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Movie Review: Adventures Of Tintin

tintin_snowy_2Tintin is coming to a movie theatre near you.

No, not Rin Tin Tin the dog.

Although, Tintin does have a sidekick dog named Snowy.

Tintin is a young, intrepid reporter with a swirl of hair on the top of his head like a Dairy Queen soft serve.

Let’s just cut to the chase, because there a many chase scenes in the movie The Adventures of Tintin -- go and see it!

You may not be familiar with the name Tintin, even though the comic book character is known around the world, the name you will undoubtedly recognize is Steven Spielberg.

Stintin_movie_posterpielberg is the director behind the motion-capture animated film The Adventures of Tintin. Motion capture is where actors wear sensors on their bodies that will be read by computer programs that convert the performances into animation. (Admittedly, it’s not quite that simple.)

In the past, the major flaw in motion-capture animation was the emotionless, thousand-yard stare of the characters, most notably on display in the film The Polar Express. Tom Hanks as a charmless, robotic zombie is not good.

No need to fear, there is none of that disconnection in The Adventures of Tintin. In terms of emoting, the expressions and connection with the eyes is realistic and not distracting.


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unicorn_3The plot of The Adventures of Tintin is taken from one of the most popular comic books written and drawn by the Belgian artist Herge (pen name for Georges Prosper Remi) called The Secret of the Unicorn. The film mostly adheres to the plot of the comic book although it moves sequences around, adds characters and takes a few liberties. (In the film, Tintin meets Captain Haddock for the first time, while in the comic book they are old friends.)

As with most great adventures there is a secret map and a lost treasure. As it turns out a model ship called The Unicorn that Tintin (Jamie Bell) buys at a flea market has a hidden treasure map that various nefarious characters would like to obtain from him either through purchase or by force if necessary.

One of the villains, Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig), claims to be a collector of model ships like the one Tintin has purchased. He in fact has an exact replica of the Unicorn and wants to collect a third. Just why it’s necessary to have all three is part of the mystery not to be spoiled here, but suffice it to say the chase for the third Unicorn leads to high adventure.

The Secret of the Unicorn was created in 1946 when audiences were not so politically correct. One of the most beloved characters is the hard-drinking Captain Haddock. Although it must have been tempting for Spielberg and the screenwriters Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish to back away from the alcoholism jokes, but to their credit the booze-obsessed Captain (Andy Serkis, Gollum from Lord of the Rings) has not been teetotaled in the translation. The creators must also have had an eye towards not offending the sensibilities of European audiences who would not appreciate the Americanization of Haddock.

Another area where Tintin has not been softened is in the gunplay and two-fisted negotiations. Although there is no blood to be seen, bullets and fists fly. The Tintin comic books hewed closely to the well-known world of detective mysteries and fortunately the movie doesn’t alter that perspective.

Fans of the comic books should not be disappointed in how the two-dimensional characters have been reinvented for 3-D. The Special Branch Detectives Thomson and Thompson (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg of “Sean of the Dead” fame) become even more humorously bumbling in three dimensions.

If you ever had a View-Master Viewer as a kid you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven. Spielberg has taken what he began with Raiders of the Lost Ark and goosed it up by being able to move the camera into angles and locations the physical world would not allow. One chase sequence in particular is spectacular.

tintin_rocket_2Tintin plots have proven to work for generations of audiences, so no one could accuse Spielberg of using 3-D as merely a gimmick to distract audiences from a bad script. Motion-capture was made for 3-D, especially in the hands of Spielberg.

Oftentimes animation voice-casting can be distracting because the actor’s voice is so distinctive it makes one think of the performer not the character. While Serkis enhances the character of Captain Haddock with his creative delivery, the voice-casting of Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig (James Bond), Nick Frost and Simon Pegg neither shines nor detracts from the movie as a whole.

Tintin fans will find lots of inside jokes in the film. The best is a cameo by the late Herge himself who plays a caricature artist doing a portrait of Tintin. And although she is not in the original Unicorn comic book there is an appearance by fan favorite Bianca Castafiore a.k.a. the "Milanese Nightingale".

Herge wrote a sequel to The Secret of the Unicorn called Red Rackham’s Treasure. Here’s betting that with $187,600,000 in foreign grosses alone Spielberg has one in mind too.

The Adventures of Tintin is rated PG with a running time of 107 minutes.

To view the trailer, click here.