REVIEW: The Adventures of Tintin

7 01 2012

You don’t need to know who Hergé’s Tintin is to enjoy the “The Adventures of Tintin,” all you need is to be primed for an exhilarating and fun adventure with the man who introduced many of us to adventure itself, Steven Spielberg.  Whether it was “Jurassic Park,” an “Indiana Jones” movie, or “E.T.,” the director – whose name has become synonymous with cinematic virtuosity – has once again vividly realized the power of technology to invoke an old-fashioned sense of wonder in movie watching.  With the motion-capture technology looking more real and life-like than ever, it makes for an interesting paradox that “Tintin” removes you so easily from reality while so seamlessly replicating it.

Thanks to Spielberg’s partnership with Peter Jackson and his visual effects team at WETA, the two filmmakers take leaps and bounds from the early Zemeckis films like “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf” to fully capture the complexity of human anatomy and emotionality.  As a result, there’s nothing to distract you from getting fully engrossed in this old-fashioned Spielbergian adventure, no moment where you can think that a character looks fake or like an out-of-place animated replica.  It has been remarkable to watch this technology improve over my lifetime, and “Tintin,” along with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” makes 2011 a landmark year for its progression.

Sure, the plot is a tad bit shallow, but Spielberg captures the spirit of a comic book without dumbing it down or subjecting it to turbo-charged numbness and vacuity of his puerile imitators.  It feels wrong to call a 30 year old movie “old-fashioned” or “classical” filmmaking, but after every filmmaker and his mother tried to make their own “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the original feels like a classic, tried and true.  Boy journalist Tintin – wide-eyed, creative, and pragmatic – and his canine companion (in many ways his equal) Snowy don’t anticipate finding a story when they buy a model sailing ship from a street vendor.  However, it comes looking for them as the model contains a clue to a lost 17th century treasure sought after by competing forces.

Before the duo realizes it, they have been swept into a massive global treasure hunt that will take them across countries and continents, by planes, boats, and motorcycles, and alongside the helpless, hapless inebriate Captain Haddock.  It’s the kind of journey that needs someone like Spielberg to take it from ho-hum to wow as his remarkable penchant for balancing story advancement with the captivating action that we hungered for as a child.  With the motion-capture technology at his disposal, he has an enhanced ability to awe us at every turn and with every frame. “The Adventures of Tintin” is a fun (if not entirely remarkable or distinguished) addition to the director’s filmography. It will harken back to that magical experience of discovering that the movies are the best medium to project our grandest ambitions and dreams.  B+ / 



4 responses

9 01 2012

Spielberg may not score much points when it comes to his use of motion-capture animation here but the film still benefits from a fun and kinetic direction that brings him back to his old Indiana Jones days. Serkis is a riot the whole time as well. Great review Marshall.

9 01 2012

I really liked the motion capture! What didn’t work about it for you?

11 01 2012

I don’t know really. For some odd reason it just seemed too much like a video game for me.

11 01 2012

Funny, for me this was among the first times it didn’t feel like one. Maybe it was because the surroundings of the characters looked so real, I minded less the characters. But I definitely still think there’s room for improvement in the eyes.

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