There’s been a lot anticipation for Steven Spielberg’s and Peter Jackson’s The Adventures of Tintin, which will attempt to translate the comic books of Belgian writer/artist Georges Remi (a.k.a. Hergé) into a big-screen blockbuster adventure.
Tintin was released in UK theaters last month, but won’t debut in the U.S. until Christmas time. However, the film was recently screened at the AFI Festival, and a handful of online press were in attendance and are making their thoughts on the film known. Now that there are Tintin reviews from both sides of the pond out there to be found, we thought we’d round up a few for your easy-reading pleasure.
For those not in the know, here’s a synopsis for The Adventures of Tintin:
Tintin (Jamie Bell) and Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship commanded by Haddock’s ancestor. But someone else is in search of the ship. Based on three of the earliest Tintin comic books: “The Secret of the Unicorn,” “Red Rackham’s Treasure,” and “The Crab with the Golden Claws.”
The film is a joint effort between Spielberg and Jackson, with the former taking lead as director and the latter producing (roles which will supposedly be reversed for the sequel, should it come to pass). Jackson’s WETA workshop is also handling the visual effects, which involve live actors transformed into CGI cartoons via motion-capture performance, a la The Polar Express or Avatar. If you haven’t seen the Tintin trailer, clips or UK trailer, the film (which was shot in 3D) looks like a classic Spielbergian action/adventure flick, in the vein of Indiana Jones.
The biggest question, however, is wether or not WETA can achieve the hard task of making humanoid CGI creations (even purposefully cartoonish ones) feel lively and real, instead of having the characters be stranded in that “valley of the uncanny,” in which the eye and mind struggle to accept that the CGI characters are actually believable humanoids. (It’s easier when mo-cap is used on more fantastical creatures, such as those in Avatar or Rise of the Planet of the Apes.)
Check out what some critics have had to say about the plot, effects, and overall experience of The Adventures of Tintin:
Variety – Working hand-in-hand with Jackson, however, [Spielberg] and his team have deployed both technologies with subtle finesse throughout, exploiting 3D’s potential just enough to make the action scenes that much more effective without overdoing it; likewise, the motion-capture performances have been achieved with such exactitude they look effortless, to the point where the characters, with their exaggerated features, almost resemble flesh-and-blood thesps wearing prosthetic makeup.
Indeed, in the early going auds might wonder why the filmmakers bothered with motion-capture at all. But the choice starts to make sense once Snowy, Tintin’s faithful white terrier, performs antics not even the best-trained pooch could perform and the sets, stunts and action sequences become ever more lavish.
Extreme Tintin purists might quibble that the screenplay, by all-Brit team Steven Moffat (“Doctor Who”), Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) and Joe Cornish (“Attack the Block”), doesn’t stick to the letter of Herge’s original strips. But others will appreciate how skillfully it shuffles and restacks elements from three of the adventures: slices from “The Crab With the Golden Claws” (published in 1943), the lion’s share from “The Secret of the Unicorn” and a wee bit from “Red Rackham’s Treasure” (both published in 1945). The remainder of the latter book will presumably bedrock the inevitable sequel.
Hollywood Reporter – Tintin himself is far from your typical, butt-kicking crime fighter…If anything, his erudite approach to solving mysteries, along with a taste for escapades in the Middle East, Asia and Africa throughout the mid-20th century, make him a less brawny, more European counterpart to Indiana Jones, which is purportedly what first sparked Spielberg’s interest in bringing Tintin to the screen back in the early 1980s.
It’s precisely the old-school exploits of the Jones films that the director and screenwriters Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) have channeled here, transforming two of the 23 Tintin comics into a saga filled with captivating CGI action and clever sight gags, while maintaining a compact narrative that never takes itself too seriously.
If the mocap technique falls somewhere between live-action and animated moviemaking, the same goes for the performances, which are altogether fluid yet sometimes (especially in certain dialogue-heavy sequences) give the impression of watching a very realistic video game with the sound turned up a few thousand notches. Serkis (King Kong, The Lord of the Rings) nonetheless manages to turn Haddock into what will surely be the trilogy’s most memorable personage, while Bell (Billy Elliot) makes Tintin about as interesting as he can be, which is to say sometimes less so than his dog.
Coming Soon – It’s a fun adventure that takes Tintin and his pals all around the world, as Spielberg really gets the nature of Herge’s storytelling. The dialogue, provided by the genre supergroup of Stephen Moffatt (“Dr. Who), Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) and Joe Cornish (“Attack the Block”), perfectly captures the whimsical interplay between characters Hergé did so well. This is especially true with Interpol agents Thompson and Thompson, performed by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who you’ll wish had more scenes since they perfectly embody the incompetent inspectors for some of the movie’s most lively scenes. For the second time this year, Andy Serkis is a movie’s undeniable MVP, as his portrayal of Captain Haddock adds so much to the story, both in terms of humor and fun as well as adding some much-needed emotion.
With such a strong script and fun characters, it’s a shame that what hurts the movie most is its animation choices. The performance capture just isn’t quite on par with “Avatar,” and as hard as the movie tries to be photorealistic and epic, it sometimes comes off looking more like an extended video game cut scene. An even bigger issue is that Tintin himself looks odd, his face looking flat and lifeless and lacking the cartoonish round noses of other characters. In a sense, trying to make him look more like a real person makes him stand out in a bad way, and Jamie Bell just doesn’t have the presence to get us past this. Fortunately, they also have Tintin’s adorable dog Snowy to single-handedly steal the movie from his master by bringing delight to every scene and helping you get through any of the slower exposition bits.
The Guardian (UK) – This Tintin is a spirited and amiably intentioned green-screen spectacular, but the motion-capture animation makes all the characters look like Ronseal marionettes. It’s a photoreal approximation of live action that is technically outstanding, but it has, for me, none of the charm, clarity and style of Hergé’s drawings and none of the immediacy and panache of actual, flesh-and-blood human beings. It is frustrating to watch this, and notice, moment by moment, how such a scene would be funny if it were drawn, or gasp – inducingly impressive if it were real. But this quasi-real mo-cap style is neither one thing nor the other.
There is plenty of spectacle and activity, albeit seen through this Perspex screen of computer animation…But for all the surface fizz, there is something flat and robotic and a little bit aimless about this Tintin. The opening credits, which playfully pastiche the original drawings with simplicity and wit, are actually more interesting and exciting than what follows. A disappointment.
View London – The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a thoroughly enjoyable, superbly animated adventure that captures the spirit of both Spielberg’s Indiana Jones movies and Hergé’s classic characters. Great John Williams score too. Highly recommended.
The script (by avowed Tintin devotees Stephen Moffat, Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright) is packed with witty gags and references and does a good job of both blending the various sources together and keeping things moving. Similarly, Spielberg directs with a terrific sense of pace and there are some wonderful, Indiana Jones-style action set pieces (the extended bike chase in Morocco is genuinely thrilling), though you do occasionally wish everyone would slow down a bit. The beautifully rendered motion-capture animation is the best seen so far on screen and if they haven’t quite nailed the dead-behind-the-eyes problem, they’ve at least got to the point where it’s not as jarring anymore.
All in all, not a bad roundup of reviews. It seems the UK critics are a bit more harsh than their US counterparts – which is understandable, given how much more beloved the character is in Europe. It seems that WETA has done the best they can with task handed to them – though clearly humanoid characters are still the weakest link of CGI mo-cap performance, which is clear from the amount of praise that Tintin’s dog, Snowy, is getting compared to the titular hero himself.
Will you be seeing The Adventures of Tintin when it hits U.S. theaters on December 21, 2011?
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