After almost two decades of development and pre-production, Steven Spielberg has finally brought his vision of the ginger-quiffed boy reporter and his globetrotting escapades onto the big screen. But was The Adventures of Tintin worth the wait?
Combining a few of Hergé’s graphic novels, the screenplay (penned by British heavyweights Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish) finds Jamie Bell’s Tintin and his faithful terrier Snowy on the trail of a lost pirate treasure belonging to an ancestor of drunken seaman Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis). Hounded by a sinister figure named Sakharine (Daniel Craig), the gang find adventure everywhere: from the city streets to the high seas and the scorching desert. Along for the ride are fan favourites, bumbling policemen Thompson and Thomson, played by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg.
Utilising the same performance capture system used in Avatar, the technology has evolved to the point where it no longer suffers from the dead-eyed “uncanny valley” quality that plagued earlier photo-realistic CG projects (for the most grotesque example, check out the strutting corpses from 2001’s Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within). The most exciting part of this development is that Spielberg and his co-producer Peter Jackson have created a fully animated film that looks and feels like a Steven Spielberg movie: his regular cinematographer Janusz Kaminski is credited as cinematographer and John Williams provides a score reminiscent of his treatment from Catch Me If You Can. There are extraordinary visual sequences including pirate battles and a car chase that could have come straight out of the Indiana Jones films, a franchise that owes a lot to the Tintin stories.
Some of the characterisations are a bit on the un-PC side, notably the Arabic millionaire Omar Ben Salaad and Serkis’ drunken Scotsman (alcohol to Captain Haddock is like spinach to Popeye). Also, in an age when most family films have been sanitised to a U certificate, there’s something both jarring and nostalgic in seeing Tintin carry a gun so casually. It’s old-fashioned and very much part of the movie’s throwback charm.
Critical response to The Adventures of Tintin have been notably tepid so far but one can’t help suspect that if this film had been live-action, it would be lauded as a return to form for Mr Spielberg, providing all the thrills and spills of a Boys’ Own adventure with the scope of a blockbuster.