“The Adventures of Tintin,” directed by Steven Spielberg, is a rollicking, roaring adventure sure to captivate children and their parents the world over. Adapted from the Belgian comic book series created by Hergé, writers Stephen Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish have captured the innocence, adventure and intelligence of the irrepressibly and impossibly young investigative journalist who is the boy with the ginger-haired head fin. Working closely with Peter Jackson, who is on board to direct the sequel in what should be a three-peat, Spielberg and Jackson used motion-capture technology to create animation that truly leaps off the screen in the 3D format for which it was designed, giving life and breath to comic characters that close the gap between real and imagined.
When strolling an open air market one day, Tintin happens across a model of the Unicorn, a 16th century ship that was boarded by pirates in search of its hidden bounty of gold and jewels and subsequently destroyed by its Captain, Sir Frances Haddock, rather than give in to Red Rackham, leader of the murderous hoard. The moment the model is in Tintin’s possession, however, he is accosted by not one person offering to buy it back, but two. This, of course, makes him all the more interested in discovering what about this ship has attracted so much attention. Accompanied by his intrepid companion, Snowy the fox terrier, Tintin embarks on a journey that will find him kidnapped, stowed away on a ship where he encounters Captain Haddock, the last living relative of Sir Frances. It is only an original Haddock who can unlock the mystery of the treasure. Along the way they will encounter Ivan Ivanovich Sakharine, arch villain, Thompson and Thomson, the two most inept police constables yet seen, Silk, a pickpocket, who holds a critical piece of evidence, and many others.
The voice cast is superb, led by Jamie Bell as Tintin; the fabulous Andy Serkis, Captain Haddock, who seems to have a lock on motion-capture characters at the moment; Daniel Craig, the villainous, silky smooth Sakharine, also referred to as Monsieur Sugar Substitute; and the hilarious team of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Thompson and Thomson (think Oliver Hardy and Oliver Hardy) the hapless police inspectors. Special notice should also be given to the barking wonder, Snowy, the only traditionally animated character, a true wire hair fox terrier in temperament, loyalty and limited attention span. At story’s start, it often felt as though Tintin was Snowy’s intrepid companion rather than the other way around.
A film with as much heart as it has humor, the action and pacing never flag and you will find yourself laughing out loud one moment and grabbing the arm rest the next. There is a chase sequence over a Moroccan souk that rivals that of “The French Connection” and reminiscent of many of the exotic chase sequences in the various Indiana Jones adventures.
Never a fan of the original Tintin book series, I will now have to go back and look at it with the same fresh eyes that Spielberg did. His attention to the series was first attracted when a French critic compared “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to “Tintin.” Intrigued, he eventually optioned the series, intending to make a live-action film. Many years passed, as did the original option, until he again investigated making a Tintin film. It was Jackson who convinced him that animation, particularly the new motion-capture technique, was what would bring the series to life. Jackson was right.
In a sly tip of the hat, the opening credits of “The Adventures of Tintin,” done almost in the kind of silhouette style that opened so many of the James Bond films, is an almost frame-for-frame duplication of the opening train sequence from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” but instead of young Indy played by River Phoenix, you have Tintin. How can you not smile at such a set-up? But, as Jackson himself has noted, “When you’re young, you can easily imagine yourself going on these adventures that Tintin gets himself into. They tap into that fundamental sense of adventure we all have.” So here’s to the young embarking on those journeys for the first time and to the rest of us who never lost the longing.
Opening area wide on Wednesday, December 21. Neely also writes a blog about writers in television and film at http://www.nomeanerplace.com ER