I was lucky enough to grow up with Tintin. I actually have all the comics, except for the first two (which I found in bookstores much after I had built my current collection, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets & Tintin in Congo). My father gave me The Black Island more than ten years ago (fuck that seems like a long time). Each comic was a pretty quick read, but they were stories you could read again and again and find new stuff from the illustrations or dialogue. The characters especially were wacky: Snowy, Cuthbert Calculus, Captain Haddock, The Thom(p)son twins, Bianca Castafiore, Nestor, Rastapopolous, Castafiore’s husband who played the piano, Red Rackham, that old Scottish seaman, Omar Ben Salaad, the list goes on. But after the Tintin phase, I grew up, and it was in my subconscious. Which is why I never paid much attention to the news that Steven Spielberg was adapting Tintin into a movie. On the surface, I knew it would never work, and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn proves my point.
The Adventures of Tintin has a plot that is an insult to the comics: it mixes up a variety of stories to satisfy where the plot is going. It has three of the best writers in the business today: Steven Moffat (who created the kick ass reinvention of Sherlock Holmes), Edgar Wright (he the fanboy king, who directed Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and Joe Cornish (the director of Attack the Block, last year’s breakout action indie), and it seems as if they threw in too many seemingly good things on the page that ended up as disappointing. For example, the climax of the movie involves a crane fight (don’t ask me how) between Haddock and Sackarine that’s a bunch of nonsense.
The plot starts out from The Secret of the Unicorn, where Tintin (Jamie Bell) gets the model ship and is followed by Sackarine (Daniel Craig, and this character is never in the comics). He decides to find out more about the Unicorn after a stranger warns him about it (like he doesn’t have anything else to do, (which he doesn’t)). He gets mixed up in a whole mess of danger, with Haddock and Snowy, after he finds a scroll hidden in the model. And guess what? Castafiore has a role in this story too…as well as Ben Salaad.
…..and the new (blistering barnacles!)
First off, the animation in this movie is great stuff, but it makes the characters seem a bit….weirder. After seeing Tintin in so many comics, this 3D avatar of him seems strange. The same can be said about the Thomson twins, who seems like fatter than their 2D avatars. Secondly, the voices of Tintin and Haddock are just weird…what nationality are they? Scandivanian? Maybe I’m just nitpicking.
The movie starts with a 2D title sequence like Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, but there’s no epic score driving the sequence. It feels lazily done at the last minute. However, I enjoyed the many references to all of the comics, and those references occur throughout the movie.
I expected more from Spielberg. He’s done 4 Indiana Jones movies (Raiders of the Lost Ark remains one of the best adventure films of all time), Minority Report and all of his movies have well orchestrated set pieces. This movie gave him the opportunity to break his own boundaries, but he seems content with doing the same old nonsense that today’s Hollywood action movies do (slow-motion, improbable chases, seemingly wicked camera angles). At some points, the editing leaves some shots for too long, breaking the pacing. There is no great music from John Williams and the animation at some points is horrible. It’s like Spielberg’s crew said let’s make a quick animated movie and see what happens.
There’s a sequel in the works, with Peter Jackson at the helm, so hopefully they get it somewhat right next time. For now, I’m content with a 2D book in my hand (no Kindle, thanks) and using my imagination to take me to the depths of the sea, the far reaches of space, and the wilderness of the Amazon. If Herge saw this movie, he would say thundering typhoons and billions of blistering barnacles, I should never have sold the rights to an adaptation….