Let’s cut to the chase shall we? Simply put, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin is the legendary filmmaker’s most audaciously fun and exhilarating movie since his one-two punch of Minority Report and Catch Me if You Can in 2002. Based on the timeless series of comic books created by Belgian author Hergé, this stunningly animated feature is an invigorating potpourri of captivating chases, slapstick humor, colorful characters, and swashbuckling adventure that evokes the spirit of Spielberg’s original Indiana Jones trilogy.
It’s no coincidence that Tintin rings familiar to the Indiana Jones movies: The comics play to the Spielberg’s greatest strengths i.e. masterfully-orchestrated action sequences, warm characters, slapstick humor, the strong distinction between good and evil, and of course, the boyish sense of wonder. A diehard fan of the comics since a French critic compared Raiders of the Lost Ark to the comics back in 1981, Spielberg’s passion for the material is evident all over this gorgeously-designed film – from the lovingly-crafted opening credits sequence, which pay homage to many of Tintin’s most famous adventures, to the multitude of references strewn all across the movie. For a fan of the comics, which I have been since the age of 11, these touches are a goldmine but even if you haven’t heard of Tintin before reading this review, this movie offers entertainment in spades.
Cleverly adapted from three Tintin books by a team of the best geek-friendly screenwriters in England – Stephen Moffat (Doctor Who), Edgar Wright (Shawn of the Dead) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) – the crux of The Adventures of Tintin centers on Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his adorable dog Snowy (a scene stealer) falling into a frenzied hunt for three scrolls that hold the key to the location of a sunken treasure ship. After a nasty confrontation with a determined treasure seeker named Sakharine (Daniel Crag) ends with Tintin being kidnapped, he cross paths with Captain Haddock (the truly amazing Andy Serkis), a boisterous but lovable alcoholic sea captain whose penchant for alcohol is only matched by his affinity for phrases like “Blistering Barnacles” and “Thousands of Thundering Typhoons!” From then on, the film evolves into a pulsating race to recover the scrolls and find the treasure – taking our heroes from Europe to across the Mediterranean to the deserts of the Sahara to the markets of Morocco and even the high seas of the Caribbean.
Like Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, The Adventures of Tintin marks the first foray into 3-D for Spielberg, and like his colleague, he too passes with flying colors! Like Scorsese’s film, Tintin utilizes the unfairly maligned format in ways I didn’t think were possible – instead of throwing things at the viewer, Spielberg uses 3-D to immerse us into the action – and this being an action film, the results are electric!
It greatly helps that the movie also marks his entry into the world of digital motion capture filmmaking – a previously floundering style that was bolstered by the success of Avatar. Though I was apprehensive at first (who wouldn’t be after watching Robert Zemeckis’ dead-eye trilogy of The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol?), I should have known better than to pile doubt on Spielberg! Not only is the uncanny valley miniscule, shooting the film in this format has allowed the filmmaker to indulge in everything he couldn’t possibly have orchestrated in live action filmmaking. Whether it’s placing the camera outside of an airplane or between two ships getting tangled with each other, the things Spielberg does with the camera in Tintin are clearly a product of a man having a blast showcasing his immeasurable craftsmanship.
As for the action – just forget it – this is the zenith of action filmmaking. Though Hergé’s comics were more mystery oriented, the slapstick action Spielberg conducts in this picture is molded to fit within the realm of the universe. And man, do they deliver! Just when you think you’ve seen one great action sequence, the next scene surpasses it. It all culminates with a dazzling 3-minute downhill chase through the streets of a city in Morocco all filmed in one shot! It’s a scene that ranks with the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Saving Private Ryan as well as the mine carts in Temple of Doom and the first attack in War of the Worlds as one of Spielberg’s greatest action scenes. Yea, it’s that good!
Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin is an adrenaline rush of an adventure film that lovingly brings to life Hergé’s timeless characters while simultaneously calling to mind Spielberg’s own original Indiana Jones trilogy. With some of the best action scenes of the year, Whether or not you’ve heard of Tintin before, chances are you’re going to be interested in seeing more of him after watching this one hell of a joy ride. Bring on The Seven Crystal Balls/Prisoners of the Sun.