Monday, November 28, 2011

The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Herge's all time creation Detective/Journalist TinTin along with his faithful dog Snowy had wowed generation but can Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn have the same wow factor?....It definitely does.

Tintin (Jamie Bell) and Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship commanded by Haddock’s ancestor. But someone else is in search of the ship. Based on three of the earliest Tintin comic books: “The Secret of the Unicorn,” “Red Rackham’s Treasure,” and “The Crab with the Golden Claws.” The film is a joint effort between Spielberg and Jackson, with the former taking lead as director and the latter producing (roles which will supposedly be reversed for the sequel, should it come to pass). Jackson’s WETA workshop is also handling the visual effects, which involve live actors transformed into CGI cartoons via motion-capture performance.

The biggest question, however, is whether or not WETA can achieve the hard task of making humanoid CGI creations (even purposefully cartoonish ones) feel lively and real, instead of having the characters be stranded in that “valley of the uncanny,” in which the eye and mind struggle to accept that the CGI characters are actually believable humanoids. But it is pretty believable seeing as from my own experience, when I first saw its trailer I actually thought it was a live action not motion-captured animation at all. So WETA has definitely succeeded with the concept and not loose momentum (like Mars needs Moms).

Although only marginally popular in the U.S.A., Tintin to many readers worldwide (especially in Western Europe and the UK) what Batman and Spider-Man are to Americans: a comic book they discovered as kids, grew up with and continue to cherish. The brainchild of Belgian illustrator Georges Remi (aka Herge), the Tintin comics – originally published in French between 1930 and 1976 – have grown over the years into a multinational franchise that includes translations in dozens of languages, various animated films and TV series, two live-action movies, several theme stores, a museum and even a field of study known as “Tintinology.”
Tintin himself is far from your typical, butt-kicking crime fighter. If anything, his erudite approach to solving mysteries, along with a taste for escapades in the Middle East, Asia and Africa throughout the mid-20th century, make him a less brawny, more European counterpart to Indiana Jones, which is purportedly what first sparked Spielberg’s interest in bringing Tintin to the screen back in the early 1980s.

The script stays true to the spirit of the books and a hilarious Serkis as the drunken Captain Haddock, who at one point downs medicinal alcohol, makes for a fantastically unique hero in a family movie. The pace is well maintained and the story never seems to overstay its welcome, which is not the case with many recent blockbusters.John Williams’ score, which mixes moody 60s-style music with the composer’s more grandiose themes, accompanies events up through the rather ingenious finale (involving a massive duel where shipping cranes are transformed into sabers), before a cliffhanger sets up the next installment (to be directed by Jackson).

Now the mocap technique falls somewhere between live-action and animated moviemaking, the same can be said for the performances, which are altogether fluid yet sometimes give the impression of watching a very realistic video game with the sound turned up a few thousand notches. Serkis nonetheless manages to turn Haddock into what will surely be the trilogy’s most memorable personage, while Bell (Billy Elliot) makes Tintin about as interesting as he can be, which is to say sometimes less so than his dog. Thomson and Thompson, Edgar Wright regulars Nick Frostand Simon Pegg provide comic asides that will help adults stay in tune with material aimed at an audience younger than the teenage or twentysomething Tintin, even if this Belgian hero seems to be a model of PG undertakings.
Steven Spielberg’s direction is top-notch. He not just makes the film a thrilling ride but also infuses it with old-world charm and heartwarming emotions. Based on the series of books, the movie is full of clever moments, great action sequences, comedy and intrigue. The screenplay is such that the viewers’ interest is maintained throughout as it follows Tintin on his adventure. The characterisation of Captain Haddock, who goes from being a drunkard to reclaiming his courageous legacy, is brilliant. A couple of sequences involving the expert pickpocket, Silk, and the bumbling detective duo, Thomson and Thompson, bring a smile to the audience’s lips. 

More so, when the action shifts to the city of Bagghar, the viewer is treated to a thrilling ride as Tintin, Haddock and Snowy go on a fabulously choreographed chase. Sequences such as Tintin and Captain Haddock’s escape from the boat, Haddock’s narration of his grandfather’s war with the pirates and that of the climactic fight between Haddock and Sakharine are the highlights. The climax, which also hints at the film’s sequel, is good. The dialogues are very well-written and enjoyable.

Thus,as far as all the aspects of this introduction is concerned, Spielberg and Jackson will have no trouble selling the sequel to us as they have captured our imaginations with a serviceable Tintin introduction.


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