Dec 5, 2011

[Movies] The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

As mentioned in my tribute post last month, I'm a major Tintin fan. And thanks to my partner, Tobie, I now have a complete collection of all 24 main books, the adaptation of his first animated feature and now I even have the official movie art book as an early Christmas present.

So yeah, I'm just a wee bit of a Tintin nerd, I can proudly admit. And obviously my partner is such an enabler.

When news of this movie came out, I have to admit I was rather scared. Like many other Tintin fans around the world, the books have an almost sacred quality to them. It's hard to expect anything less than near perfection from any depict to translate this amazing comic into a movie, what more a CGI / motion capture extravaganza like this one.

To be fair, to have the likes of Spielberg and Jackson behind the project did help assude some doubts. after all, if you can't trust the people behind movies like Indiana Jones and The Lord of the Rings to handle a creative work as important as this one, then it becomes very difficult to respect the rest of what we hold to be true when it comes to movies.

The Secret of the Unicorn
Image via Wikipedia
The Adventures of Tintin is a 2011 performance capture animated movie directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. It's roughly based on three separate Tintin comic books as created by Hergé, namely The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure.

The story begins with intrepid reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) at a busy street market. He spots a beautiful miniature ship model of an old vessel known as the Unicorn. He's able to secure a deal with the seller just as one Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig) arrives to try and buy the ship as well. A third man, the American Barnaby (Joe Starr), also tries to buy the ship, but Tintin refuses and brings the model back to his flat. At the same time, detectives Thomson (Simon Pegg) and Thompson (Nick Frost) have been assigned to determine the identity of a mysterious and highly skilled pickpocket that has been terrorizing the area and stealing men's wallets.

Things get more interesting once Tintin's model is stolen and later on his apartment is ransacked, probably by the same assailants. But one thing leads to another and Tintin finds himself a prisoner on the cargo ship Karaboudjan that is no longer under the control of its true captain, Haddock (Andy Serkis). Thus the movie unfolds with Tintin's efforts to escape his captors, solve the riddle of the model ship and hopefully escape with his life.

Now the decision to utilize material from several different Tintin books was admittedly a somewhat controversial one. While I could have understood if Spielberg and team had opted to go with some of the naturally linked titles in the series such as The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure given that's really how their narratives went. However the story got the fully Hollywood treatment and the end result was a bit of a new creation entirely. The hardcore fan in me rebels at the changes me (they dropped Professor Calculus from the story!) but the more practical part of me can also appreciate how the story still generally worked despite the many changes.

The Crab with the Golden Claws
Image via Wikipedia
For example, the opening sequence in the market was indeed from The Secret of the Unicorn however the first meeting with Captain Haddock and the whole adventure on the Karaboudjan was all from The Crab with the Golden Claws. Most of Red Rackham's Treasure had been dropped save perhaps for the general ending of this adventure. It's something that I only truly appreciated once I went back to my copies of the comics and compared notes immediately after watching the movie. And in that regard, I suppose you could give them credit for making sure the movie still felt like a true Tintin adventure.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about the the characters were rendered. Captain Haddock probably came out the best of all the characters and maybe Sakharine as well. However Tintin had me puzzling over how I wanted to feel about his depiction. With the original comics, the characters were all distinctly cartoon-ish yet placed in highly realistic and well-research background panels. Here there was an attempt to give the characters more human-like skin tone and texture that looked decent enough but didn't convey emotions all that well. Some reviewers have argued that Hergé's more simplistic drawing style still managed to convey more emotion than some of the motion-capture driven animation did, which is a sentiment I can generally agree with.

English: Jamie Bell at the Paris premiere of &...
Image via Wikipedia
Voice acting was pretty good, although with weird moments here and there. Jamie Bell generally did a great job capturing the kind of youthful adventurism one has come to expect from Tintin, although at times he does seem to sound a lot like LOTR-era Elijah Wood. Andy Serkis certainly did his part in bringing the Captain to life, although I'm not sure if I ever imagined him with a Scottish accent. Pegg and Frost have a natural camaraderie between them given how long they've worked together on various projects, although at times they did feel a tad constrained by the odd, idiotic banter of the detectives. What was surreal was how difficult it was to recognize Daniel Craig's voice though - he certainly made for an interestingly creepy villain.

Sir Francis Haddock fighting Red Rackham's pir...
Image via Wikipedia
A lot of the more exciting bits in the movie were created especially for the movie. In other words, the fan part of me wants to complain that these sequences were not "canonical" while the movie-goer just enjoyed them for what they were. While things like the reenacted fight between Haddock and Rackham or the big chance sequence in Morocco were not based on the comics, they did manage to capture the unique mix of high speed stakes mixed with slapstick humor that is the signature of the original comics. And no matter how wild a lot of the acrobatics got, it was still possible to follow along and not lose your place in terms of how character A ended up here and why character B was wearing a nightdress, and so on.

Despite my fan gripes, The Adventures of Tintin is a great movie that does a pretty good job of creating a new Tintin adventure that still speaks to the core fans while making the franchise more accessible for new viewers. I don't know how they're going to feel once they read the original books though, but hopefully they'll respect what made Tintin great in the first place instead of focusing solely on the movie. Thus the movie gets 4 nods to the fans littered throughout the movie (including a pseudo-cameo by Hergé himself) out of a possible 5.

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1 comment:

  1. It's hard to expect anything less than near perfection from any depict to translate this amazing comic into a movie.vibrators