Sunday, January 1, 2012

Movie Review: The Adventures fo Tintin

I have almost no experience with the character of Tintin. My only introduction to Tintin and his exploits came about through the HBO animated series that debuted back in 1991. I mention this for one reason. Without fail, every time I read an article about this movie I'd stumble across a handful of comments asking if someone would be able to enjoy the movie having never read the comics or watched the series. The answer to this question is a resounding yes.

Although there are plenty of "easter eggs" for longtime fans, newbies are given everything they need to know in the film's first few minutes. Created by Belgian writer and artist, Hergé, Tintin is a journalist always on the lookout for the next big story. Aided by his faithful Fox Terrier, Snowy, Tintin regularly finds himself neck-deep in danger while trying to get to the bottom of things. Assisted by a colorful bunch of supporting characters, Tintin uses his intellect, and, more often than not, his fists, to get the story and save the day.

When the movie opens, Tintin and Snowy are shopping at an outdoor market where Tintin purchases a model of a 17th Century naval warship. Shortly after making the purchase, he is approached by two shady individuals offering to buy the model from him. He refuses and takes it home to put on display. After getting the model home, Snowy inadvertently breaks it, and a small cylinder slips out containing a miniature scroll with a cryptic message. Intrigued, Tintin attempts to decipher the scrolls message, learning that it is actually part of a three-piece set. Unfortunately for him, he's not the only one interested in the scroll's message. Tintin quickly finds his house broken in to, a messenger shot on his doorstep, and then finds himself kidnapped by one of the shady individuals from the market. For the rest of movie, Tintin, Snowy, and their fellow abductee, Captain Haddock, attempt to escape their captors and solve the mystery of the hidden scrolls.

As soon as the credit sequence began I knew I was going to enjoy this movie. At first glance they seem simple. Tintin, Snowy, and other well-known characters from the series are shown in silhouette running through the text and interacting with the landscape. Upon closer examination, you'll notice that the characters are actually acting out a story. Tintin and Snowy are chasing a thief, culminating in his apprehension. I thought this was really inventive and served as a nice introduction to the character and the type of story the movie was going to tell. It was as if you were given two movies in one.

Not only were the credits entertaining, but they showed me how little I knew about who was actually involved with this project. I knew the movie was directed by Steven Spielberg, but I was happy to learn that it was produced by Peter Jackson and the screenplay was written by Steven Moffat (of Doctor Who fame), Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. When I realized that this movie was put together buy such an all-star team of producers, writers and director, I had no worries about whether or not I was going to enjoy this film.

The movie was shot using motion capture CGI, with the 3D CGI handled by Peter Jackson's Weta Digital. The animation is flawless, and the backgrounds and characters feel as real as anything you'll see in live action. The realism is almost unsettling. It's difficult to watch this movie and not get the feeling that you are seeing the next stage in film evolution. Will we see the day when all movies are filmed with this technology, perhaps even using the likenesses of actors and actresses who have long since passed? I'm not sure, but these possibilities notwithstanding, this type of animation allows writers and directors to create situations and action sequences that would be next to impossible to produce in live action, all the while allowing them to feel "real" and organic. For example, there is a chase sequence towards the end of this movie that made me drool. You see elements of it in the trailer. Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock are chasing a falcon through the streets of Morocco on a motorcycle while being pursued by their one-time captors. Dogs are leaping, birds are flying, bullets are coming from every which way, pedestrians are dodging everything, it was like an action film ballet. This sequence would have been a logistical nightmare to shoot in live action, not to mention the cost. Animation allows you to dream big. This scene alone is worth the price of admission.

The film boasts a pretty stellar cast, including Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Everyone does a fine job, especially Pegg and Frost as the incompetent detectives of Scotland Yard, Thompson and Thompson. They are responsible for many of the movie's laugh-out-loud moments, imbuing this action adventure film with some much needed comic relief. There is one actor, however, that deserves special consideration: Andy Serkis. This guy is a triple threat. He's done live action, motion capture, and voice work, and he does it all extremely well. To me, Serkis is one of the most highly underrated, and under appreciated, actors in the business. His Captain Haddock runs the gamut of emotions. He's funny, he's angry, he's confident and he's self-conscious. He's the character you root for, even above Tintin. The movie is his story, and Serkis carries it effortlessly.

Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself while watching this movie. It was a fun, action-packed mystery that kept you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. While suitable for almost everyone, there is some gun play so you may want to brings kids that are at least 10 years old. If you have the opportunity, you should definitely run out and see this movie out. You won't be disappointed.


Tressina Bowling said...

This was by far one of my favorite films of 2011. It was flawless in my eyes and I can't wait to watch it again. And I also agree with Andy Serkis being highly underrated. I cringe when people say, "Who?" after I mention him being in a film.

djbow2 said...

Andy Serkis should be as much of a recognizable household name as Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt. He is truly a flawless actor.

Christopher John (@Christopher2814) said...

It always surprises me how dismissive people are of voice acting and motion capture performances. Some of the best performances I've seen have come in these forms.

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