Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Adventures of Tintin

There's perhaps fewer 20th Century storytellers who are as beloved and transcendent as one George Prosper Remi, otherwise known as, Herge. His Tintin books have captured the imagination of children longing for adventure and adults who crave it just as much. Given that Herge died in the early 1980s, his magnificent tales of the intrepid journalist have slowly drifted into the background of modern pop culture in the past decade or so.

That is until Steven Spielberg stepped in with a long awaited big screen adaptation. However in an age where robot and zombie apocalypses dominate the screens, vampires are in vogue, superheroes reign supreme and Spielberg himself already doing something similar for audiences with Indiana Jones, does something as relatively innocent and wholesome as the faint childhood nostalgia of Tintin still have a place in our hearts? Yes it does. Perhaps now more than ever before.

Taking cues from the Tintin stories, The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure, the film recounts Tintin's (Jamie Bell) first ever encounter with his infamous associate, Captain Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis). A small clue from a model ship leads the young journalist on a globe trotting adventure as he and Haddock sough to find the lost treasure of the Captain's ancestor before the devious and mysterious Red Rackham (Daniel Craig) does.

It's sad to describe Tintin to someone who hasn't read one of the books. Lazily you could say it's probably more Indiana Jones than the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was. Despite the fact when Raiders of the Lost Ark originally came out, one could've rightly said, it's very Tintin in its approach. The grumpy old fart cynicism aside however, the film is probably the most fun I've had watching a Spielberg film since the brilliant Catch Me If You Can. It had humour, suspense, mystery and genuinely terrific action sequences which just left a huge smile on my face from beginning to end.

Jamie Bell was thoroughly endearing and likeable in the title role as Tintin. His curious nature was at times infectious and will surely go down well with younger members of the audience. All the while, Andy Serkis was his usual best as Captain Haddock. For me he was the personal highlight, as he went through this bizarre odyssey from this risqué, paranoid, alcoholic to this manly, no nonsense, sailor. Faintly similar to Johnny Depp's journey with Captain Jack Sparrow, albeit with much more grit and far less theatre.

Sparsely but effectively used was Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the roles of the bumbling detectives Thompson and Thompson. Their Tweedledum/dee routine was highly enjoyable and so natural on screen. A true testament to their chemistry which has come on leaps and bounds from their early days of entertaining me during university in Spaced. Credit must also go to Daniel Craig for his portrayal of Red Rackham, who was truly quite devious and sinister in such a traditional way you rarely see in such cinematic tales these days.

The animation was almost flawless and the backgrounds were truly gorgeous to witness on a big screen and largely the 3D did work. I still do think this type of performance capture animation does still suffer from a bizarre case of dead eye syndrome. Look into those lifeless eyes. Disturbing. Truly.

Steve Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish should take as much plaudits for the tidy screenplay they produced which, given the influence those three probably owe to Spielberg and his contemporaries, didn't try to recreate scenes from the Indiana Jones films and stayed true to Herge's own vision instead.

Perhaps to nitpick once more, but I did think the audience was cheated out of an iconic John Williams theme tune. Not that Williams' contribution was terrible by any means, I was probably just expecting, for such an exciting cinematic event, another theme on par with Jurassic Park, ET, Indiana Jones and Superman, but I guess I'm just asking too much...

Final Thoughts
The Adventures of Tintin was full of action, humour, suspense and good old fashion family fun. The film is a beautiful tribute to Herge's books which really do - as the Wikipedia page suggests - transcend time, language and culture. Don't worry if you've never read one of them, or seen the classic cartoon serials, just let yourself be submerged in possibly Steven Spielberg's most widely accessible family film since Hook. Glorious. I didn't even go into my love for the quiff!


The Adventures of Tintin is in cinemas throughout the UK from Friday October 28th, 2011.

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