Nov 142011

Tintin posterAfter seeing the first of the Spielberg/Jackson alliance’s Tintin movies I was of two minds: either this was a horrible abuse of a long-beloved duo of graphic novels, or an inspired adventure movie that ranks among the finest of the year. In the end my opinion of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn landed on the latter choice.

The Secret of the Unicorn is a curious movie in many ways.

First of all it is motion-captured, with results that exceed the previous by a mile. The texture-wrapped characters seem a lot more alive than their counterparts in the likes of Polar Express. And with mo-cap veteran Andy Serkis amongst the actors, they indeed do not feel as artificial as I feared them to be.

Second of all, the plot has seen severe revisions from the original album. While the over-arching structure remains, the characters and plotlines have been rewritten thoroughly. The story includes a long segment from an unrelated album, the Crab with the Golden Claws. It also omits the sequel, Red Rackham’s Treasure, entirely – thus depriving us of the character and inventions of Theophilus Tournesol. Bianca Castafiore, on the other hand, puts in a gratuitous approach (within the frame of the plot).

Third of all, there’s plenty of action in the movie. While they are varied and definitely not boring, they do occasionally feel tacked-on – ready-made scenes for the video games licensed of the movie. Then again, Herge used physical comedy and action aplenty, so the scenes do not feel entirely alien. And pleasantly enough, Tintin is almost MacGyveresque in his treatment of guns – most of the time he’s running away from a hail of bullets instead of shooting.

In addition to Serkis, there’s plenty of decent acting on screen. Daniel Craig plays the villain of the piece. Jamie Bell is Tintin, almost a blank personality – with few definitive characteristics. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s take on the hapless Thompsons is surprisingly lifeless – the hassle-prone policemen begin to grate almost immediately when they appear on screen.

The film is expectedly done in three dimensions. The Z-axis doesn’t add that much. The most beautiful scenes are rendered with gloriously expressive lighting, not by layering objects.

There are homages to other albums as well. I hope the inclusion of the zero-gravity-alcohol gag doesn’t mean that the production team is dismissing the prospect of doing the Moon-albums as movies. Originally the sequel to this movie was going to be the Seven Crystal Balls / Temple of the Sun-duo, but that has recently been disclaimed as a fact.

I’m sure I missed something obvious on the first viewing, and do expect to pick the film up when it arrives on disc.

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