By Kyle St John Peters
Legend has it, that before Herge (creator of Tintin) died in 1983, he gave Spielberg his blessing as the only filmmaker he trusted to bring Tintin to life. Since that day, Spielberg’s CV has grown to only confirm this thought, with his depiction of Tintin combining elements from several of his past efforts.
He sets the scene with a light, playful tone of fun adventure in a breezy title sequence, very reminiscent of Catch Me if You Can. After this, the film can very much draw comparisons to Spielberg’s own masterpiece Raiders of the Lost Ark – a light adventure romp – very self referential, though slightly less weighty (Raider’s had the Nazis!)
It’s the perfect pairing in fact – Tintin and Indiana Jones are cut out of the same mould – Saturday afternoon serials. Tintin himself is essentially a young Indiana Jones that is not played by Sean Patrick Flannery.
Much like Raiders, Tintin features some gloriously realised set pieces in true cliff hanger style, and in many ways this is Spielberg at his finest – watch out for his own Jaws reference.
The animation is amazing, the texturing, the lighting and mood. The Berg has captured Herge’s tone and pallete, just like the comics and show. The characters too, physically are well rendered and capture the Herge spirit. It’s amazing to see how Weta, in a few short years, has become the top VFX house in the world, arguably topping the long time leader ILM.
This is Spielberg’s first animation, and he has been unleashed on a completely new plain, with a brand new paint box, allowing him to do some audacious shots, ridiculous moments and amazing transitions that he could never do with live action. He has utilized motion capture and animation to it’s fullest potential thus far.
Performance and character wise, Tintin himself is a bit of a blank page. This is true to the books in the sense that you can sort of project your own personality onto him and easily put yourself in the lead role. It is always a bit of a shame though, when your title and lead character is outshone by his supporting cast. One critic described Tintin as a tour guide to the next plot point and I heartelly agree. There is something extremely lacking here.
Thompson and Thompson provide some hit and miss comedy, and Snowy, the ever loyal dog is going to be a firm favourite, but everyone pales in comparisson however to Captain Haddock portrayed by the King of Mocap himself, Andy Serkis (Gollum, King Kong, Caesar). Once he enters, the film really kicks into high gear, much like the entry of Sean Connery’s Jones Snr in the Last Crusade. He is the most entertaining, well rounded character in the film by a long shot.
The light sense of adventure could have been aided by a few slightly more perilous , threatening situations. You never really feel like Tintin won’t escape from any situation. My one major criticism, which may change on repeat viewings, is that the stakes never felt that high. Without spoilers, I just felt that come the end of the film… was it really worth that much hype? I’m referring to both the adventure in the film and the film itself. I think it needed a bigger reveal, something more dramatic, and I also wanted to leave the cinema with a bigger sense of excitement and participation. After waiting three years for the new Spielberg film, I didn’t quite feel like I had really seen it.
This may only be due to the fact that this is animation, and the connection to the characters and excitement of reality cannot be achieved. A live action Tintin would have it’s benefits, but this medium is perfect for capturing the real essence of the style…