I’ve been waiting to see this a while now, but I got confused with the release dates – Spain had it months ago, and some places still have yet to screen it, despite the fact that this Belgian-crafted idea was made into a feature film by Americans. Weird. Having been out of action from the cinema for a while now, I figured it would be an ideal opportunity to get back into the comfy seats of the local multiplex. Tintin originated as a Belgian animated comic series in the mid 20th century, and became an icon of Belgian culture. The legacy of Tintin has been relatively quiet, and I was quite surprised to hear that Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg had decided to make a movie about it. How does it all fare?
The story starts out not with a bang, but a whimper. In a day when we watch films that usually begin with epic explosions or battles leading up to the main narrative, here we start in a market place. We are shown the original pictures of all the characters from the original comics for added nostalgia. Then five minutes in, you’re already worried about getting lost in the increasingly expanding narrative.
The film tells the story of young journalist Tintin, who – along with his pet dog Snowy – has a pretty respectable repertoire with his local Belgian townsfolk. One day, in a market place, he spots a model of a ship called ‘The Unicorn’ and makes the purchase. No sooner has he done this, several shady characters turn up demanding for custody of the model. Naturally, Tintin investigates, and it’s not long before we have police agents, sailors, legends, myths and maps all thrown into the fray in the search of – you guessed it – long lost treasure.
I found the pace quite slow to start with – despite a lot of characters being introduced all at once, nothing much really happens. You realise this is an odd little movie that isn’t your usual CGI film – the characters are odd, the humour is close to corny, and the whole things seems a little bit old fashioned. But then you get the joke – that’s the whole point. The trailer had me expecting something a little more modern, but in fact this film is more of a homage to grand old days of the ‘ripping yarns’ than something striving for innovation.
Anyone who’s played Tomb Raider or been on some of Spielberg’s previous exploits with Indiana Jones will find themselves in very familiar waters here. This film is aimed at children, but there have been children’s films of late that have proven equally engaging with adults alike. For me, this is not so much one of them – you’ll remain five steps ahead of Tintin more or less throughout the entire film.
The script gave the impression of a character-driven film, yet we find out hardly anything about the past history or exploits of the protagonist. The film later becomes centrally focused around Captain Haddock and his past history with another man chasing the treasure called Sakharine. We learn all about these two in quite a lot of detail, meaning that when the danger comes a-calling, we care more about what happens to them then we do about the main character. This was a fault – if anything, the film started descending into the narrative way too quickly. The model ship makes it’s debut about three minutes in, and it’s all guns blazing straight from the off.
Despite being a rather archaic form of story telling though, the CGI is amongst some of the best I’ve ever seen – even good enough to rival Avatar. This film was a human study – facial features and water effects really are spectacular, with the pinnacle of the work going into a motorbike chase that takes place cutting through a shanty town that is slowly being flooded by a broken dam – right from the top down, in one continuous five minute long shot. Indeed, special effects have come a long way since Tintin was first created.
I had fun watching this movie, but it left a lot out that I felt could have definitely been beneficial. There are a couple of gaping plot holes, and the infamous Thompson and Thomson characters (voiced by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) are painfully underused, serving only to randomly appear to get Tintin out of a pickle when he conveniently needs them. The narrative and CGI go to great lengths to create a realistic setting, only for Snowy to have complete flights of fancy and adventures that are just too elaborate to make any sense.
In a nutshell, this is a good enough film that can take you back in time to an older version of storytelling, where the humour is cheesy, and the adventure is old-school. However this movie has been done a hundred times before, and in most cases, much better. Despite the great CGI and the loyalty to the origins, this film really needed a creative twist to make an impact on a modern audience. What’s left is a nice film that wont set your world alight, but passes the time comfortably.
7 / 10