Leave it Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson to combine the aesthetics of the 1930s and 1940s serials they grew up on, the singular and distinctive artwork of artist and writer Hergé, and modern motion capture and 3D technology to make for a rip-roaring adventure of a movie; globe trotting, sea battles, car chases, shoot outs, mysteries, treasures, revenge, redemption – it’s all here, wrapped up in a very entertaining package known as The Adventures of Tintin.
Tintin (Jamie Bell, The Eagle, Undertow) is a journalist always looking for a good story, and he stumbles across one when he purchases a model of a ship and quickly discovers that other people want to get their hands on it as well, nefarious people who will do anything to get it. Being über-inquisitive, Tintin starts asking all the right questions and soon finds himself on an adventure to find a long-lost sunken treasure, and this adventure introduces him to new friends and enemies and sends him all around the world. Fortunately he has the help of his trusty dog Snowy and his new buddy, the alcoholic Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and this trio sets out to solve the mystery before their rival, the sinister and rather evil acting Sakharine (Daniel Craig, Cowboys & Aliens), who ends up having quite a history with Captain Haddock.
The Adventures of Tintin is a very fun movie, almost to the point of being lightweight, since the absence of any real political or social themes keeps things breezy and the lack of a threat to people or society as a whole makes the stakes feel a little small; after all, it’s really a race between two parties to obtain a vast treasure, and if the bad guy gets the treasure, then so what? He becomes rich and no one else knows about it and nothing really happens. It’s not really presented as the worse thing in the world for this guy to get this treasure. The audience is just depended upon to see this guy as a douchebag and our heroes as, well, our heroes, and hence we will root for Tintin and Haddock and against Sakharine just by default. This extra weight or added gravitas through a profound allegory is not necessary in a movie like this, nor would it necessarily make it better. But without it, it’s a breezy movie loaded with action.
And I mean loaded with action. Spielberg may have been afraid that people would get bored, because why else would this movie be filled to the brim with action scenes? Random shoot outs turn into car chases which turn into fistfights which turn into bravura escapes and it’s all kind of breathless – this is the Spielberg that shocked and awed audiences with the kinetic energy of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and since he is old school and intimately knows the language of cinema, his action scenes are all well put together and beautifully composed and presented to point of perfectionism, with the ultimate example being an extended chase scene through city streets and over rooftops, all presented in a singular, uncut sequence. And while people would argue this one-take is less impressive due to the movie being motion capture animation and not live action, those people are not taking into consideration the fact that the entire sequence still had to be conceived and executed and could have easily been a total uninteresting and uninspired flop of a scene, as opposed to the truly exciting and impressive sequence that is indeed featured in the film. Spielberg knows how to move and place the camera, even a virtual camera, in a way that best captures what’s happening in a scene, and this movie is no exception to that.
The Adventures of Tintin is a fun family movie, something people of just about all ages can appreciate, as the story is fun and quick moving, the characters are enjoyable, and Spielberg gives is all that final touch that he gives to his movies, making it as accessible and exciting as possible to everyone.
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