- Rated PG
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All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
elgian cartoonist Hergé supposedly once claimed that the only filmmaker who could ever do “The Adventures of Tintin” justice was Steven Spielberg, and it’s easy to see why he might have thought that. His world-renowned series of comic books (which is famous pretty much everywhere except the U.S.) about a young, globetrotting reporter and his faithful dog Snowy plays like a lighter, more childlike Indiana Jones film. Written by the British trio of Steven Moffat (“Sherlock”), Edgar Wright (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) and Joe Cornish (“Attack the Block”) using bits and pieces from three existing stories, “The Adventures of Tintin” is entertaining on the surface, but it lacks depth.
The story begins at an outdoor market where Tintin (Jamie Bell) purchases a scale model of an old ship called the Unicorn. Though two other men immediately try to buy it off him – first, a visibly distressed stranger who warns Tintin that he's in danger, and then a gentleman named Ivan Sakharine (Daniel Craig) who might as well have “villain” written on his forehead for all to see – Tintin stubbornly refuses both offers. The fervent interest in the model ship piques his interest, however, and after investigating the history behind the Unicorn, he discovers a scroll hidden inside the ship's mast with a clue to one of the world’s greatest undiscovered treasures. But when Tintin is kidnapped by Sakharine and locked away on a steamboat, he teams up with the ship’s imprisoned captain, Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis) – a direct descendant of the man in command of the Unicorn when it was lost in battle to pirates during the 17th century – to escape and track down the treasure before Sakharine beats them to it.
Though motion capture performance is still a relatively new approach to filmmaking, movies like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” have demonstrated its benefits. More often than not, though, it’s proved to be a gimmick almost as worthless as 3D. But if there’s anyone that you’d expect could get the most out of the medium, it’s creative minds like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, who will reportedly swap their director/producer duties for the planned second film. Spielberg puts the technology to good use at times, pushing the limits of his elaborate set pieces further than is physically possible with live action, but the actors don’t really bring anything special to the characters that a team of animators couldn't have achieved on its own, perhaps with the exception of Andy Serkis, whose performance as the drunkard Haddock makes for some entertaining moments. Jamie Bell does the best he can for a protagonist as bland as Tintin, while Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have little time to shine as police detectives Thomson and Thompson.
With that said, however, working within an animated sandbox seems to have really given Spielberg a fresh burst of creative freedom, resulting in some awesome action sequences like a flashback battle between Haddock’s great-grandfather and nefarious pirate Red Rackham (all while Haddock himself colorfully acts it out in the present), and an intricate chase through the crowded streets of Morocco that will leave you on the edge of your seat. But while the film has a kinetic energy that keeps the story moving at a pretty rapid pace, it’s not until it’s finally over that you realize that despite being packed with non-stop action, it has very few actual thrills. “The Adventures of Tintin” shows flashes of what made Hergé’s comics so popular around the world, but with guys like Spielberg and Jackson pulling the strings, it should have been a lot more fun than this.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Paramount’s Blu-ray release of “The Adventures of Tintin” is about as comprehensive as you can get, although an audio commentary with Steven Spielberg and/or Peter Jackson would have certainly made it better. The included bonus material is essentially a 90-minute making-of featurette that’s been divided into 10 parts covering a range of topics from the origins of the movie (“The Journey to Tintin” and “The World of Tintin”), to the film’s characters (“The Who’s Who of Tintin” and “Conceptual Design”), to working with motion capture (“The Volume”), to animation (“Snowy: From Beginning to End” and “Animating Tintin”) and more. Rounding out the set is a DVD and digital copy of the film.