With no afternoon plans and a movie pass that expires at the end of the month, I opted to go see The Adventures of Tintin which had been on my radar for months (thanks to an extensive ad campaign). I'm really curious how many Americans like myself had little to no knowledge of the film's source material prior to the movie promotional campaign kicking into high gear. I had never even heard of intrepid boy reporter Tintin and his adventures until I started reading about what massive fans director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson are of the apparently somewhat legendary comic book series by Belgian author and artist Herge (Georges Remi). So that's probably why I came away from this film with somewhat mixed feelings -- it was good, just not the exhilarating, escapist adventure that I was expecting given the enthusiasm and filmic pedigree of the team that brought the story to the screen. I suspect Tintin is a movie made by fans of the source material that will resonate most strongly with fans of the same -- but I am very much open to hearing other views. :)
Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) is a boy wonder reporter, somewhat in the mold of Jimmy Olsen or Lois Lane (please, don't throw stones at my comparison -- I work with what I know, people). :) He has a penchant for adventure and is never without the accompaniment of his crazy-smart, faithful dog Snowy (an adorable terrier with a weakness for unguarded sandwiches). In an unspecified but very European 1930s outdoor market, Tintin purchases a model of the lost ship Unicorn. When two individuals promptly attempt to purchase the ship from him, including an unsavory fellow with the delightful name of Sakharine (voiced by the one and only Daniel Craig!), he senses a story -- an opinion that is solidified when his apartment is trashed and the ship is stolen, leaving behind an overlooked scroll with a cryptic clue, referencing at least twin models (and by extension additional clues).
In his quest to uncover the secret of the Unicorn, Tintin joins forces with the alcohol-swigging Captain Haddock (voiced by Andy Serkis), the sole surviving descendant of the original Unicorn's captain and the unwitting target of Sakharine's machinations. The quest to retreive all three clues necessary to discover the location of a treasure missing for centuries takes the unlikely duo (well, trio if you count Snowy, and personally I would) from Europe to Morocco and back again, dodging bullets and danger along the way.
This film took me back to my preteen infatuation with The Young Indiana Jones series, and any comparisons drawn between Tintin and Young Indy are to my thinking quite apt -- both young men hungry for adventure, with conveniently unlimited funds with which to travel the world (ha!), and a penchant for stopping baddies in their tracks. But personally there was a spark missing that made it somewhat difficult for me to "connect" with Tintin, and I think that lies in the medium of performance capture 3D animation. Now the format and style of filmmaking has come a long way since The Polar Express, but despite its realism there is still something that strikes me as soulless about the animation -- the faces and expressions often appear "flat" to me, an effect perhaps exaggerated by the realism of the clothing, hair, etc. Now I'm not trying to throw Bell under the proverbial bus -- I think he is a fantastic actor -- but in comparing his performance as Tintin to 3D performance capture veteran Andy Serkis, Tintin seems a bit flat.
That said, I really enjoyed the world this film created, very evocative of Indiana Jones's globetrotting adventures, and reminscent of movie serial adventures from the 1930s with its spirit of never-say-die adventure and optimism. The detail is incredible, and I found myself more than once distracted by the texture of clothing, the subtle alterations in a character's skin tone, a breeze blowing through hair, or the sheen of perspiration on Haddock's brow as he (unwillingly) weans himself off the bottle midway through the film. I also have to note Doctor Who and Sherlock veteran Steven Moffat's script contributions, which given my history with the man's work I suspect is greatly responsible for much of the film's humor. And John Williams delivers another impeccable score, alternating cues of high adventure with a whimsical, francophile-inspired themes that hearken back to the movie's 1930s serial style and time period.
I'm definitely intrigued see the planned sequel, particularly since it will be penned by Anthony Horowitz (FOYLE'S WAR!!!). For a grey Sunday afternoon's entertainment, The Adventures of Tintin was an enjoyable introduction to a previously unknown hero, a throwback-style adventure, where the hero relies on smarts and ingenuity to save the day and land the story of a lifetime. :)