Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin a Journey of Endurance

I have been on a nostalgic kick of late as I have been watching several films in which the main characters where staples of my childhood. Whether it was the musical talents of A Tribe Called Quest or the comedic talents of The Muppets (which I will talk about in a future post), a lot of fond memories have been flooding back. Adding to this trip down memory lane is The Adventures of Tintin. I recall spending many hours at the local library reading both The Adventures of Tintin and The Adventures of Asterix. I even remember spending Saturday afternoons watching the cartoon adaptations for both on television.

Needless to say I was excited to hear that the likes of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish had teamed up to bring Tintin to the big screen. Directed by Spielberg, and based on three of the comic books, The Adventures of Tintin follows a young journalist, Tintin (Jamie Bell) who inadvertently stumbles upon a mystery of epic portions. After buying a model of the Unicorn ship, Tintin finds himself face to face with the sinister Ivan Sakharine (Daniel Craig), a mysterious man who is determined to get his hands on the model ship at all cost. When Tintin’s house his broken into, Tintin and his dog, Snowy, embark on a quest to find out what secrets the Unicorn is hiding. Along the way Tintin meets Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), a drunken sailor whose ship and crew have been taken over by Sakharine. Tintin soon realizes that Captain Haddock might be the key to unlocking the whole mystery…that is if he can stay sober long enough.  

The Adventures of Tintin does a good job of capturing the spirit of the original books, although at times it does feel like there are too many cooks in the kitchen. The plot feels uneven for the most part with not much substance. Many of the dialogue heavy scenes feel like they serve no other purpose but to get you quickly from one action sequence to the next. This is most evident when Tintin quickly voices his internal monologue in order to speed up the exposition. By the halfway point the mystery starts to lose its appeal and there is nothing really left to focus on but the eye popping action sequences.

In the books Tintin was always a character who has been able to handle himself when situations got heated. Sure he and Haddock got captured a lot, but they knew their way around a fight. In the hands of Spielberg, Tintin becomes a mixture of Indiana Jones and MacGyver with James Bond’s shooting accuracy sprinkled in for good measure. At times he is almost too good at being the action hero, as you never get the sense that Tintin is ever in any real danger. Although the film is packed with more action sequences than needed, the crane fight was unnecessary, it is hard to deny that Spielberg crafts a pretty fun ride.

The animated format allows Spielberg to really let loose creatively in regards to the action. Whether it is an epic pirate fight or a car chase scene that involves a broken dam, Spielberg plays it all on a grand scale. There are so many action sequences in the film that I was exhausted by time the last big sequence hit. One thing you cannot say is that you did not get your money’s worth in the action department. One of the reasons the action works so well is the great animation.

While some of the characters body movements still seems a bit off when using motion capture technology, the overall animation is fantastic. Spielberg really does a solid job bringing many memorable moments from the books to life. He even includes a quick nod to the comic book when Tintin holds up a cartoon drawing of himself. The voice work overall is strong as each actor is suited to their roles. Andy Serkis and the duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who play the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson, were especially good in bring their characters to life. At the end of the day I was entertained by The Adventures of Tintin but I could not help but feel a little disappointed that, with the number of books in the series, the film’s plot was not stronger. It was a fun couple of hours, but I wonder if I will really remember this film a week from now.


The Adventures of Tintin is part of our "The Must See List" series.


  1. I agree.

    I too grew up reading the english translations of Tintin. My dad has been to Belgium and the Tintin store multiple times and boasts a huge collection of Tintin figurines. So, needless to say, we saw this opening day.

    I was a bit disappointed with the film overall. As you said, the action sequences were not in short supply. That's what kind of bothered me....Spielberg took no time to set up Tintin as a character and the whole film was just floating from one action sequence to the next for its entirety. The dialogue was pretty poor and the characters were not developed enough.

    The animation was great as well. The usually reliable John Williams delivered a rather boring score too.....dont know why he was Oscar nom'd. The score sounded like a poor man's take on his Indiana Jones music.

    I will be seeing future Tintin adaptations, merely because I feel like I should and because it will be fun. However, in the hands of Spielberg, I'm fairly upset with this film and expected alot more. Maybe they will get it right in the's hoping.

  2. I didn't read the books, but the film certainly had me engaged.

    Sure it was little too heavy on the action, but Tintin is a likable protagonist - thus worthy of staying interested in the plot.

  3. I grew up with the books myself and found myself reading them over and over again as a kid. I think the material is too limited in a way for the big screen. Tintin and company are for the most part totally blank-sheet characters. We never learn anything about them and they are totally constant and stagnant throughout the graphic novels. I'm not sure this work well when you are trying to build a cinematic franchise ...

  4. @Phips – The score was indeed very reminiscent, I am sure intentionally so, of the Indiana Jones series. They were times when the action felt very Indiana Jones as well, until Spielberg threw in some overtly cartoony bits to break up the Indiana Jone’s vibe. I think the sequel will be the big test as to whether or no this franchise survives.

    @Sam – Tintin is a likeable character but the film could have used a few more scenes to properly set up his character. The funny thing about the overall plot is that the film is really Haddock’s story. You really learn very little about Tintin beside the fact that he is a famous reporter who somehow solves mysteries.

    @Castor – The film could have taken more creative liberty in establishing the character’s history, especially since the books are rather straight forward. I think this is why I found Haddock so fascinating in the film. He is the only well-rounded character in the film. Tintin comes across as rather bland despite all the incredible things he does in the film.


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