AFI FEST Review: ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ Proves Chocolate Isn’t the Only Good Thing to Come Out of Belgium

Based on the comics by Belgian artist Hergé, The Adventures of Tintin follows a young reporter as he (along with his trusty dog Snowy) end up on a series of adventures in pursuit of his next story. Brought to the screen by director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson, this may be the first time many audiences in America will be seeing and experiencing the world of Tintin (as the comic was first made famous overseas), but the series should have little trouble finding new fans this holiday season. Jackson’s skill with motion capture technology (as seen in his films like The Lord of the Rings and King Kong) is well-translated in Spielberg’s first animated project, creating an immersive world you can easily escape into, while the director’s love of telling an adventure story (and the series itself) bursts through each frame.

The film begins with a series of animated scenes which work as a nice recall to the comics from which the story originated – even including a slight reference to newspapers as a nod to Tintin’s (Jamie Bell) job as a journalist and the format through which the comic first ran. The transition from to this the more standard style of animation into the full scope of the film’s 3D motion capture sublty helps audience realize just how impressive and vibrant this new technology truly is. Tintin may not look exactly as he does in the comics, but a clever wink at that iconic image is given early on, making it clear that Spielberg is not looking to reinvent Tintin’s world, just to bring a new dimension to it.

In this story, Tintin comes across a model of a three-masted ship called the Unicorn while shopping at a flea market, but after becoming the owner of said ship, he quickly realizes he might not be the only one interested in it. Rather than becoming fearful of the danger he is warned will come with the ship, Tintin sees the potential for a story (and an adventure!) and as things ramp up (and barely stop until the film’s end), we realize that this is pretty typical of Tintin’s life, particulary when he remarks to his landlord after a shooting takes place at their building, “a man has been shot on our doorstep – again!”

After a less than favorable run-in with Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig), Tintin meets Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) whose penchant for whiskey has affected his memory as he and Tintin try to piece together the mystery of the Unicorn and Haddock’s (and possibly Sakharine’s) connection to it. Spielberg’s action skills keep the narrative moving at a near non-stop pace once Haddock and Tintin team up, while the screenplay (which pairs Attack the Block writers Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish with Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat) also infuses the film with just as many laughs. (Word to the wise, kids: don’t make a fire in a boat.) Plus, it’s hard not to giggle with the always-hilarious Simon Pegg and Nick Frost voicing the bumbling detective duo Inspector Thompson and Thomson, respectively.

Making this their twenty-fourth film together, Spielberg reteams with composer John Williams to create Tintin’s score. Williams has utilized a full range of orchestration to create a score worthy of all the action on screen. Williams’ score is almost jaunty as it ebbs and flows throughout the twists and turns of the narrative, keeping the feel of the film consistently fun even in the face of danger or peril (or mirages).

I fell into the category of those on this side of the pond who were not very familiar with Tintin, but I felt fully immersed in his world (or at least Spielberg and Jackson’s vision of it) and do not think I will be the only one feeling that way when the film hits theaters on December 21st. A fun mix of Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones, Tintin is able to give us long action sequences (sometimes in a single take) that human actors (sorry, Harrison) would never be able to. It is this slight step into the world of fantasy where Tintin really shines, even if you are still left wondering how one could use a part of a motorcycle to zip line down the rope of a clothes line.

Seeing as the film was made with the intent to be seen in 3D, the effects really do pop here. You will not get the standard 3D gags of things flying off the screen and into your face, but the technology creates a textured world that makes you feel like you are almost fighting alongside Captain Haddock and Sakharine.

All-in-all, Tintin is a fun adventure that should thrill both fans and those getting to know the series for the first time. Appropriately timed for a holiday release, this is a film the whole family can enjoy together and, with hardly any women in Tintin’s world, you will have no fear of having to “ear muff” your kids during any potentially saucy moments. (Unlike some of the scenes in another recent animated release… *cough*Puss in Boots*cough*.) So grab your favorite chocolate treat and head to the theaters when this Belgium import hits screens.

The Upside: The Adventures of Tintin is a great ride and the all-out-action sequences are a joy to watch. It is clear everyone involved with making the film had a wonderful time doing so, from the music to the effects to the performances; Tintin is simply a fun time at the movies. Also – who doesn’t want their own Snowy now?

The Downside: The film runs a bit long and could have benefited from ending twenty minutes earlier than it does (and where it felt like it should end), but it does set up for the series to continue and, as someone who quite enjoyed themselves during this outing, I am all for a second round.

On the Side: Does anyone know how old Tintin is supposed to be? Is he just a really baby-faced young adult or a very wily teenager?

Allison has always been fascinated by the power music has when paired with an image – particularly its effect in film. Thanks to a background in recording and her days spent licensing music to various productions (including, of course, movies), Allison can usually be found sticking around to see all the songs noted in a film’s credits and those listening to her iTunes inevitably ask, “What movie is this song from?”

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