The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

Clues in a newspaper?

Clues in a newspaper?

The Adventures of Tintin was clearly the movie Steven Spielberg always wanted to make. In fact, he already did before, in the form of the four Indiana Jones movies. Herge’s graphic novel character, however, was one that would have been impossible to translate into alive action movie. Multiple animated adaptations have been made, but Spielberg decided it was his turn in 2011.

Having read the majority of the Tintin graphic novels (barring Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and the very controversial Tintin in the Congo), I very much wanted to see this movie, but somehow missed it when it came out last year. Now that it is up on Netflix, I finally got around to seeing it.

It follows the titular Belgian journalist (Jamie Bell) and his dog Snowy (or Milou as he was known in the original French-language version) as he stumbles upon an adventure after buying a model ship from an antique salesman. He then becomes involved in the feud between Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig).

The movie’s plot was an amalgamation of the Tintin graphic novels The Secret of the Unicorn and The Crab with Golden Claws. There were some liberties taken with the original source material to make the story more streamlined, but I was happy with the result overall, and I think any fellow Tintin fanboy would feel the same way. One scene I can think of off-hand is in an early scene in Tintin’s home office, Spielberg throws in some loving shots of newspaper clippings, each one with a reference to Tintin graphic novels, such as Cigars of the Pharaoh or King Ottokar’s Sceptre.

The care put into the movie itself also shows a lot of love and attention. The first thing I noticed was the movie’s computer graphics animation, and I will say it looked absolutely phenomenal. The character designs were updated from Herge’s illustrations to make them more lifelike. In any promotional still, you can see the painstaking attention put into things like individual hairs on Tintin’s head. However, promotional stills will not at all be able to show what the animation was like when the movie was in motion.

The action scenes were over the top, many cut from the same cloth as Raiders of the Lost Ark. Many scenes were made as one continuous shot with the camera following the characters. A memorable scene has Tintin ride a motorcycle while chasing Sakharine, have his motorcycle destroyed as he makes a jump, then ziplines across a clothes line with his motorcycle’s handlebars and continues from there. Words cannot describe how incredible the whole scene was.

Even besides the action sequences, I saw how Spielberg made sure even things like how characters casually walk were realistic.

The Adventures of Tintin also sounded every bit as good as it looked. John Williams wrote a stylish score for the movie, and the characters were impressively voiced. Jamie Bell did a fantastic job as the titular journalist. I thought it was interesting how Andy Serkis gave Haddock a Scottish accent, which I have not heard before in other animated adaptations. I did not really imagine Sakharine to sound like James Bond, but I really liked hearing Daniel Craig in the role. However, my favorite performances were that of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost of Hot Fuzz fame as Thompson and Thomson.

Ultimately, I think this would have been a more fair review if I wasn’t as familiar as I am with the graphic novels. While the movie did not really assume familiarity with the characters and thus built everyone up, I am not entirely sure how much someone who isn’t a fan of Tintin would get out of it. Still, The Adventures of Tintin is the single best movie I have seen that was animated by Dreamworks (the animation demonstrated itself to finally be possibly a competitor to what Pixar makes) and in general one of the best western animated movies I have seen recently.

Score: 4/4