Published December 19, 2011
Adventure has a new name: Tintin. Steven Spielberg’s animated directorial debut “The Adventures of Tintin” is visually triumphant and chock-full of classic Spielberg-isms -- both good and bad.
Adapted from the classic Belgian comics by Hergé, young journalist Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) and his dog Snowy have noses for sniffing out mischief and adventure. While out for a stroll at a fair, Tintin purchases a mysterious model pirate ship called The Unicorn, which the nefarious Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig) also desires at any cost. Tintin and Snowy are quickly thrust into an epic globe-hopping chase to unravel the mystery of the ship as well as restore a broken ancestry for the seafaring Haddock family.
“Tintin” is a whirlwind from the word go. Spielberg essentially recreates the successful elements of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but unlike the Indiana Jones film there is hardly any reprieve. With Indy, you are given the chance to identify with the man in the hat but the breakneck speed of “Tintin” leaves little pause to associate with the young reporter. Tintin, unlike the books, becomes an empty figure running from point A to point B.
That is not to say the action that happens between point A and point B isn’t spectacular. We’re given healthy doses of pirates, mystery and chases. The film is packed with Spielberg’s indelible style and the director is a master at creating iconic set pieces -- and “Tintin” has plenty.
“Tintin” features Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the bumbling Thomson twins while Andy Serkis, as the crotchety Captain Haddock, gives another phenomenal performance of the year. Serkis also wowed us this summer as Caesar in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
Spielberg and co-producer Peter Jackson spent years perfecting the breathtaking visuals. The character design and interactions are flawless while the digital landscapes, from sprawling desert dunes to towering shipyard cranes are unparalleled.
The colorful digital cinematography is dazzling. Spielberg gives us the grittiness of “Saving Private Ryan” during a pirate ship battle and a gorgeous long tracking shot during an impressive motorcycle chase.
As much a character as Tintin and Snowy is the score by legendary John Williams. Williams covers the action with ease and harmony and gives musical identity to the characters, a feat that only the composer of “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” does so well.
Despite its flaws, the electrifying “Tintin” puts classic adventure back in style.