Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece

Before Spielberg's recent The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn was released, most of us here in America didn't even know Tintin was a "thing". Well, guess what, us? It's been around for a good long time! I remember the cartoon on HBO when I was a kid, even though I didn't really watch it. I started reading the comics a couple years ago, and found that I really enjoyed them. There's a certain timeless purity to them that appeals to me in the same way that, say, Astro Boy does.

Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece was a live-action French take on the characters from 1961. That's right, 50 years ago! That makes this one of the very first comic book movies ever made. All of the characters everybody outside of America knows and loves are here: boy journalist Tintin, his little dog Snowy, indistinguishable bumbling inspectors Thomson and Thompson, lovable drunk Captain Haddock, and deaf inventor Professor Calculus (who is not in the Spielberg film).

The story follows Tintin and Captain Haddock, as Haddock learns an old shipmate of his has died and left him his boat. With the boat are clues to a treasure (there's always a treasure). Tintin, Haddock and Snowy race the bad guys (there's always bad guys) to follow the clues and find the treasure. It's actually an original story, though there are elements lifted from Red Rackham's Treasure, one of the books the new film lifts from. They both really take an idea from that story and put a different twist on it, so one doesn't spoil the other.

In some ways, this movie actually captures the look and feel of the comics better than Spielberg's film. They have real actors dressed as the characters. I kind of preferred the exaggerated features on the CG renditions, but this movie shows that a live action movie could have been done too. Snowy wasn't nearly as cool in this movie, since he was a real dog and therefore limited to what he could be taught to do. The dude playing Tintin looks exactly like he should. I'm not sure if it's the early 60's Technicolor look or what, but the color scheme actually matched Herge's coloring style more than the new movie did. It's brighter and more primary looking.

The production values in Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece are actually pretty good. I think it was a pretty big popcorn movie in France at the time, not just a little B-production. There is some location shooting, I think in Greece. There's some fun little chases and action sequences, but nothing huge, unsurprisingly. Tintin gets in a few fist fights and they're actually pretty cool, seeing him kicking some ass.

I'm sure The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn is going to create a few new fans of the character in America. I mean, I'm not expecting it to blow up, but it's definitely getting a bit of exposure. This old movie is probably not worth seeking out unless you already love the world of Tintin. If you did enjoy the movie, and the movie opened your eyes to the comics, then you will probably get a big kick out of Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece. There are other Tintin movies out there, too.

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