The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Edgar Wright, Hergé, Joe Cornish, Steven Moffat
Starring: Andy Serkis, Cary Elwes, Daniel Craig, Daniel Mays, Jamie Bell, Mackenzie Crook, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg
THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN
RUNNING TIME:107 mins
DISTRIBUTED BY: Paramount Pictures
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Tin Tin is a boy and reporter who is always having lots of adventures with his faithful dog Snowy. One day, Tin Tin buys a handmade ship called ‘The Unicorn’ in a market, and almost instantly he is beset by various folk, some not very nice and some downright nasty, who also want it. When Snowy breaks the ship and a clue falls out, Tin Tin does some investigating and finds out that the ship is a replica of a real craft that disappeared many years back carrying a mysterious cargo. He is captured by the evil Ivanovich Sakharine, who is also after the clue. On his ship, Tin Tin encounters the heavy-drinking Captain Haddock, the descendent of the caption of ‘The Unicorn’. They decide to escape and go on a quest to unravel the secret themselves…………….
I have never read a Tin Tin comic, nor have I had the inclination too, despite their worldwide popularity. I’m also not too keen on all this motion capture malarkey, to be honest, where actors and actresses do their performance and then it’s transferred to computer animation. Apart from being a ridiculous waste of acting, the people just don’t look right to me, a wierd and slightly freaky missing link between reality and animation. Therefore I have found it hard to get excited about The Adventures Of Tin Tin, which is actually the sixth film to have been made about Tin Tin, and has suffered some major delays in getting off the ground. Still, the combination of cinema heavyweights Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson making a film together should be enough to get almost any film fan a bit excited, and a quick glance at the early reviews up on the IMDB mostly indicate a glowing response. Well, I personally found The Adventures Of Tin Tin pretty much what I expected it to be like. It’s a fun, innocuous romp that has great technical ingenuity and is certainly a reasonably good watch for kids, but one I may very well find I have forgotten most of in a few days time! I was entertained, but in no way was I shaken or stirred.
The opening credits are fantastic and gave me the idea that maybe this movie really might be something special, with a cartoon Tin Tin, Snowy and other characters running around and doing various fun things such as climbing on to the credits. It reminded me of the beginning to a Pink Panther film, and John Williams’ jazzy music adds to the retro, almost 60s feel. We are hurled immediately into our adventure, which is actually a combination of three separate Tin Tin stories, and hangs together reasonably well. For a while the movie has a slightly dark, threatening feel, with Tin Tin’s purchase of the ship causing him to be in constant mortal danger, and most of these scenes taking place at night with almost a film noir element to them. This goes away though once Tin Tin meets Haddock, and from then on the film plays like a children’s Indiana Jones movie.
I will say that it has more of the spirit of adventure than Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull; in fact it’s a more fun movie all round, and has an appealing innocence, but the whole affair has a feeling of holding back, of never allowing things to get too exciting or too imaginative. I don’t know; I mean I am sure that Spielberg, Jackson and their three scriptwriters Edgar Wright, Steven Moffat and Joe Cornish are keeping quite close to the source material, but I can’t be the only one who thinks more should have resulted considering all that talent. There is one tremendous chase sequence around a Middle Eastern town which plays like a crazy variation on an Indiana Jones chase, and it’s crammed full of excitement and invention, from Tin Tin trying to catch a bird to a tank smashing into a hotel with the result that you see no tank, just the hotel looking like it’s moving around on its own. The climactic action though is pretty meh, and the film is actually more successful as a partial slapstick comedy then an action adventure, with a variety of pointless but very funny sequences often involving Snowy and the two cops.
Technically the film is certainly something of a wonder, with the backgrounds immensely detailed and 3D that, for the most part, doesn’t look like characters are cardboard cut outs. There is much showing off with the camera following characters all over the place, going through glass, and doing other such tricks. The characters are certainly the closest motion capture has come to giving the impression of real people, though they are inconsistently designed. Haddock is given immense detail so you can see every face blemish, almost every pore, but the two cops just look like characters from Toy Story when computer animation was in its infancy. Why do half the characters have big noses and the other half don’t? Presumably it’s like that in the comic books but seems just bizarre on screen. The film also hasn’t really changed my mind about motion capture, but I guess it’s just my problem. I didn’t find Tin Tin a very interesting hero either. He’s intrepid, honest and tough but that’s about it, and he has little characteristics of an actual kid. Haddock though is a great character, a gruff but kind hearted loser who rather daringly is totally drunk almost throughout.
The voice cast all do a good job, with Daniel Craig in particular sounding nicely different from normal, and the score by John Williams backs up the action nicely with some nice moments where he seemed to semi-quote from earlier scores for Spielberg, but he sadly doesn’t feel the urge to give Tin Tin a proper theme. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the overall feeling of Tin Tin is “enjoyable, but is that it”?, and yet there’s one sequence around the middle of the film that captures a certain magic and gives an indication of what could and probably should have been. Haddock is hallucinating in the desert, and imagines he is his ancestor on ‘The Unicorn’. A huge ship appears over the hill, the sand spectacularly turns to water, and suddenly we are in the middle of a naval battle, with the camera not cutting much but instead choosing to dive in and around all the combatants as they duke it out. If only the rest of the film were as strong. Still, despite this review not being an overly positive one, you will probably enjoy The Adventures Of Tin Tin on a certain level, and it’s certainly no disaster, though I have a feeling it’s already starting to be over praised. It hasn’t made me want to finally read a Tin Tin comic book, but I’ll cautiously look forward to the next movie. You never know, it could be quite something!
[pt-filmtitle]The Adventures of Tin Tin[/pt-filmtitle]