Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Review of The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)


From the moment I heard that Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson were planning a trilogy of Tintin movies I was absolutely overjoyed. I wanted to see this in the theatre and I wanted to see it in 3D, because next to Sherlock Holmes, this was my single most anticipated movie of the wintertime. What do I think about it now having seen it? I freakin' loved it. This was an awesome movie through and through. It was clever, it was entertaining, it was extremely well-animated, and it was quite funny as well (being written by Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz). It's also one hell of a consolation prize considering that Spielberg's last directorial venture, the fourth Indiana Jones film, totally sucked ass. Since I have read several Tintin comics (my dad being a huge fan), the viewing experience was all the more rewarding and I am so glad that the filmmakers took this seriously. I also hope that this film (and any sequels it may spawn) will introduce the Tintin comics to a wider audience because they really are quite good.

From the minute I saw the opening credits for this movie (which were obviously drawn from another great Spielberg film, Catch Me If You Can) I knew it was going to be awesome. There were several references to other Tintin adventures that my dad pointed out to me, and there are other references in the form of newspaper clippings in Tintin's apartment which fans of the comics will certainly find fun. The story proper starts in a crowded city square in what I assume is Belgium where Tintin buys a model of a really cool-lookingship called the Unicorn. Several people try to buy it off of him and one random American guy tells him he is about to walk into a whole mess of danger.

That statement turns out to be true after Snowy (Tintin's dog) accidentally damages the ship and Tintin comes home to find it stolen. The same American man shows up at his door and says that his life is in danger. He and Tintin are promptly shot at and we don't see the American for the rest of the movie. Meanwhile, two detectives by the name of Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) are on the trail of a pickpocket who ends up stealing Tintin's wallet. This is important because Tintin finds a hidden scroll in the model boat containing a seemingly cryptic poem. Thompson and Thomson serve as comic relief throughout the film (not that the film is deadly dramatic in nature, but those two are the most obvious comic relief).

After reading up on the boat, which was seized by pirates on its first voyage and was purported to have been carrying secret cargo. This secret had only been handed down to the descendants of the captain, Francis Haddock, and it is said that it will take a true Haddock to find the secret of the Unicorn, which is a title drop for one of the three comics that has been amalgamated into the film's story. The other two are Crab With The Golden Claws, where most of the stuff on the ship (as well as Tintin's first meetings with Thompson/Thomson and Haddock) and Red Rackham's Treasure, which is everything that happens during the second half of the film, combined with Secret of the Unicorn. Tintin goes to the dilapidated family manor of Haddock and discovers that there is more than one model ship after being confronted by one of the seemingly unassuming men who tried to buy the ship off of him (a man named Sakharine, played by Daniel Craig). Tintin is later kidnapped by Sakharine and held prisoner on his ship, the SS Kharaboudjan.

It is on this ship that Tintin meets the second lead character and last descendant of the Haddocks, Captain Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis). Haddock is the last descendant who can figure out the secret of the Unicorn, but it's too bad that Haddock is kept in a state of permanent drunkenness by Sakharine, who turned all his crew against him. Haddock cannot remember a single thing about the Unicorn that his grandfather told him on his deathbed. Haddock and Tintin eventually escape the ship, which is headed to the location of the third scroll, which will lead to the sunken treasure that went down with the Unicorn. I won't give away any more, but what follows is an international chase to find the scrolls with several large action set pieces taking place along the way.

These action set pieces are handled extremely well and make for some of the best chase scenes that I have seen not just this year, but in any movie (whether animated or live-action). Spielberg does some cool things with scene transitions, like zooming into something like a puddle of water or the lens of someone's glasses and then transitioning into another scene, and gets some epic tracking shots in that seem near-impossible for a live-action movie let alone an animated one. What results is some of the best cinematography I have ever seen. The chase scenes are excellently staged and a ton of fun to watch, and even though some scenes were a bit too up close and personal (if you see the movie you know what I'm talking about), that made for some excellent usage of 3D (which i will get to later) and overall, it wasn't a huge problem. The panoramic shooting style of the film also enables the audience to see the immaculate amount of detail put into the backgrounds.

This film is definitely one of the few films since, say, December 2009, that is worth the money to see in 3D. Unlike most 3D movies that just ignore the potential of the medium entirely or just use it to fling a few things at the audience, Spielberg and WETA Digital actually use the medium to the film's advantage, creating some interesting depth of field and giving the audience a more personal look at the chase scenes. There is stuff that pops out at the audience but it's not in the obvious way that I like to call the ping-pong effect. When things pop out at the audience, it is more panoramic and less obvious. For example, when Snowy attacks the cat that sneaks into Tintin's apartment and knocks over the boat, the scroll falls out and rolls under Tintin's desk. It pops out at the audience, but it seems very natural. Needless to say, the extra few bucks is definitely worth it, as this film has some of the best 3D I've seen in any movie, proving Spielberg as another director that can handle the medium and that animation will always be a better format to present 3D.

Speaking of the film on a visual scale, the animation is absolutely superb, both in the character design and the magnificent backgrounds. I swear, if Jamie Bell and Andy Serkis were not doing motion capture and just played their characters themselves and the same backgrounds were used, I would swear they were real. Everything from the water to the individual grains of sand to the individual strands of hair is brilliantly animated and the meticulous work put into the animation is simply commendable. The film is another triumph for WETA digital, and it is definitely the best-looking motion capture film made up to this point. Motion capture has definitely had a bad reputation, mostly due to Robert Zemeckis and his current obsession with it. Mocap can be used brilliantly for background animation, but when it comes to human animation, mocap characters can end up looking extremely creepy. Spielberg and WETA Digital together manage to avert this, because although the characters all have freakishly giant heads, they don't look very creepy. There is still lots of work to be done in the field of motion-capture animation, but if the remainder of the industry learns from WETA, there will be a lot more good mocap films in the future.

The acting is also pretty good. I was happy at the news that Jamie Bell was going to be Tintin, and he fit into the role beautifully. He also had great chemistry with the reigning king of motion-capture characters, Andy Serkis, who gives a hilarious performance as Captain Haddock. His performance also marked surprising dramatic depth and he made Haddock the interesting character that he is in the comics. I would love to see these two have mo re adventures in sequels, and I would love to see some of the characters introduced in the later books in future films. Thompson and Thomson were pretty funny, as Simon Pegg and Nick Frost always are, and Daniel Craig did a great job as the villain (which I find funny because Daniel Craig was also in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which also came out last weekend). Serkis and Bell were my favourites, and their partnership is definitely the core of the movie, but the film is peppered with affable performances throughout.

The difference between a good tentpole movie and a bad tentpole movie is that a good tentpole movie leaves audiences wanting sequels, and a bad tentpole movie leaves audiences dreading the sequels and getting pissed off when they happen because the original sucked. Overall, Tintin is a great tentpole movie and a brilliant movie altogether, and one of my favourite of Spielberg's works, if not my favourite. Fans of the comics will definitely enjoy this, although saying it would be pointless because fans of the comic books will likely have already seen this or will be seeing it soon. Fans of Indiana Jones will also like this movie and it can serve as a great consolation prize for those who didn't like the fourth Indiana Jones movie. I just saw this film not four hours ago and I already want to see it again, which really speaks to its quality. All in all, see Tintin if you want to watch one of the best movies of not only this year, but likely of the last three years. I'm almost certain that this will get a nomination for Best Animated Feature come Oscar time, and if it does, I think it has a lock.

10/10 -  Must See

1 comment:

  1. Terrific review, Rachel. I agree that this is a lock for best animation, one of the years best films. Great stuff.