Film: 'The Adventures of Tintin - The Secret of the Unicorn'; Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost; Director: Steven Spielberg; Rating: ** 1/2
The sheer thrill of seeing one's favourite childhood comic being transposed on to a different medium (film) combined with technology and the best of hands from Hollywood surely sets one's expectations soaring. Steven Spielberg's 'The Adventures of Tintin' features superb animation and the most refined use of motion capture technology thus far.
This film attempts to bond three different Tintin stories -- most notably 'The Secret of the Unicorn' (which is the film's subtitle) as well as 'The Crab with the Golden Claws' and 'Red Rackham's Treasure'.
What 'The Adventures of Tintin' boils down to is essentially an Indiana Jonesesque movie, and is very much in that vein; a rollicking tour around the globe, hunting for mysterious treasures with various complex outcomes and action set pieces.
Set in the 1930s, Tintin's (Jamie Bell) adventure starts at a market place in Brussels. A few seconds after he purchases a miniature sailing ship he gets exorbitant offers to sell it off. He learns that the miniature is a replica of a 17th century sailing ship called the Unicorn.
Apparently the Unicorn was navigated by Captain Haddock's (Andy Serkis) ancestor and was carrying huge treasures in its vaults when it was raided and sunk by the pirates. This ancestor was the only person who knew the exact location of the sunken treasures. So he left behind a clue on a parchment in the three identical miniatures of the Unicorn.
Mild humour is infused in this film by the bumbling police officers Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) and Tintin's faithful canine Snowy.
The treasure hunt takes Tintin along with Captain Haddock through exciting and visually delightful chases. Easily the most stunning and ambitious of these is a chase through the streets of a Moroccan port. They are chasing a mysterious man by the name of Sakharine (Daniel Craig) who is also trailing the Unicorn treasure. The sequence is about five minutes long and is conducted in one single, unbroken shot which, given the ludicrous ambition, complexity and pacing of the action, would have been simply impossible if the film had been live action.
It also takes place in a photo-realistic environment, which gives the sequence a physicality that should be at odds with the exaggerated characters, but actually heightens the tension and excitement of the whole scene.
Robert Zemeckis' design and creation of this film knocks anything he has attempted before. Zemeckis' earlier films, 'Polar Express', 'Beowulf' and 'A Christmas Carol' failed to create that photo realistic version of humanity, because trying to motion capture and animate real people in that photo realistic way just makes humans look plastic and dead behind the eyes. Here there is a valid reason for this use. It could be done in no other way.
The animation is attempting photo realism but still has that cartoonish quality. They have the Herge tropes, the funny noses and weird hairstyles. Captain Haddock still looks like Captain Haddock from the comics but it's Haddock as if he were a real life being.
That technique, however, is incredibly effective, and never distracting.
Unfortunately the sequences aren't the most inventive. Beyond its gorgeous visuals the film resembles a conflation of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean' with John Williams's music always on the point of bursting into the Indiana Jones triumphal march, the film has very little to offer and it is a great shame.
Discussing Tintin's action sequences makes it sound like it's little more than a series of set pieces strung together around a wafer-thin plot.
The script is, quite frankly, all over the place, chock full of ellipsis which can sometimes be very helpful to a film but here it is just lazy and sloppy. The talented trio, Joe Cornish, Steven Moffat (of Doctor Who fame) and Edgar Wright haven't done a very good job of covering the exposition. The plot depends heavily on too-perfect coincidences. It sets out to deliver thrills, spills and chills with as little extraneous stuff as possible, and at that it succeeds beautifully. Also, the dialogue delivery, I am sure would be an issue for the Indian audience.
This grand scale adventure story directed by Spielberg is a clean family film pitched to a much younger audience, probably those below eight years, for the slapstick comedy and good natured fun that does not resort to crass, lowest common-denominator pandering.
There are some very good parts in the film, but as a whole this film is disappointingly unremarkable.
Blistering Barnacles!!! Thundering Typhoons... My heart breaks to say so....