The Adventures of Tintin

Movie Information

The Story: Boy reporter Tintin and the frequently intoxicated Captain Haddock go on a search for the lost treasure of Haddock's ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock. The Lowdown: It's beautifully crafted -- if you don't mind motion-capture animation -- and blessed with technical wizardry and visual invention, but dramatically, there's not much here.
Genre: Motion-capture Animated Adventure
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Cary Elwes, Nick Frost, Toby Jones
Rated: PG

OK, here’s the problem: I detest motion-capture animation. Not only does it seem like the filmmakers can’t decide whether to make a cartoon or a live-action film, but it has the unfortunate effect of turning the human face into this rubbery, mask-looking thing that makes the entire film seem like it’s populated by the Wayans Brothers in White Chicks. And while a lot of people are bound to disagree, I don’t see that Messrs. Spielberg and Jackson have made it look any better than the format’s chief practitioner, Robert Zemeckis. It’s not my only problem with The Adventures of Tintin, but it is the major one.

That said, I suspect I was never likely to be wowed by the film. I have never so much as glanced at a Tintin comic and have no vested interest in them, so there’s no built-in appeal. Now, it will be argued that that makes me ill-equipped to judge the film. Yes, it makes me ill-equipped to judge it as a Tintin movie. However, it does not make me ill-equipped to judge it as a film—and, frankly, if a movie cannot stand on its own merits, it’s done something wrong. And on this score, I found Tintin pretty unsatisfactory in that it gave me no reason to care about Tintin (Jamie Bell). For that matter, it never made anything about him very clear. To the uninitiated, it’s hard not to get the sense that Tintin just a boy reporter mixed with Young Indiana Jones.

This is not to say that I think Tintin is a bad movie, though I personally found its nonstop action too hyperactive to be engaging. There’s a barebones plot concering the search for the treasure of a ship commanded by Captain Haddock’s (Andy Serkis) ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock (also Serkis), while the villainous Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig)—descendant of Sir Francis’ enemy Red Rackham (also Craig)—intends to get the treasure for himself. Though it’s embellished with this and that—like finding the three scrolls that lead to the treasure—that’s about all the actual plot there is.

The primary raison d’etre for the movie is its never-ending procession of action sequences. I’d be the last person to fault these scenes as concerns their technical mastery. They’re quite marvelously achieved. Plus the attention to detail—and not just the action scenes—is little short of breathtaking. I have the deepest admiration for the film on that score. But rather than finding all this exhilarating, I found it exhausting and finally a little tedious. Oddly, I do not necessarily mean this as any kind of broad condemnation of The Adventures of Tintin. I feel pretty certain that a lot of people will enjoy all this, and will in fact be dazzled by the film’s cleverness and visual inventiveness. I’m simply not among them. Rated PG for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking.


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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4 thoughts on “The Adventures of Tintin

  1. Vince Lugo

    Having never read the comics until recently, my primary experience with Tintin before now was HBO’s Tintin cartoon series, which at the time seemed marvelously quirky to me when I had otherwise been raised on Ninja Turtles, Thundercats, Transformers and the like. I recently revisited the cartoon series and it was just as good as I remembered, so the film did not disappoint me in the slightest. As a piece of pure, escapist entertainment, I feel that Tintin is the best film of that type to come along in years. It reminded me very much of the old 1930s adventure serials, which is entirely appropriate since that’s when the comics first began. In a world where Michael Bay rules the action movie genre and pop culture in general is getting increasingly more shallow every year, it’s refreshing and satisfying to see something old-fashioned like this and for that, if nothing else, Spielberg and Jackson should be highly commended. Spielberg has confirmed that there will definitely be sequels (he envisioned it as a trilogy from the start), so I shall look forward to that with great anticipation.

  2. Edwin Arnaudin

    Tintin:me :: Hugo:Ken and Justin

    I’m thrilled to have found my 3D film of 2011.

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