Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin (2011) – Review

Review: The Adventures of Tintin is visually astounding but the narrative and characters are not done quite as well. The film finds Tintin, a famous journalist, thrust into a new mystery when he buys an antique ship model at a swap meet leading to a man killed at his door and his apartment ransacked. He engages on a grand adventure with Haddock, a drunken ship captain, to uncover the secret of the ship. Director Steven Spielberg has set up The Adventures of Tintin to play a bit like a mix of Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean tonally. The film looks and feels a lot like an Indiana Jones film, and the score sort of harkens back as well (same composer). The silliness of the characters also feels a bit like Indiana Jones, but more like Pirates of the Caribbean. Visually, the film is quite an achievement. This could have easily been a live-action film, but as is the action set pieces are a bit too much and the camera moves freely – both of which would be harder to accomplish outside animation. The performances Spielberg captured however are fantastic, especially in terms of getting very expressive faces and (most importantly) eyes.  The opening title sequence (which is reminiscent of Catch Me If You Can, at least it was for me) is brilliant (and my favorite part of the film), as are the many unique and interesting transitions. The narrative has a lot of action, especially in the second half. Spielberg does a good job of keeping the narrative moving forward (important for a film aimed at children especially). It seems common in animation, there being no limitations, for the action scenes to get out of hand. This happens somewhat on this film, but Spielberg still reels them in enough and gives them each their own mini-narrative to keep them engaging (not letting them creep into crazy mindless territory). The chase through the coastal town in Morocco is probably the most compelling. The real issue, however, and to an extent the main thing keeping this from being a better film, despite it being a great visual achievement, is the characters. Both Tintin and Haddock, who occupy almost all the screen time, are annoying and sort of bog the film down. Tintin incessantly spells every minor detail out, even when the audience is already told the information visually. While it is a staple of the genre to a degree, it is overused greatly here with Tintin. Haddock, on the other hand, is portrayed too much as a fool. Every breath he takes and action he does seems to impede the progress of the story. The character is just too much (like the saying: less is more). The third biggest character in the film is the villain Sakharine, and he is grievously underwritten, leaving him feeling like a rejected Indiana Jones villain. At least with Haddock and Tintin, the characters are written well enough and given enough character moments for the audience to connect with them. Sakharine is a throwaway character – not really what you want from your principal villain, let alone one that plays heavily into the story. The Adventures of Tintin is entertaining and will appeal to fans of the books, but with aspects that are so well-done it is too bad that the film has large issues that hinder it from being great.

Technical, aesthetic & acting achievements: Steven Spielberg having made the Indiana Jones films is a great choice to direct this story, his first animated feature. It is one of the most aesthetically interesting animated films I have seen (especially on a grand scale), and sets the bar very high for future animated features. Visually, it seems as if Spielberg approached the film as if he were shooting a grand live-action epic. Producer Peter Jackson also brings skill in creating fantastic visual epics (also working on his first animated feature). Writers Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, however, may have inserted too much silliness, when the tone should have been less like Pirates of the Caribbean and more like Indiana Jones. Composer John Williams delivers a score that fits the film well (but not among his best work, and not anywhere near as good as his War Horse score). The performance capturing technology at Weta Workshop is fantastic, giving the actors almost complete control over how their animated counterparts are seen onscreen. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are funny as Thompson and Thomson. Daniel Craig is not really given much to do, but is good with what he has. Andy Serkis (regardless of how I feel about Haddock in relation to the narrative) gives a fun full-bodied performance (and is rightly considered the best motion-capture actor). Jamie Bell is good as Tintin, playing seemingly the only none comedic or villainous character in the film.

Summary & score: One of the best visual films of the year (animated or live-action), The Adventures of Tintin does not quite live up to its visuals in terms of its characters. 6/10

1 comment:

  1. Spielberg may not score much points when it comes to his use of motion-capture animation here but the film still benefits from a fun and kinetic direction that brings him back to his old Indiana Jones days. Serkis is a riot the whole time as well. Great review. Check out mine when you get the chance.