Steven Spielberg ditches the anchor which is George Lucas and teams up with Peter Jackson and his WETA funhouse for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a magnificently made action adventure filled with spirit but lacking soul.
For us Tintin novices, this creation of Herge has always been something of a curiosity. Not exactly a superhero nor a Disney like cartoon, Tinin has amassed generations of adventure enthusiasts among them Spielberg and Jackson who adapt this pinkish hue teen detective from page to screen through the latest VFX technology.
No doubt many young newcomers will jump onto the Tintin train, but for us older folk an unconvincing case is made that we have been missing out over the years. Still had fun watching, though.
After a nifty opening credits sequence (played to John Williams’ jazzy composition) we are introduced to Tintin (Jamie Bell), an investigative journalist fresh from a case only to fall into another when his purchase of a model ship called “The Unicorn” brings the unwanted attention of aristocrat bad guy Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig).
With his loyal canine companion Snowy by his side and a drunken Scotsman named Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) as his one link to solving the mystery of The Unicorn, Tintin undergoes an adventure where destiny will be fulfilled and secrets revealed.
This is the type of action adventure that Spielberg does so well. There is adventure on the high seas, a trek in the desert, and many a chase scene superbly animated and choreographed.
A couple of key sequences stand out. The first is a battle between two pirate ships which makes the action scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean look like they were shot in a bathtub. The other is a thrilling chase scene which reminds of Spielberg’s work in the Indiana Jones movies with its non-stop momentum and tense filled air, where every turn of a corner or dodge of an object is sure to bring something thrilling/comical/wondrous.
The combination of Spielberg’s seasoned visual talents and Jackson’s state of the art visual effects house WETA will make converts of those who find motion capture animation (and especially 3D) to be a lifeless, useless waste of technology. …Tintin is a magnificently looking movie, with colours that vibrate off the screen and animated precision that touches even the smallest detail.
Yet amongst all of the visual hoopla, a lack of character in these characters stick out. Tintin is perhaps the blandest leading character seen on screen in sometime, who serves as more of a tour guide to next plot point rather than an interesting headline act. More fun is had with Captain Haddock, who is played by mo-cap god Andy Serkis as a drunken Scotsman who loves a good fight as much as a stiff drink.
It is a disappointing that after the whiz-bang adventure ceases and the credits role, these characters cannot match the visual effects. There are moments of remembrance to be sure, but a connection is lacking which is vital to make …Tintin a great, rather than very good movie.
No doubt a sequel is forthcoming and hopefully it will fix these faults. What doesn’t need changing is the way …Tintin is presented. In Jackson, Spielberg has found someone who can pry him away from the death throes of George Lucas, and if The Adventures of Tintin is the first step in their creative partnership then the future looks bright.