The Adventures of Tintin – Film Review

 

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost

Distributor: Paramount

This was always going to be a tricky one. The comics that chronicle the Adventures of Tintin were written by Belgian author Hergè from the 1930s up until the 1970s. Even today, they continue to enjoy worldwide fame as critically acclaimed pieces of literature. Making a high budget film adaptation was a dangerous task, because it needed to be faithful to its source material in order to appease the fans, but also had to be accessible enough so as not to alienate those who had never read the books before. Luckily, with master of cinema, Steven Spielberg, behind the helm, Tintin is a positively electrical adventure, that offers constant nods to it’s fan base.

Tintin bears a lot of similarities to Spielberg’s adventure film series Indiana Jones. As the title suggests, it is an adventure film, on as epic a scale as you would expect from Steven Spielberg. The action is family friendly, expertly handled, and at times quite intense. Set pieces are thrown on screen, one after the other, giving the audience only minimal time to breathe. For the most part, this is so engaging that you will hardly even be aware you are sitting in a movie theatre.

…for the most part, that is. The films’ opening act is its weak point (which, admittedly, is the best place to have a weak point in a film, if it has to have one). There is no question about how loyal Spielberg is to the films source material. There are a ridiculous number of sly nods to other books in the series. At many points in the books, Tintin would often have pages upon pages involving just himself and his dog, Snowy. Snowy would often act as a convenient character for Tintin to bounce his thoughts off of, just so that the reader was not isolated from the story. Whereas this functions perfectly in a children’s book, it is somewhat jarring to see someone speak so seriously to a dog on-screen.

As well as this, the focus on action somewhat detracts a bit from character development. Things progress so rapidly in the first few minutes, that Tintin himself isn’t given any real time to develop. As with the books, it is through his collective adventures that the reader/audience come to be familiar with Tintin, which makes it difficult to understand him as a character from the very beginning.

Whether this minor grievance was unavoidable or not, it is rectified beautifully in a very short space of time. Being aware that it is only through his adventures that the audience can get to know Tintin, the film pulls no punches. Tintin meets his long term ally, Captain Haddock, on a tanker ship during an adrenaline pumping escape from his captors. By the time this event has rolled around, you will be so swept up in the story that issues held previously will have all but evaporated.

The narrative of the film encompasses the three books The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. It remains quite faithful to each book, with some scenes lifted directly out of the pages and projected lovingly on screen, with almost identical framing. It also expands on aspects of the book, most notably on the relationship between Tintin and Haddock. This is done delicately, so that any added features or information feel like a natural expansion of the Tintin universe, and not simply filler material.

Aside from the action, the main focus of the film is on this fellowship of Tintin and Haddock, and it is a relationship that deserves every second of screen-time it gets. The straitlaced Tintin needs a character like Haddock, well meaning but hot tempered and bumbling, to rebound against in order to hook it’s audience. The banter they share throughout the film is consistently witty, and you’ll find yourself surprised by how much they have grown on you by the third act.

Other characters include Inspectors Thompson and Thomson, who are perfectly cast by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. More involved with a sub plot that ties in with the overarching narrative, they inject a solid dose of humour into the film. This is largely with a slew of visual gags and slapstick, making them welcome additions to the crew. Snowy, while only a dog, is still a fully fleshed out character just as he is in the books. He is given time to have his own little adventures, as dogs do, and captures the personality of his literary counterpart completely.

Speaking of the films aesthetic, all of the character animations and landscapes are beautiful to behold. Some concerns may have been raised early on with the choice of a cartoonish, yet simultaneously realistic, depiction of the Tintin world, but once seen in action, it is clear that it was the right move.

The Adventures of Tintin is a brave film, in that it takes a lot of chances, nearly all of which pay off. Spielberg pays homage to Hergè in the most respectful way possible, while adding many subtle touches of his own creativity and flair. It is an adventure worthy of his name, boasting fast paced action and an engaging story, capturing the feel of the books, as well as can be imagined. While the only real flaw is the lack of engagement with Tintin himself at the very beginning of the film, this is forgivable enough once the end credits have rolled. What’s more, it makes the future look pretty bright for the already planned sequel and an another adventure with the ginger quiff-ed journalist.

Score: 4/5

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