The Adventures of Tintin
Pure Spielbergian Adventure

When he made Schindler’s List in 1993, Steven Spielberg was praised for having “grown up” as a filmmaker.  As good as that movie was, the famed director is still at his best when he lets that kid inside of him come out to play.  This winter is a perfect example of that as it sees releases from both the grown up Spielberg and the boy-who-wouldn’t-grow-up Spielberg, and The Adventures of Tintin certainly scores a win for the latter.

The Adventures of Tintin is based on a series of classic comic books created by Belgian artist Herge, and Spielberg has owned the rights to the project since the early 80s, shortly after he made Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The technology was not yet available at that point for the director to make the movie as he wanted, and so nearly thirty years later the director’s vision finally comes to the big screen.  He originally planned to film the movie in live-action with the courageous young journalist Tintin’s canine companion Snowy being computer generated.  However, when he asked producer Peter Jackson if it could be done, Jackson was quick to recommend that the entire movie be filmed using motion capture technology: the same technology that Jackson used to create Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and that James Cameron used to create the inhabitants of Pandora in Avatar.  Taking that suggestion to heart, The Adventures of Tintin becomes the first animated movie on Spielberg’s impressive resume.

The Adventures of TintinAs the movie opens, Tintin discovers an impressive model of a famous man-of-war ship called the Unicorn.  Immediately upon coming into possession of the model, Tintin is approached by a mysterious man who says that his life is in danger as long as he holds onto that ship.  He is then approached by another man who offers to buy the ship from Tintin.  The sudden attention only increases Tintin’s fascination with his new model ship which turns out to be hiding a mysterious scroll that might lead to a vast treasure rumored to have gone down with the ship when it sank at the hands of pirates.

With the help of his resourceful pup Snowy, Tintin sets out to solve the mystery and gets caught up in a wild adventure that has him stranded in the middle of the ocean, crash landing in the middle of the Sahara desert, and chasing a falcon through the streets of a Moroccan town.  Also coming to his aid is Captain Haddock, a descendant of the former captain of the Unicorn and quite possibly the only man who can truly find the location of the hidden treasure.  Unfortunately, Haddock is not going to be much help to Tintin while there’s still a bottle of whiskey nearby.

In contrast to this month’s somber, plodding release from the grown up Spielberg, War HorseThe Adventures of Tintin is pure escapist excitement.  The movie plays like a cross between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Pirates of the Caribbean with a cute and clever dog thrown in just for good measure.  The decision to make this an animated movie allows Spielberg’s imagination to truly go into overdrive and the result is some spectacularly-staged action scenes.

The animation itself is simply breathtaking.  I haven’t been a fan of motion capture-based animated movies to date, movies like Beowulf and A Christmas Carol.  The problem that I had with those movies is that the animated characters too closely resembled the actors playing them, but the fact that it wasn’t actually those actors made them appear somewhat creepy.  For example, in Beowulf, there was something off-putting about the character of Hrothgar, who looked so much like Anthony Hopkins, yet at the same time not, that I spent the entire movie wondering why they didn’t just film it with Anthony Hopkins.

In Tintin, however, the motion-capture technology is used more to capture the performances of the actors, not their look.  Instead of looking like actor Jamie Bell, for example, the character of Tintin actually looked like a 3D version of the comic book character, as he should.  The movie also makes a pitch-perfect joke about Tintin’s transition from a 2D to a 3D character at the outset and that moment sets the tone for what is a pleasingly funny movie.

Hopefully the fact that this is an animated movie won’t turn off audience members that might write it off as a kid’s movie, because The Adventures of Tintin is one of those movies that certainly fits the cliché of a fun-for-the-entire-family movie.  Of the two Steven Spielberg-directed movies being released this December, this one is certainly the one that truly feels Spielbergian.

The Adventures of Tintin is rated PG for “adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking.”  There’s a lot of action/adventure scenes that might be too scary for younger viewers, but as for content, there is little to cause any objections.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Adventures of Tintin.