deep repeating sounds of the prop plane, and the booming sounds of the storm that Tintin and his companions must fly through – are brilliantly delivered with the audio.
3.5 / 5
3D version of the film
Blu-ray (2D) version of the film
Toasting Tintin: Part 1 (1:24) (HD): On January 23, 2009, Steven Spielberg began the motion capture process – this extra shows Spielberg and cast/crew celebrating the start of the process by reading a note from Hergé’s widow (Hergé passed away in 1983)
The Journey of Tintin (8:54) (HD): Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson talk about their discovery of Tintin and how the comics captured their imaginations