Sunday, 4 December 2011


Paramount Pictures
Now Showing

Who better than Steven Spielberg to direct an old school, globe trotting matinee adventure not unlike his own Indiana Jones series of films? Indeed, Herge's animated creation, the boy reporter Tintin, partly inspired Spielberg's own films and the Belgium animator himself has said that the American director was the only person capable of bringing his hero to the big screen.

Hardcore Tintin fans may disagree, both with that sentiment and the resulting film, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, but to this non-fan (I didn't grow up with the more Euro-centric Tintin), Spielberg and producing partner, Peter Jackson, have done an admirable job.

With perhaps the best use of motion capture technology to date, the duo - along with writers Steven Moffat (TV's Doctor Who), Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim) and Joe Cornish (Attack The Block) - have created a wholly believable universe and, for the most part, a rollicking adventure.

The plot sees Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his canine sidekick, Snowy, taking to the high seas in pursuit of sunken treasure. Admittedly their seafaring is initially a result of kidnapping by the shadowy Sakharine (Daniel Craig) following Tintin's purchase of a model ship, the Unicorn. But the young reporter senses a story and once piqued, his curiosity must be sated.

Tintin soon join forces with the drunkard Captain Haddock (an excellent Andy Serkis), also a prisoner of Sakharine's, who holds the key to the mystery of the sunken Unicorn. Haddock's great-great-great uncle captained the ship when it was lost at sea with a bounty of gold and jewels on board. Their escape from Sakharine's ship sees them literally take flight to Morocco.

On second viewing, Tintin moves at a much quicker pace but I still think the 105 minute adventure could stand to lose a few minutes. The first time around, when Tintin and Captain Haddock's plane crashes in the desert, I leant across to my friend and asked, "are we there yet?".

Conversely, the action sequence in Morocco soon after is the highlight of the film; an exciting set piece that's unmistakably old school Spielberg and which couldn't have been achieved any other way than with animation. Or should I say, motion capture?

Debate wages whether or not Tintin and its ilk are animated films (it has been shortlisted for the Oscars' Animated Feature category), or if motion capture is indeed an actual performance art. Andy Serkis certainly seems to be of the opinion that his Captain Haddock, and more impressively, his work as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, are performances (20th Century Fox are even running a Supporting Actor Oscar campaign for Serkis' latter role).

Call it what you will, the youngsters (I'd suggest 6 years and up) won't mind so long as they're having a good time. And they're bound to. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn provides ample enough entertainment for young and old, Tintin fan or novice.

Spielberg fans should be well pleased, too. A 100% improvement on the fourth Indiana Jones instalment, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), it's also the better of the director's two films opening this Boxing Day.

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