The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

What a curious piece of entertainment this is. A project doubtless born of sincerity appears to have been swallowed up whole by the blockbuster machine, birthing a film which will please American filmgoers who have never heard of Tintin before, and annoying pretty much everyone else, especially the serious fans. There’s a great beginning with a 2D animated title sequence (if only the rest of the film had been like that!) and a fun opening scene paying homage to Hergé, but soon the action film cliches are being layered on with a digital shovel.

Many things about the plot make absolutely no sense, the result of stitching together The Secret of the Unicorn, bits of The Crab with the Golden Claws and the ending of Red Rackham’s Treasure, and then stamping up and down on the lino to force out the air bubbles. Spielberg seems determined to atone for Indiana Jones 4 by constantly referencing classic Indy, adding gratuitous firearms, a blizzard of action, exotic locations and nausea-inducing swoops through Weta’s gorgeous but over-detailed universe, to the thudding accompaniment of a John Williams score. No corner of the screen is left unstuffed, no moment left silent. The actors do their best (notably Jamie Bell filling out Tintin’s cipher of a character) but they might as well have hired nobodies and saved themselves a few bucks. Really? The pilot was played by Cary Elwes? DID NOT NOTICE.

Hergé’s style was all about simplification. All unnecessary detail was stripped out of his influential artwork; no shadows, shading, or women*. Weta’s heroic craftsmanship has resulted in an overstuffed mise-en-scene, a world full of grotesque faces and cartoon physics. It looks so realistic, why bother with motion capture at all? Yes, there’s slapstick in the original, but just because you can do an incredible one-shot set piece involving a city, an opened dam, hundreds of Moroccans, a tank, a motorbike and a falcon DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO.

*You know it’s true. Bianca Castafiore turns up briefly as an anti-Bond girl, she and Tintin’s landlady Mrs Finch are the only named female characters.
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