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The Adventures of Tintin

by Philip Martin | December 23, 2011 at 3:21 a.m.
The dipsomaniac Captain Haddock (motion-capture performance of Andy Serkis) helps the intrepid Belgian reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his dog, Snowy, unlock a centuries-old mystery in Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin.

— Notable mostly for its technical awesomeness, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin seems harmless enough, a kind of animated Indiana Jones story that features an intrepid young Belgian journalist (who looks like a boy but is apparently a man), an alcoholic sea captain and a villain who bears an odd facial resemblance to the director himself.

It’s certainly a motion-capture achievement, in that its cartoon characters seem to move through a photo-realistic world (in 3-D!), while Spielberg’s virtual camera sails and soars and burrows and peeks as it follows the intrepid Tintin (the electronically processed Jamie Bell) and his alcoholic sidekick Captain Haddock (the veteran off-screen actor Andy Serkis) as they pursue some ancient treasure or other. Tell the truth, the story the movie tells isn’t really that engaging - at least for those of us who’ve outgrown the Hardy Boys.

As you may or may not know, it’s the first installment of an intended series of films taken from newspaper strips and 23 comic books produced in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s by Belgian artist Herge. (Peter Jackson, who produced the movie, reportedly will direct the next one.) Spielberg has been intent on bringing Tintin to the screen for more than 30 years, since he was introduced to the character when a critic compared Indiana Jones to Tintin.

The script draws its plot from three separate books, and Tintin aficionados will no doubt exult in the inside jokes that have been seeded throughout by writers Edgar Wright, Stephen Moffat and Joe Cornish, who pull together elements of three of Herge’s most familiar (and least politically charged) stories. “The Secret of the Unicorn” is most prominent and serves to introduce several of the series’ iconic characters,including the bumbling detectives Thomson & Thompson, opera-diva Bianca Castafiore, unflappable butler Nestor, and Tintin’s faithful fox terrier, Snowy (whose performance is just the latest in a series of this year’s remarkable canine performances).

I surely can’t be the only one who notices the resemblance between the villain Sakharine (Daniel Craig) and the director? Maybe that was one of the in-jokes that I got.

As usual, Spielberg has an almost unerring sense for where to place his camera for maximum effect during action sequences, and the digital technology provides him a playground with infinite possibilities.

Still, The Adventures of Tintin seems more a virtual thrill ride than an old-fashioned action adventure. But while some of us will find the movie’s frenetic pace exhausting, it seems that Spielberg is having fun.

The Adventures of Tintin

86 Cast: (motion-capture performances of) Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig Director: Steven Spielberg Rating: PG for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking Running time: 107 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 12/23/2011

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