Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin [2011]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-I) Roger Ebert (3 1/2 Stars) Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

The Adventures of Tintin (directed by Steven Spielberg, screenplay by Steven Moffot, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish based on the famed cartoon series by the same name created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi who wrote under the pen name of Hergé) is finally a truly great animated feature film both in terms of technique and story in a year of often very dismal ones.  The film represents Steven Spielberg's entry into 3D film making.  As such, it is certainly technically excellent (as was Martin Scorcese's recent film Hugo).  However, if both of these films are going to be remembered as "setting the bar" on a purely technical level to a new high, I consider Spielberg's Adventures of Tintin to have a far more enjoyable story than Scorcese's film.  Indeed, Tintin reminded me a lot of Spielberg's beloved Indiana Jones series with Tintin targeted to a somewhat younger audience.  Indeed, between Super-8 (released this past summer) and this film, I would say that Spielberg knows well the soul of a 12 year old.

So what's the story about?  Tintin (voice by Jamie Bell), a boyish looking reporter with a trusted white dog named Snowy, sees and buys a beautiful replica of a 17th century "Man of War" sailing warship named "The Unicorn" from a street vender.  Neither he nor the vender think much of it as Tintin hands over his cash to buy the replica at a modest and fair price.  Yet almost immediately after purchasing model boat, not one but two separate people offer to buy the boat from Tintin at several times the price he had just paid for it.  The exasperated street vender sighs: "Just my luck, I've been trying to get rid of this model boat for years and the minute I sell it all kinds of people are now fighting to buy it!"  The first potential buyer of Tintin's newly acquired model boat warns Tintin that if he doesn't get rid of the boat quickly, it will only cause him trouble.  A second inquirer, a sinister looking-sounding man by the name of Sakrine (voice by Daniel Craig) promises Tintin after he refuses to sell it to him that he'll get the boat from him one way or another.  The question, of course, is why all the fuss over a model boat?

Intrepid Tintin takes his boat home, puts it on a cabinet in his room and then head-off to the library to read-up on the boat.  He finds that "The Unicorn" had been commanded by a Sir Francis Haddock (voice by Andy Serkis) on what had proven to be "one of the most cursed voyages in [maritime] history."  Apparently, the ship had been carrying an enormous load of treasure only to be attacked and sunk by pirates, Haddock had been the only survivor.  But afterwards, "no one of the descendants of Haddock had proven to be of any worth."  Finally, there was a legend that Haddock had somehow hidden the information regarding the lost treasure in a manner that "only a true descendant of Haddock" could find it.  It becomes apparent that somehow this model boat sported some sort of a clue.  But what would the clue be?  And how to go about finding "a true descendant of Haddock" to figure it out?  When Tintin and his dog return home, of course his flat had been ransacked but it becomes clear that the boat itself wasn't what the burglars were looking for.  So what was it that they were trying to find?

This all sets up a great scavenger hunt / mystery for a preteen mind and sets Tintin and his dog on an adventure spanning seas, continents and deserts (again, Indiana Jones with a cartoon face and a cute dog comes to mind ;-).  Among the people he meets are two "Interpol Agents" Thompson (voice by Simon Pegg) and Thomson (voice by Nick Frost) who are also "on the case," as well as a very "unworthy" seeming descendant of Sir Francis Haddock, also a captain (and also voiced by Andy Serkis) who when we meet him seemed to need to be drunk in order to think straight.  Much ensues ... Ah to be 12 again ... ;-)

Readers here would perhaps find interesting that review for the CNS / USCCB notes that The Adventures of Tintin originally appeared in the children's supplement of the Belgian Catholic Newspaper Le Vingtieme Siecle in 1929.  And Roger Ebert wrote in his review of the film that he became so enamored by Tintin since first hearing of him one year at the annual International Film Festival in Cannes that he's since "read every single book in the Tintin series and has even bought a Tintin and Snowy t-shirt."

I have to hand it to Spielberg, he knows how to please!  In a year of often very politically tendacious "kids movies" and a plethera of similarly forced/gimmicky "3D" forays, Spielberg made a 3D animated film WORTH WATCHING and probably worth paying the 3 extra dollars per ticket for the glasses.

Note: I continue to seek out 2D showings of 3D films.  However, from what I've saw, I could appreciate that THIS FILM could probably be worth seeing in 3D.  The shots in the film clearly lended themselves to taking advantage of the "depth" that 3D offers.

Still, I do hope that this 3D "fad" will soon come to an end.  Both 2D and 3D representational art have been with us since we began to paint on rock faces and cave walls and sculpt little figurines out of wood/flint.  Yet it's always been easier and cheaper to simply paint ... But as far as 3D films go, The Adventures of Tintin is certainly one of the better ones.

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