Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin

I've already said much of what I had to say about how much I like the character of Tintin a couple of days ago in my review of Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece, an old French adaptation of the character. In short: I'm a big fan. But even if I wasn't already a fan, I would have been pretty psyched for this new movie.

You see, The Adventures of Tintin's geek credibility is through the roof. It's directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by Peter Jackson. The screenplay is credited to current Doctor Who/Sherlock showrunner Steven Moffat, Shaun of the Dead/Scott Pilgrim writer/director Edgar Wright, and Attack the Block writer/director Joe Cornish. It features Daniel Craig, AKA James Bond as the villain, Andy Serkis, AKA Gollum as the sidekick, and Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the comic relief.

Holy crap!

The Adventures of Tintin is the story of boy reporter Tintin, who purchases a model ship at a market. Within the ship is a clue to hidden pirates' gold that leads him and his dog Snowy on a globetrotting adventure filled with peril and intrigue. Along the way, he gets help from dunderhead inspectors Thompson and Thomson and everybody's second favorite drunk seaman with an anger management problem (the first being Donald Duck, who must have been hitting the sauce, right?), Captain Haddock.

The movie was filmed using the performance capture method, where the actors' performances are fed into computers and then animated to look like the characters they're playing. These movies never seem to perform very well, mostly because of the often zombie-like rendered appearances of the characters. The technology has come a long way since Polar Express, though, and I have to say, it didn't really bother me this time around. There's no attempt in Tintin to make the characters look photo-real; rather, they're made to look like the human equivalent of creator Herge's art style.

Spielberg seems to be having a field day, letting his camera and imagination run wild. Positioning the camera in places that would otherwise be physically impossible in a live action film. The action centerpiece of the film is a huge, complex chase sequence done in a single shot. I'm not sure he captures Herge's spirit, exactly, but I think he manages to emphasize the stylistic and tonal qualities that the two of them have in common.

The cast all seem to be having fun as well, and are all perfect fits for their characters, particularly Jamie Bell in the title role. Pegg and Frost are quite impressive at making themselves indistinguishable from each other as the Thom(p)sons, especially considering how different they look in person. The dog, Snowy, is a purely CGI creation, but interacts perfectly with the actors, and perfectly captures the dog's personality from the comics. John Williams delivers a fun, upbeat score, that actually surprised me. In my mind, I expected it to be more along the lines of Indiana Jones, given the similar nature of the stories.

I'm honestly not sure if everyone will enjoy The Adventures of Tintin like I did. I have to admit, I was pretty inclined to like it from the get-go. I'm still not sure if America at large has any real reason to care about the character. Luckily for me, the rest of the world loves him, so a sequel is already on the way. Yay, Tintin!

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