The Adventures of Tintin
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish (screenplay), Hergé (comic)
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig and Nick Frost
Steven Spielberg is back in rollicking good form after his three-year break following the unfortunate fourth Indiana Jones escapade with the jaw-dropping animated epic The Adventures of Tintin. It comes as somewhat of a surprise that Spielberg aims a directorial rebound with motion-capture animation, and yet while you look at the gorgeously rendered surfaces and the extraordinarily lifelike human characters, it appears he has achieved his goal.
Like Martin Scorsese did with Hugo, Spielberg utilizes the latest 3D technology to adapt a family-friendly story of a young boy solving mysteries while at the same time paying homage to the art he loves so much. Tintin is less a tribute to filmmakers past than it is to this directors’ past adventures, though, which is egotistical but nontheless pays off.
The young protagonist at the heart of Spielberg’s adapted fantasy is Tintin (Jamie Bell), a young journalist who stumbles upon a dangerous mystery to discover lost treasure. Sakharine (Daniel Craig), the sinister man after it as well, initially collides with Tintin after stealing a model ship he had just purchased. There are three identical copies of this model, each containing a unique scroll that will aid them in finding the treasure. As it turns out, these scrolls belonged to the Haddock family, of which only one member (Andy Serkis) still lives.
With Captain Haddock in tow, Tintin tails Sakharine and his crew across vast different terrains and diverse climates. The unique environments provide Spielberg with the perfect excuse to show off the animated prowess at work in this film. From thunderously exciting ship battles to a jaw-dropping chase sequence in Morocco set amidst a collapsing dam, the set pieces consistently change but rarely disappoint.
Tintin does rush through its final chapters and leave an annoying sequel-baiting ending, but the journey more than satisfies up until that point. Both sequences of suspense and over-the-top action pop up out of nowhere, and though the story is a standard boys’ club adventure film, it is sleekly and efficiently told through most of it.
Spielberg is a director of either big stylistic exercises or morality plays set on a grand scale. Tintin is obviously an exercise of the former, its family-friendly “Be Yourself” message tacked on to draw people in more than to exist as part of some overarching theme. The battle over the treasure gives some terrific flashback sequences between Haddock’s family and Sakharine’s, but it’s nothing new.
Tintin is caught in the middle of that feud, his investigative curiosity peaked at the prospect of bring evil to justice while simultaneously acquiring vast wealth. He is a curious character solely because it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint his age. Though he appears to be a seasoned reporter, his boyish features and demeanor resemble that of someone not past their early teens.
With no romantic entanglements or family to identify him further, we are simply left with an anomaly who exists purely to solve the case at hand. He plunges himself into it headfirst, and those spontaneous moments of adventure fit the story of someone who, like his dog, simply follows his nose.
Spielberg’s meticulous direction here still at times feels spontaneous, with the action sequences evolving organically rather than being thrown at the audience as individual entities with no overall purpose. It succeeds where the latest Mission: Impossible film falls short in that regard, because though the story is familiar, it is well told and the scenes of action are more successfully integrated into the overall film. Spielberg’s animated debut is decidedly more effective than Brad Bird’s live action one. I’m sure there won’t be anywhere near the resentment over that that there is over Tintin’s hidden treasure, though, because they’ll both get their fair share of gold when the box office receipts come in.