No healthy European childhood is complete without the adventures of the young globe-trotting journalist Tintin and his dog Snowy. I own a few of his comic book adventures and still remember so many details from them. As a kid (and even now) I find the stories are so much more interesting and humorous than anything most American comics produce so a new 3D CGI film from one of America’s greatest directors is an interesting prospect. As a fan I could not miss this.
Young journalist Tintin (Jamie Bell) buys a model of a 17th Century ship named the Unicorn, the source of fantastic legends. Hidden inside the ship is a clue to a great mystery involving a lost fortune and pirates. Also on the trail of the treasure is Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig), a model ship collector with dark secrets. Tintin and his faithful dog, Snowy, embark on a quest that unites him with drunken seadog Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) whose ancestor Sir Francis Haddock was Captain of the Unicorn and with help from the Thompson twins (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) they unravel a historical globe-spanning mystery.
I instantly fell in love with the gorgeous and highly detailed backgrounds which exude a sense of real depth whether it is a spectacular a sea battle between The Unicorn and The Red Pennant library with chairs and chandeliers and balconies the world or a created is visually stunning and one of the best to utilise 3D since Avatar.
There is a fluid, dynamic camera that captures the action wonderfully and the characters within the world, although disconcerting at first, grew on me and I came to enjoy the physical comedy and the rough and tumble action that reminded me of Spielberg’s magnificent Indiana Jones series. It may lack the heft of physical actors but I wager few will resist Serkis’s turn as Haddock as he crashes around drunkenly.
Handling the script is a who’s who of UK fan-boy world with film directors Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) collaborating with Doctor Who writer/show-runner, Steven Moffat. From the start there is a spot the reference game with a credit sequence that references all of the Tintin comic book covers and culminates by paying tribute to Spielberg (Tintin’s hair emerges from water like shark fin) and Herge himself.
Plot wise the film lashes together three different books and it tumbles along with little room for breath which some may find tiring. A lot of stuff happens and it is like consuming a giant cake by yourself but with Spielberg at the helm it is a wonderfully fun confection to dive into and it is a more than sufficient adaptation of the classic tales. Character development follows a simple arc but its pleasurable and the interactions ring true. What really shines is the dialogue which has the thumbprints of Moffat all over it as so much has the ring of the verbal quick-fire lines of the Doctor which the cast deliver with aplomb,
Jamie Bell is dynamic as Tintin, Serkis is humorous with a broad Scottish accent, Pegg and Frost capture the amusing bumbling Englishness of The Thompson twins but it is Craig who gives the best vocal performance with a perfect line in sneering English aristocratic arrogance.
Overall I enjoyed the film a lot and I consider it one of the best of Spielberg’s latest releases as it reminds me that few directors that can do such fun action-adventures as he can. It is one that both children and adults will enjoy and I highly recommend it.
The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn 3D
Released: 26th October 2011
Running time: 109 mins.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Daniel Craig, Toby Jones