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USA 2011
Directed by
Steven Spielberg
107 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
4 stars

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Synopsis: Tintin, the beloved hero of Herge’s comic books, comes to life on the big screen!

Opening with a lovely 2D animated title sequence that really does capture the vibe of the comics, The Adventures Of Tintin moves into an opening shot that pretty much guarantees love at first sight for the hardcore Tintin fan. It’s a moment of respect and devotion and it affirms the bona fides of the filmmakers. And then we’re into a story that involves pirates, gangsters, generational family feuds, secret messages, dastardly plots and lots of international travel. It’s a ripper little adventure with some excellently staged action set-pieces and lots of witty banter and character-focussed moments. It is, truthfully, what most people wish the last Indiana Jones film would have been. Spielberg has felt a bit off his game of late, even his entertaining films have still felt fairly forgettable. But here he’s returned to the kind of fun and fantastical film-making in which he made his name.

The characters are almost all perfectly executed. Andy Serkis’s Captain Haddock is spot-on, and Jamie Bell’s Tintin has the right amount of youth and intelligence. Best of all, Snowy the dog is handled well. The decision to not have him talk to himself is a logical one for a film that tries to feel somewhat grounded, but thankfully the many sight gags found in the comic are found in the film as well. Snowy is a loveable character and his exploits in the background of a number of shots are something you should keep an eye out for.

The character animation isn’t entirely without issues though. Google “uncanny valley” and you’ll quickly discover the issue at the bottom of some of the more unnerving moments in the film. The creepy dead-eyed stare isn’t a problem for most of its running length, and with most of the characters being fairly stylised there’s nothing to worry about. But Tintin himself has moments of being not quite right, and the distraction breaks the flow of things. And Madame Castafiore, when she shows up, is appallingly modelled and animated. Maybe it’s the texture work, but she just looks wrong. These technical issues are the only reason I haven’t gone higher than four stars.

The Adventures Of Tintin is the sort of filmmaking we used to expect from Steven Spielberg. And it’s wonderful to see him back in form. With what is quite literally the biggest swordfight in cinema history capping off a fast-paced globe-trotting adventure, he’s delivered a film that is willing to be as absurd as the comics could get yet remain as grounded as the comics always felt. At least the equal, if not slightly superior to 1961’s live action Tintin And The Golden Fleece, it’s a glorious adventure and you should go and see it now.

 

 

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