Movie Review: The Adventures of Tintin

By Matthew Huntley

January 2, 2012

Amazing Race has proven that Americans don't know who this guy is.

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Outside of the Bagghar chase sequence, and after the initial mystery and intrigue of the plot is set up, Tintin more or less boils down to a series of standard action scenes, the kind we’ve seen in other Spielberg and Hollywood fantasy-adventure movies. It pains me to write this, because I can only imagine the level of difficulty involved in making a movie like this and because Spielberg has obviously poured his heart and soul into it. But these aren’t enough, nor are the 3D or motion capture animation. Perhaps I’ve become so indoctrinated by these formats that it takes a completely original narrative to make them stand out, though I’m still not convinced it had to be filmed this way in the first place. Did Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson see something I overlooked in the way motion capture might have enhanced the story? Did it allot them liberties live action couldn’t? If Indiana Jones could be played by a real actor on real sets, and be so much more effective, why couldn’t Tintin?

For me, the problem with most motion capture is in the eyes and how they still seem to move independently of the actor’s body. As a result, the characters appear as doll-like creatures instead of humans and their motion feels unnatural. Not that it has to be 100% realistic, but these flaws draw negative attention to themselves. Only “Avatar” seems to have gotten this aspect of the format right.


And is it just me, or is Tintin himself a bland hero? Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but he’s rather dry and vanilla and part of me just didn’t care about him. Whether or not he’s like this in the comic book series makes no difference, because on film, we need a conduit into the story that’s interesting and dimensional, but Tintin leaves much to be desired. He’s not terribly charming or funny and we don’t know much about him. What are his weaknesses, fears or desires? The screenplay by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish doesn’t bother to develop his character beyond what the plot requires, but they should know that once a connection to the hero is established, we become much more invested in what happens in the story in general.

I’m giving The Adventures of Tintin a negative review, yet I hardly think it’s a bad movie. It simply doesn’t bring enough fresh or original moments to the table. The movie has plenty of energy, ambition and innocence to be enjoyed by younger viewers who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark or the like yet, but when they do, Tintin will likely seem pale in comparison. Perhaps it’s because I’m not familiar with the source material, which is much more popular in Europe, that the movie wasn’t able to win me over. But even that shouldn’t matter. As an admirer of the filmmakers and the genre, Tintin simply didn’t pay off the way I’d hoped. If it’s any consolation, I recognize that it tries very hard.

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