Tintin. Growing up in French immersion I was fortunate enough to be exposed to the series of graphic novels (which, as an art form, predates the existence of the popular graphic novel in north America by decades, if I remember correctly) from an early age. I enjoyed them immensely, they were amusing, could be a little witty, and the adventure was, well, ADVENTUROUS. Great memories. When I was in Paris I bought I have Tintin paraphernalia to hang on my walls while a small Tintin rocket sits on my desk near me.
So it was with great interest when I heard Tintin had been optioned for movies by Jackson and Spielberg. And also some trepidation. The trailers didn’t look too bad though, if a bit uncertain in the rendering style. Sunday was the day to go see it. So how did it turn out?
The good news is I don’t need to go down to LA to punch Spielberg in the face.
All in all, it was a pretty fine movie. It is a conglomeration of 2 stories/3 books, mainly Le Secret de la Licorne and Le Tresor de Rackam le Rouge (which were really one story split over two books) plus a small chunk from Le Crabe aux Pinces d’Or. (Interesting that Tintin didn’t meet Capitaine Haddock until the 8th book.) Like the books the adventure begins almost immediately and takes the cast all over and into various scrapes, conflicts, perils, triumphs and humour – so in this way the film is true to the source material. I came to the film with, obviously, a great affinity and knowledge for the characters so that it began with so little preamble didn’t bother me much although for those without the background in the series it may be a bit tougher to understand what’s going on or to make a connection to the characters.
As for the animation, I have to say, well done Weta Digital on your first foray into a fully rendered film. There are some scenes where I actually wondered if they were mixing live action with rendering, they looked that good, and thanks to mocap and a few other things the film rarely descended into the uncanny valley and avoided horrible zombie looking scenes or people. The timeslot in which I wanted to see the film only had it playing in 3D so I saw it then, and found myself enjoying the 3D (which is true 3d, being rendered in true 3D, not post-processed 3d as most live action movies are). Overall, there waere some great camera angles afforded by being a rendered film, and some 3D effects, such as dust hanging in the air, that were kinda cool. The 3D was not overused, so it was just kind of part of it all, which was nice.
There is a fatal flaw to this film, alas, and that is it’s nonstop desire to hit the accelerator and keep it mashed to the floor, all the while trying to throw out things to make it go even faster. There’s just too much action and intensity that keeps going on for too long, so much so that we become numb and the sequences actually start to lose their impact. Add to that this penchant of going over the top (including some things that’ll have you go “wait, that’s physically impossible”) and it starts to become a self parody rather than the great adventure flick it could be. If Spielberg had simply taken out about 20% of what he had in there – not necessary taking out scenes or sequences but through pacing, spacing and what he throws into those scenes – it would have been a more effective film.
Still, if going overboard is the film’s major flaw that’s not too horrible of a flaw. Capitaine Haddock might have also gotten a bit of a short shrift in his character development, or lack thereof, so that could count as a flaw as well…
Overall I really enjoyed this film. I found its adventure story one of the best (no surprise, coming from one of the best) I’ve seen for pure adventure (more effective for me than the adventure portion of Up), there are nice touches and homages to the original books, it looks good, it’s treated with respect, and we know a sequel is coming. I rate this film as Good, albeit with full disclosure of bias. Go see it, or better yet, grab the books, read ‘em and go see it. I’ve gotten the books again myself and am now enjoying reading them anew.