The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, 2011.
Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Starring Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Cary Elwes and Mackenzie Crook.
Intrepid reporter Tintin and the surly Captain Haddock search for a sunken treasure ship commanded by Haddock’s ancestor, but what shady forces look to get their way?
Tintin is a visual feast; a wondrous exploration of the boundaries of computer animation and performance capture. The titanic creative forces of Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Edgar Wright (writer/director of Shaun of the Dead), Joe Cornish (writer/director of Attack the Block), and Steven Moffatt (executive producer of Dr Who) all converge on the great Herge source material and bring it to life in an almost indescribable way.
Let’s travel back for a second to the wake of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. As Spielberg toured the film around Europe he repeatedly heard people saying that the film felt like Tintin. Having never heard of Herge or Tintin he quickly acquired the books and very shortly after reading he was inspired to purchase the filmic rights to the source material and developed a relationship with Herge, then his wife after his passing. Spielberg held onto the rights for several decades, deciding against bringing the stories to the screen because he was unable to manufacture that ‘Herge-aesthetic’.
Fast-forward to the recent past and Peter Jackson, a massive fan of the Herge novels and a digital technology pioneer, invited Spielberg to join forces with him to bring a potential Tintin trilogy to the screen.
The animation is nothing short of spectacular. It’s so clearly “Herge’ yet is able to feel more ‘real world’ than ever before. Spielberg’s directorial style shines through in the opening stanza of the film. Raiders and Tintin both open with our established and somewhat famous / infamous protagonist diving headlong into a mystery of epic proportions. The intimacy of the opening stanza shows off the detail of the animation. These animated constructs are as alive as their performance-capture counterparts. Spielberg unchained in the animated world is really an extension of his iconic style. Where his influences (e.g David Lean) shine through in his live action – Spielberg-style ‘animated’ has the scope of his eye catching set pieces infused with the boundless warmth of Chuck Jones classical Warner Bros. cartoons. The transitions between scenes alone are marvellous.
The characterisations from the motion capture performers in phenomenal. Jamie Bell’s Tintin captures the icon from the page but Andy Serkis’ Captain Haddock breaks out of the pages and into life stealing the show from start to finish. Haddock’s humour, drunken stumbling and perpetually precarious wandering (all for to ensure that he’s well and truly liquored up) make it very hard for the audience to not love every moment he’s on screen. Daniel Craig provides the motion capture villainy with Rackham – who looks (funny as it may seem) a little like Spielberg himself. The iconic Thomson and Thompson are assayed splendidly by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg (insiders know that Pegg took the Thompson with a ‘P’). They both relish in the shoes of the bumbling lawmen. They waddle around like lost ducks, firing their great confused chemistry in every scene and had me chuckling from the moment that I saw them.
This is definitely a film that you need to see at the cinema to truly appreciate the leaps in the medium. Don’t be fooled by the other CG animated fare at your multiplex – this is one for kids of all ages.
Blake Howard is a writer/site director/podcaster at the castleco-op.com. Follow him on Twitter here: @BLAGatCCO.