When youthful ace reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) finds a beautifully detailed model ship, the Unicorn, at a shopping stall, he readily pays the request pound for it. But, when the sinister Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig) offers him 10 times what he paid for the ship, Tintin suspects something bad is afoot. The stalwart journalist, with his faithful dog Snowy, an old sea captain named Haddock (Andy Sirkis) and a mysterious clue, takes us on “The Adventures of Tintin.”
Steven Spielberg is on a roll with two high profile films coming out for the holidays (the other being “War Horse”) and his first foray into 3D animation is an Indiana Jones-style action-packed adventure flick that is freed from the restraints of the live world. This classic kids comic book series first serialized in 1929 by Belgian cartoonist George Remi, under the pen name Herge, continued, on and off, until the artist’s death in 1983. It is one of the most well-known comic book series (at least in Europe) and is a good basis for the big screen, high tech extravaganza. And, this is the first 3D movie that did not give me the nagging headache that I usually suffer afterward.
Spielberg borrows liberally from his Indy franchise and, with the dazzling use of 3D technology, tells a good old-fashioned yarn about pirates and vast treasures. The model ship proves to be on of three and each has a clue that, when put together, reveals the location of the sunken treasure of Captain Haddock’s ancestor. The simple concept allows us to lose ourselves in Tintin’s adventures aboard a tramp steamer, in the court of a Moroccan sheikh, trekking across the blazing Sahara desert and flying into danger in a seaplane – all to find the treasure.
The vocal performances are solid with Jamie Bell giving the youthful enthusiasm and energy that Tintin needs to pull off his incredible feats. Andy Sirkis is funny as the alcohol-fueled Haddock, a man who bemoans that he is the last in his family line, and his famous ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock. The actor’s physical ability with motion capture is used to very good effect. Daniel Craig has fun in the dual roles role as the dastardly Ivanovich Sakharine and his equally wicked ancestor, Sir Francis’s arch nemesis Red Sakharine. Snowey is simply a tres cool dog.
Spielberg loses himself in this new all-digital world and, with his excellent story-telling skills, creates a genuine for-the-whole-family adventure. Between the dazzling visuals and the heroics of the brave and resourceful Snowey, the younger children will be amused and entertained throughout. Older kids and parents, grandparents and the rest of us are treated to a truly rip-roaring adventure with our young hero a good role model for teens. I like it when I walk out of an action adventure movie with a big smile on my face. I give it an A-.
Boy journalist Tintin (voice of Jamie Bell, "Billy Elliot") is taken by a model of the Unicorn, a 17th century sailing vessel, and picks it up for a song at an outdoor market foiling both Ivanovich Sakharine (voice of Daniel Craig, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") and Barnaby (voice of Joe Starr, "Date Night") who both know it holds a secret. But when the model is broken during a dog and cat fight, Tintin's faithful fox terrier Snowy spots the secret cylinder that was hidden in the ship's mast that will lead him and his master into "The Adventures of Tintin."
Back when director Steven Spielberg released his first Indiana Jones movie, his attention was called to Hergé's series of Belgian comics by a critic. Thirty years later Spielberg makes his first foray into animation with a script (Steven Moffat (TV's 'Coupling,' 'Doctor Who') and Edgar Wright ("Shaun of the Dead") & Joe Cornish ("Attack the Block")) based on three of the original stories from the 1940s ('The Crab with the Golden Claws,' 'The Secret of the Unicorn' and 'Red Rackham's Treasure') and 3D motion capture animation from producer Peter Jackson's Weta Digital. The result is nothing short of exhilarating and a new surefire franchise is born.
It's easy to compare Tintin's adventures to those of Indiana Jones as he's kidnapped, put onboard the SS Karaboudjan by Sakharine, who holds a 2nd model, escapes on a lifeboat with the Karaboudjan's inebriated Scottish Captain Haddock (voice of Andy Serkis, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes") and Snowy only to crash land a hijacked seaplane in a Moroccan desert. Spielberg controlled camera movement with a device like a videogame console and he knows how to stage action, making us duck under the onslaught of approaching traffic or lifting our stomachs in the air with an outrageous escape from the palace of Omar Ben Salaad (Gad Elmaleh, "The Valet") with Tintin, Haddock and Snowy swooping down to the port of Bagghar using whatever comes to hand. The animation combines both the look of the original drawings for color and characters and photorealism for such things as the ocean.
Here's an experience that the 3D really helps pop - combined with an IMAX screen this could be the ultimate popcorn thrill. If there's a weak point, though, it could be the character of Tintin himself - he's a rather bland goody two shoes type ('Great snakes!' being his exclamation of choice) who becomes a magnet for far more interesting types like the comical, alliterative Haddock and bumbling detectives Thompson (voice of Simon Pegg, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol") and Thomson (voice of Nick Frost, "Shaun of the Dead," "Paul") who look like twinned British versions of Popeye's hamburger loving Wimpy. Snowy is a delight - Spielberg's film should escalate him to U.S. stardom.
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