The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Since revisiting and analysing the Star Wars prequels genuinely annoyed me, I needed a break from the old and crap. Thankfully, I ended up seeing the new CGI Tintin film and breathed a sigh of relief big enough to extinguish all those recently re-lit rage fires. Whilst you ponder on that awkwardly worded metaphor, I’ll get on with the reviewin’

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)

Tintin could have been very bad. The geniuses among you will be able to extrapolate from that that my opinion is of the opposite, but hear me the fuck out. Anyway, it could have been bad. It’s a big budget adaptation of the world renowned and universally acclaimed Tintin comics that could have easily skimped on the series’ inherent style, humour and charm (although some would argue it has). Plus, it’s motion-captured animation- the same art style that brought us the fucking creepy, uncanny valley dwelling avatars in films like The Polar Express. It could have been just another feature-length cash-in on a name with brand awareness already, saving the studio millions on advertising and having the bonus of having an already established fanbase. Luckily, it isn’t any of those things. It’s fuppin’ brilliant.

“If Sakharine gets to that ship before us, it’s over!”

After purchasing a much sought-after model of a ship, bequiffed reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his faithful dog Snowy are unwittingly sent off on a treasure hunting adventure, meeting drunkard, down-and-out Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) along the way. From what I can gather, the film is an amalgamation of three of the Tintin stories: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. I think it works well. It’s a sprawling, old-fashioned adventure film with a great sense of fun about it. The animation is superb and thankfully dodges the disturbing factor that mo-cap animation had been previously infamous for. It strikes the right balance between cartoony and realistic. The voice/motion cast are terrific. Jamie Bell was really good as the earnest Tintin and Andy Serkis (now the fucking emperor of motion capture work) is amazing as Captain Haddock. I liked Daniel Craig as Sakharine and thought having Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the bumbling Thomson and Thompson was a masterstroke.

The film starts off impressively with a Catch Me If You Can style animated intro that really gets you into the spirit of things. It’s nice to hear a John Williams score but it just seems like Williams is working from a hastily scribbled note from Spielbeard saying “European and whimsical”. Anyway, the main body of the film is great. It’s a real globe-trotting adventure with Indiana Jones undertones (I was going to say Indiana underJones, but was concerned I may get half an email condemning me for drinking and reviewing). It’s a family friendly affair, but it thankfully doesn’t shy away from guns and a bit of violence. I would say the film actually retains the true spirit of the original Hergé stories, but takes some liberties of its own. The main one being the wise decision to not have Snowy talk. However, being mute does not mean Snowy is inexpressive. He steals most of the scenes he’s in, be it dragging a huge bone he somehow found in the Sahara desert whilst Haddock is sobering up to interacting with a playful guard dog. Snowy feels like an essential part of the heroic team. The action set-pieces are all fantastic. The standout for me was the Morocco chase which was insanely entertaining.

A couple of things stopped the film short of true greatness for me. One was the constant pratfalling of Captain Haddock, which was fine up to a point, but it is a real bugbear of mine- even in “family” films. Still, the kids in the cinema found it funny, so maybe I’m just a miserable bastard. The fact it was in 3D was a shame too. My eyes ached at the start but eventually settled down. Most of the time, I forgot I was wearing the stupid specs, which seems to be the mark of good 3D and typifies what a waste of fucking time the whole thing is. The film went on for slightly too long and I wasn’t a huge fan of the climactic crane fight. I get what they were trying to do, but I wasn’t as involved as I had been with the previous set-pieces.

“How’s your thirst for adventure, Captain?”

The Adventure of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn to give it its full, rather awkward title, is very good. The animation is amazing, the characters are great and it’s a lot of old-fashioned, Boy’s Own fun. I found it all to be quite charming, which is a rarity. I want a sequel yesterday Mr Jackson and Spielberg, get on it!

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