Well, it had to happen. We had to go see The Adventured of Tintin.
It’s in 3-D. I don’t know about you, but 3-D in the theatres is terrible. The new 3-D flatscreens are miles better. To top it off, the theatre was full of people trying to fill the emotional void left by boxing day, so the theatre was crowded and we were late to begin with. We had trouble finding seats. When we finally did get settled in, we were three rows from the front, so I’m now worried that I’ve given myself and my kids brain cancer. Then, to top everything off, about a quarter of the way through the movie, a teenage girl barfed all over her seat. She and her father left, but a moment later we were engulfed by the odour of vomit. So we had to move and find new seats. Somewhere amidst all this, I saw the movie and I will do my damn best to tell you what it’s like.
It’s live action/animated, using a technique called motion capture, but you already knew that. It’s directed by Stephen Spielberg; Jamie Bell, the kid from Billy Elliot, plays Tintin, and Andy Serkis (Gollum, Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes) plays Captain Haddock; Daniel Craig plays the bad guy who was unfairly engendered from a completely harmless character from the comics. But you already knew everything I’ve just told you. Is it a good movie? Does Spielberg et al do a reasonably good job tackling the mighty mythology that is Tintin?
Yes. Mostly. There are hiccups and misteps throughout, and there are a few too many horrendously intricate and incomprehensible action scenes, but on the whole the vehicle drives.
The racism, animal cruelty, and colonial patronizing of the original comics are largely gone, but that had to be done. The Thompsons are still there, and still inexplicable as ever (twins? Lovers? Colleagues? Members of a local make-work collective for the mentally handicapped? It’s never been explained). Captain Haddock is as gloriously dangerous and drunk as he has ever been.
The movie is a amalgam of The Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham’s Treasure, and The Crab with the Golden Claws, with an entirely new villain thrown in. The action has been upped, so that Tintin and the Captain have to discuss the complex plot (for the audience’s sake) while fighting bad guys and running for their lives.
But here it is in a nutshell: Tintin discovers a model ship called The Unicorn, which hides a secret, or part of a secret, that leads to buried treasure. He teams up with Captain Haddock, whose ancestor hid the treasure under the sea, and together they traverse the globe in a race with the bad guys to find the last piece of the puzzle.
As I mentioned before, the actions scenes are overdone, but there is one massive and exciting exception.
The best scene in the movie is when Red Rackham’s crew descends upon the Unicorn and a massive pitched battle breaks out. It’s three-dimensional in both imagery and concept as the brigands come at Sir Francis Haddock from all corners, as the pirate ship itself gets tangled in the Unicorn’s mast and swings back and forth like Calculus’s pendulum and everything, including Red Rackham’s cape, dances with flame. This battle sequence alone is worth the price of admission.
The movie ends with the possibility of a sequel, with Peter Jackson at the helm.
Steven Spielberg was a great admirer of Hergé, and Hergé was a great admirer of his. Both men are/were exponents of adventure storytelling and fantasy, and both men will be remembered and admired for generations. Hergé’s simple, shadowless drawings seem to become richer and more complex as time marches on, and Spielberg’s older works (ET, Duel, Jaws) shine more readily than anything done by James Cameron, because they were done with the same ephemeral and linear magic he shares with Hergé.
Now I’m going to wait, very patiently, for Spielberg and Jackson to tackle Asterix.