The comic book creation of Belgian artist Herge’s, Tintin, has long captivated the imagination of millions across the globe ever since the boy wonder’s first appearance in 1929. The sheer thrill of seeing one’s favourite childhood comic being transposed on to a different medium (film) combined with technology and the best of hands from Hollywood surely sets one’s expectations soaring. Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ features superb animation and the most refined use of motion capture technology thus far.
When Tintin (Jamie Bell), a fearless young boy reporter, and his trusty canine sidekick, Snowy, buys a model of a ship called the Unicorn, the mustache-twirling villain Sakharine (Daniel Craig) immediately asks to buy it from him, but Tintin’s not interested in selling. Soon, our hero discovers his house has been ransacked because of the model ship and he uncovers a trail of clues that lead him across the world on a race for a legendary treasure. Along the way, he encounters bumbling policemen Thomson and Thompson (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) and a drunken sea captain named Haddock (Andy Serkis) that aid him in his race against Sakharine to retrieve the treasure.
Steven Spielberg was so impressed with Peter Jackson’s work in ‘The Lord of The Rings’ trilogy that he collaborated with him to make one of the best movies for modern movie goers. Like I said earlier, Tintin had been adapted to the screen using motion capture, a technology that tracks an actor’s movements through the use of reflective markers placed on the body (which are basically tiny silver balls) and transfers this movement into almost photorealistic animation. It literally brings to life Herge’s lovable parade of characters, combining the best of live action and animation all in the midst of doing complete justice to the characters.
I must say that the motion capture technology is incredibly effective and never distracting. The characters and the landscapes look almost identical to the original comic book panels which explains the stunning texture of this movie.
The pace of the film is one of its greatest strengths. The action scenes, as you would expect from a Spielberg film, are executed well; exhilarating and infinitely cinematic. Clearly, Spielberg is not in any way reserved by the new technology, with the camera flying around confidently during these scenes. Peter Jackson has worked with motion capture before and his experience can clearly be seen; the audience is taken from the vividly detailed Paris to the Sahara desert with ease.
Adding on to the sense of mystery is the background score and the soundtracks, composed by the award winning, John Williams.
A scene where Tintin and Haddock trudge through an ocean of ocean sand dunes with Snowy bearing an oversized dinosaur bone in his mouth trailing behind, for example, comes straight out of the panels of Golden Claws. Yes, I still remember.
The film takes Tintin along with Captain Haddock through exciting and visually delightful chases. Easily the most stunning and ambitious of these is a chaotic chase through the streets of a Moroccan port, where the entire town seems to be on a roller coaster ride. They are chasing Sakharine, who is also trailing the Unicorn treasure. The sequence is about five minutes long and is conducted in one single, unbroken shot which, given the complexity and pacing of the action, would have been simply impossible to be shot in live action.
[SPOILER ALERT]Also, don’t miss Tintin and Captain Haddock’s escape from the boat, Haddock’s narration of his grandfather’s war with the pirates, (the thrilling flashback where the 17th century ship meets its tragic end) and the climactic fight scene between Haddock and Sakharine.
Jamie Bell as the reporter Tintin remains a mostly blank character, not unlike the comic books. But Spielberg places him at the heart of a colourful adventure that is too much fun to resist.
Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock delivers some brilliant one-liners as well as hilarious visual gags; he steals the show. The characterisation of Haddock, who goes from being a drunkard to reclaiming his courageous legacy, is brilliant.
Daniel Craig as Ivan Sakharine (who, it seems, has the perfect voice for a villain) is the perfectly sour baddie with roots very much similar to Captain Hook.
A couple of sequences involving the expert pickpocket, Silk (Toby Jones), and the bumbling detective duo, Thomson and Thompson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), bring a smile to the audience’s lips.
AND not forgetting Tintin’s faithful canine Snowy, who is too cute to be ignored by anyone.
For someone who has touched cinematic excellence with , Jaws, Schindler’s List, ET and the Jurassic Park series, Spielberg’s unquenchable thirst for seeking the unknown and childish curiosity is what connects him with Herge’s Tintin and brings him into delivering another blockbuster.
Tintin purists might grumble about a handful of liberties taken by the film’s writers in the process of turning three stories into one script, but Spielberg’s film stays true to the spirit of the books. It’s the kind of film that’ll bring out the boy in you. Expect to have a big smile plastered on your face throughout.
This is more Spielberg’s Tintin than Hergé’s. Watch it if you are a Tintin fan, you won’t be disappointed. And if you are new to Herge’s world, then you have just stumbled upon gold.
If there’s going to be a sequel, as the last scene promises, they’d do well to fill this sailor with spirit.
Till then, this is chella signing off, digging for more gold.