The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

Greg Says: An amazingly animated Sunday-morning cartoon serial.

Title: The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
Rating: 4/10
Date: 25 December 2011
Recommendation: See it in theaters If you’re under 12, otherwise wait for the instant download
Helpful: 1 out of 5 found this helpful.

Tintin is a youthful reporter with lots of street cred. He purchases a replica of “The Unicorn” – a 17th century schooner (with three masts, double decks, and 50 guns). No sooner does he get it home when bad things begin happening. Someone steals the ship from his flat. Then they come back and ransack his rooms. Then a man comes to his door to warn him of impending danger, and the man is gunned down by machine gun fire. But before the man expires, he spells out a clue on a nearby newspaper in his own blood. Tintin deciphers the clue as a remote city in the Middle East. But before he can follow up on the clue, he is abducted and taken prisoner on a cargo ship. And we’re off…

“The Adventures of Tintin” is the big-screen version of a series of comic books published from 1907-1983. Stephen Spielberg helms this recreation and his talents are evident on the screen. In many ways, the movie resembles an Indiana Jones adventure: it is set in the same time frame (the 1940s) and there are a number of thrilling chase and fight scenes.

The feature is animated with the same technology that brought us “Polar Express.” However, a lot of the technical problems have been solved. The eyes in “Polar Express” were creepy as they didn’t seem to track correctly and gave a sort of vacant zombie-like presentation. This problem has been solved exceedingly well in “Tintin.” Not only does Tintin’s eyes move in the direction you expect them to, you can see Tintin focus on a bit of writing and watch his eyes move subtly from left to write as he reads.

Also, the hair and skin in this feature is so realistic that at times you think you’re looking at real people. This is especially true of Tintin’s trademark shock of ginger hair. Tintin’s dog Snowy stares down a Rottweiler whose features are so detailed that you might believe it was an actual dog and not computer graphic imagery. The humans were so realistic that only their cartoonish noses gave away the fact that they were rendered.

While we’re on the subject of CGI, the physics in this movie is uncanny. Feathers float, people and objects in the water bob. In almost every situation in this film you would believe you were looking at real-life objects in real-world physical reactions. Almost – there is one chase scene that taxed the limits of the CGI physics and some things look unnatural. But you’ll be willing to overlook it since it’s an animation.

So let’s talk about the problems with this film. Firstly, if you’ve never read the comic books “Tintin” is based upon you may be a bit lost. Tintin is introduced to us without any description of his age. He looks like he’s about 12 but as a reporter has many credits (exposed through a pan-shot of his wall-adorned news clippings). He talks like a youngster, but fights like a prize fighter. In the early scenes, Tintin appears to be somewhat inept. His dog Snowy repeatedly finds the clues or saves his bacon. I began to think that this would be carried through the entire film. But no, Snowy becomes almost irrelevant, even an annoyance at certain points. So, Tintin’s character is not well defined.

Another problem with this film is the “serial” feel to it. I felt as though we were looking at about 10 episodes of a series of cliffhangers. I have no doubt that Stephen Spielberg knows more about storytelling than I do, yet the concept of a clear goal for Tintin doesn’t materialize until about halfway through the movie – and that caused me to feel bored at about the thirty-minute mark. Writer Steven Moffat (well-known for his work on the reboot of “Dr. Who”) seems to have been ham-strung by keeping true to the original comics.

Finally, the target age of the audience was unclear to me. I didn’t do any research on “Tintin” before going to the film so I was expecting something that would appeal to all ages. The level of sophistication of the plot and dialog was reminiscent of the old “Hardy Boys” mysteries. I asked a young man of about 12 years what he thought of the film and he was enthusiastic about it and wanted to see more. He especially like the swashbuckling sword fights. However, while my date enjoyed the film, we agreed that is seemed to lack a certain maturity that would appeal to adults. In an age where Disney and Pixar films are constructed to appeal to both adults and children, it is a definite negative that it was designed to appeal to only children. The film was produced in association with Nickelodeon which leads me to wonder if a “Tintin” animated series is in our future.

So, if you’re a young person who likes adventure, or an adult who loves the original comic book, you need to see this in theaters in 3D. But if you’re not, you might want to catch this in the summer on instant download to enjoy the animation. And if you are not that much into the leading, bleeding edge of computer animation, don’t waste your time.