Discover How Far Adventure Will Take You

Steven Spielberg

Jamie Bell
Andy Serkis
Daniel Craig

Despite working several years in Ottakar’s (bookstore chain named after a Tintin character), I never bought into the Tintin craze. You’d think I should, it’s 30s/40s adventuring but it never really appealed to me; which basically means I was viewing this film from a completely fresh perspective. The story opens in a generic European city in the 1930s.. or 40s.. it’s never really made that clear (although with the lack of a World War, I would say thirties), where young journalist, Tintin [Bell] finds himself instantly enamoured with a model ship. The second he purchases the item, he is hounded by an American who claims he will double the price Tintin originally paid. Tintin explains the ship is not for sale (so close to a pun there) because he loves models.. or something, again, not really explained. As Tintin refuses, the American explains that by accepting the ship the young journalist is putting himself in grave danger. Sure enough, Tintin is almost immediately hounded by the villainous Sakharine [Craig], who wants the ship for himself – later we learn it’s not the actual model he wants but a map concealed inside. Tintin’s refusal to co-operate gets him locked up on a ship bound for North Africa, where he makes the acquaintance of the ship’s Captain, Archibald Haddock [Serkis], who has been imprisoned and kept in a permanently drunken state. Describing the plot is actually incredibly taxing, largely because its leaping formula can be summarised with “and then this happened and then this happened and then.. etc”

Visually, I was incredibly impressed with The Adventures Of Tintin. The overall aesthetic look and feel is incredibly lush and vibrant, bolstered by very convincing motion-capture CGI. Those who have read my reviews for Beowulf and A Christmas Carol will know I’m not a fan of mo-cap – I find it limiting, soulless and unconvincing – but this is the closest its come to semi-convincing; no doubt because the characters are so curiously proportioned. On top of the visual treatment, there’s a great sense of fun and adventure running throughout the film, something that’s been missing from most family films for nearly two decades. Then there are the performances to consider, the brief supporting roles are grand enough but the three leads are exceptionally embodied by Bell, Serkis and Craig. Despite the fact that Tintin is bland and tediously straight-shooting, Haddock is bordering on a hammy nautical mess and Sakharine is little more than a moustache twirling villain, all three make for engrossing individuals due to the energy behind the acting.

Unfortunately, this release is far from perfect, veering wildly off-key at times. Most of the story is pushed forward with a revelation from Tintin “Of course! The [insert artefact here], it can only mean the [insert plot point here] can be at [insert new location here]” Granted, this is quite common for most adventure/detective stories but the execution doesn’t flow as neatly as one would hope. I’m not saying the audience will be in any way lost or bewildered but it all seems a little too neat and convenient. Then we have the classic Spielberg problem of how to end the film; the man is seemingly incapable of utilising pace, flow and plot to bring everything to a satisfying close, leaving the story to peter out and stop-start until a final stuttering conclusion. This may have something to do with the fact that so many exceptional filmmakers and talented individuals have been working on the film – not to mention the countless individuals who have reportedly ‘visited the set’ on several occasions, adding their thoughts. I would even extend this to John Williams whose score was shockingly disappointing. From the opening sequence onwards, we’re treated to a medley of themes and stings that sound like a tribute to Williams’ entire career – are we watching Harry Potter, Indiana Jones or Fiddler On The Bloody Roof? Who knows? Most disappointingly, the clever and charming opening sequence is utterly ruined by the underwhelming, out-of-place plinky theme composed by Williams. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the absolutely dire action sequences that depart from reality and credibility so much that by the fourth leg you can’t help but roll your eyes, wondering when it’ll end. The bike chase through Bagghar is a perfect example of this, continually demonstrating that neat and convenient free-flow that you find in so many animated action sequences of late. Just because you physically can achieve these kinds of shots, doesn’t mean you bloody should!

But I’m reviewing this film as an adult.. a very cynical adult. On several occasions I could hear the laughter of children, completely immersed in the on-screen slapstick. But there’s the problem, who is the key audience here? I don’t think kids should be talked down to in films, they should be challenged – as such Tintin does a better job than most but it’s still not great. I believe the majority of the film is very fun and incredibly pleasing without sinking into the depths of too many cheap jokes, off-colour setups or inappropriate developments.. but when it slips, it falls hard and what we’re left with is an enjoyable but slightly disappointing release with the promise of more to come.

Release Date:
28th October 2011

The Scene To Look Out For:
The ‘propeller scene’ completely sums up my impression of this film. Having crash landed in the desert, Tintin has fallen through the plane’s windscreen and is lying unconscious on the engine, slipping toward the still spinning propeller. Snowy desperately tries to pull him back but naturally, the young man is too heavy, so it’s up to a somewhat inebriated Captain Haddock to save Tintin. The build-up is surprisingly tense and although you know he’s not going to get his crown blended, the entire scene is quite gripping. That is, right up until the moment Haddock saves him, gets the wires from his parachute caught in the engine, flies round the plane four times before finally being jettisoned into a nearby sand dune. It was lame! After all that nail-biting realism and suspense, we’re blind-sided by a cheap gag as Spielberg stares out into the audiences, winks and whispers, “Don’t worry kids, Tintin will be alright.”

Notable Characters:
As stated, the three leads are very good. Tintin is bland and annoying but Bell deserves an immense amount of credit for not making him unbearable, Serkis is typically brilliant to the point where I’m getting bored of praising the man’s talents and Daniel Craig makes for a surprisingly terrifying villain, reminding me of his early roles in things like Road To Perdition, before he became the dark hero character he’s known for today. But I want to talk about the dude with the mouse. When Tintin is trying to retrieve a key from one of the slumbering shipmates, Haddock comments on a particular crewman who’s partial to “animal husbandry”. What the fuck is animal husbandry!? Is it what I think it is? If it is, it has no place in this film. You can’t have a semi-anthropomorphic dog, chasing after a sandwich instead of trying to steal a set of keys in the same scene as implying one of the crewman has a penchant for bestiality!

Highlighted Quote:
“Wait a minute.. I recognise that fish! It’s a Haddock!”

In A Few Words:
“A thrilling and visually captivating adventure story marred by poor action sequences, a mediocre score and sometimes muddled storytelling”

Total Score: