Note: Published in the TV Guide of The Marshall Independent.
Critical reactions to “The Adventures of Tintin” seem to be either love it or hate it, I confess to mixed feelings.
I have been passingly familiar with Tintin longer than Spielberg actually, because as a boy some of my best friends were French and had the books around. But I was not a fan myself, so the character was sort of new to me, and entirely new to my 10-year-old son.
Tintin was directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson, based on the long-running series of comic books by Belgian artist Georges Prosper Remi (1907 – 1983,) better known by his pen name Hergé.
You’d think a combination like that couldn’t be beat. Indiana Jones meets Lord of the Rings, via one of the most popular European comics ever.
Spielberg became a fan in 1981 when he read a review comparing “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to Tintin. Herge returned the compliment when he declared Spielberg the only man who could bring his creation to the screen.
Tragically, Herge died a few weeks before they were to meet.
The film, Spielberg’s first animated feature, was made in 3-D using motion capture, the technique where the movement is recorded and translated on to a digital model. I saw it on flat screen but didn’t feel I missed anything.
The major supporting character Captain Haddock was played by Andy Serkis, famous for his uncanny mocap performance as Gollum in Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings.”
The film follows young reporter/adventurer Tintin (Jamie Bell) who discovers a secret clue to the location of a pirates treasure in an antique model ship he buys at a flea market. A villain Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel “Bond, James Bond” Craig) immediately shows up and attempts to buy, then steal the ship, and then kidnaps Tintin and imprisons him on a ship bound for Algeria. There he meets Captain Haddock and through a series of non-stop action scenes discovers the history of the families of Sakharine and Haddock, the location of part of the treasure, and a map to the rest of the treasure, whereupon the movie ends on the promise of at least one sequel.
The reviewers were right, the action of Tintin is uncannily like Indiana Jones adventures. So much so that I automatically assumed this was Spielberg doing Spielberg with someone else’s character. Not so, it was evidently the meeting of kindred spirits in a match made in Hollywood heaven.
And yet, though I certainly don’t mind movies depicting newspaper reporters as action heros, there was something underwhelming about it. Something I can’t quite put my finger on.
The action was slam-bang, the plot convoluted enough to keep one mentally occupied. There are moments of maddening tension, as when the bumbling Interpol detectives Thompson and Thompson are admiring Aristides Silk’s “wallet collection” and you’re jumping up and down waiting for these two idiots to realize the fellow is confessing to being the pickpocket they’re after.
But I left the theater in a mood not much different than I went in, and my son had nothing to say about the movie from that moment to bedtime.
Steve Rose, movie critic from The Guardian said the film entered the “uncanny valley.”
That’s the hypothetical point at which a robot or 3D computer animation starts to look too human. When a character looks human-like but not too humanoid the theory goes, it inspires affection. At the point it starts to look too human, it inspires revulsion.
Not quite, I think. What I felt was not revulsion.
What I think it was, was that when you see Indiana Jones doing these wildly improbably but barely possible stunts, like doing a balancing act between two speeding vehicles or hitching a ride on a submarine by clinging to the periscope, you can suspend disbelief enough to be thrilled by the danger and excitement.
The trouble is, Tinin is neither cartoon nor human. The action does not suspend the laws of nature like a cartoon. You don’t see any character walking off a cliff and not falling until he notices he’s walking on air for instance. But when he does these Indy Jones type of stunts, I was left with a feeling of, “Big deal, he’s a cartoon.”
Maybe I’m wrong, box office has been great around the world. Maybe I’ll get used to this eventually. But for now, though I’ll probably see the sequel, it didn’t smack me right between the eyes like Raiders or Lord of the Rings.
On the other hand, what else does?