Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Premise: An adaptation of the comic book series. Investigative reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) investigates the mystery surrounding an ancient shipwreck.
What Works: The Adventures of Tintin sees the return of Steven Spielberg to the kind of popcorn adventure entertainment that he did so well early in his career. Over the past decade Spielberg’s forays into this familiar territory have had mixed results. This is partly due to Spielberg’s changing regard for violence. Films by the younger Spielberg, like Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom combined PG-entertainment with intense or frightening sequences and Spielberg was not afraid to traumatize his audience. As Spielberg began to make more mainstream human dramas that dealt with the realities of violence, such as Schindler’s List and Amistad, the director’s popcorn films sometimes suffered. Pictures like Hook and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull failed to reconcile Spielberg’s newfound sensitivity to violence with the peril necessary for an adventure story, resulting in films that were too soft or had absurd shifts in tone. The Adventures of Tintin is unique in Spielberg’s filmography because it allows the director to have the bloodless family friendly adventure that he’s been questing to make without sacrificing the integrity of the film. The Adventures of Tintin is a gentler version of the adventure stories Spielberg crafted in the Indiana Jones films but the story is told through motion capture animation, the same technique featured in films like The Polar Express and Beowulf. Because of that stylistic choice, the diegesis of the film has a little more flexibility and it includes the best of both animated and live action filmmaking. The animation gives Tintin the look of comic strip, and with that comes plastic and surreal qualities that audiences will accept in this form but not in live action, such as the anthropormphic qualities of Tintin’s dog and the elaborate stunts and physical comedy of the chase sequences. At the same time, the live action qualities of Tintin give the visuals a texture that makes the action scenes credible. This style also helps with Tintin’s colorful characters. There are a few interesting and enjoyable performances in the supporting cast including Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock and Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as a pair of bumbling British police inspectors.
What Doesn’t: The Adventures of Tintin is technically accomplished but it does lack in the story. The main problem is there is very little at stake. To again compare The Adventures of Tintin to the Indiana Jones films, the latter always had an object that was important to find and there would be dire consequences if it fell into the wrong hands. In Tintin the characters search for treasure but who gets it never has any larger consequences. The title character of Tintin is really uninteresting, especially in comparison to some of the supporting roles. He gets involved in the mystery for no apparent reason and his lack of motivation weakens the film as it goes on.
Bottom Line: The Adventures of Tintin is a satisfying adventure picture. It isn’t Spielberg’s best work but it is better than a lot of his recent popcorn films.
Episode: #371 (January 8, 2012)