The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

The Adventures of Tintin (2011) – So nothing about the trailer for this movie really grabbed me and said “JAKE, SEE THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW.” In fact most of it sort of indicated “wait for disc,” but there were some things that led me to believe there could be more to it than meets the eye. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Produced by Peter Jackson. Written by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), and Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock). That’s a hell of a pedigree so I figured “well I guess I will have to check this one out.” All in all, I’m glad I did. The Adventures of Tintin does not rank alongside the all-time great Spielberg movies (even though it aspires to a certain Raiders of the Lost Ark quality) but it is quite a bit of fun, and really that’s all I ask of my escapist entertainment.

Being American I can’t really claim any familiarity with the Tintin comics by Hergé. Tintin (Jamie Bell) is a young reporter who seems to stumble rather accidentally into a mystery involving a model ship and a shady character (Daniel Craig). The story involves pirates and ghosts and many other of your standard adventure components. It also features Andy Serkis, truly the Lon Chaney of motion capture, in a very entertaining sidekick role as Captain Archibald Haddock. Also there’s an amusing dog. And Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play twins. The character designs are a bit odd and is probably the main thing that puts people off from seeing this movie. The film-makers seem to be going for a kind of middle ground between exaggerated cartoon features and photorealistic rendering. The end result can lead a lengthy stay in the uncanny valley (for the unfamiliar, the “uncanny valley” refers to the discomfort people feel at simulations of humanity that come very close but fall a bit short).

Spielberg’s first foray into animation is a more-or-less successful one. True it isn’t perfect (as indicated in the previous paragraph) but Spielberg takes rather readily to the medium (though not as well as Gore Verbinski in Rango earlier in the year). Spielberg’s preference for epic large-scale visuals is served well by the ability to completely build the world himself without having to rely on things like locations or a physical camera that is limited in where it can move. Spielberg is a kid at play and that kind of energy is somewhat infectious. His first use of 3D isn’t as accomplished as his peer Martin Scorsese in Hugo, but some of the scenes really benefit from the sense of depth (while other waste the effect and appear flat). The Adventures of Tintin is not one of the best movies of 2011 or anything. It isn’t even the best Steven Spielberg film of 2011, but it is fun and worth checking out.

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