29 June 2012

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn Review

Ever since Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg has always wanted to put Tintin onto the big screen, with the blessing of Herge himself. Now, with the help of Peter Jackson and the team at Weta doing the visuals and a script by geek icons Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, Spielberg is finally able to put Tintin onto the big screen, and it is brilliant.
A great thing about the plot is that it doesn't establish the character of Tintin, we see through character dialogue and background dressing the type of character Tintin is right from the start and we don't get much character development for Tintin through him directly. Instead we get the character development through Captain Haddock, played by a scene stealing Andy Serkis who gives a fantastic performance. With Haddock, any other director would have shied away from the main aspect of Haddock, mainly his addiction to whisky but Spielberg puts it front, row and centre, making it so that key developments in Haddock's character are affected by alcohol, from his actions to his memories and it helps that Serkis can play drunk really well, giving Haddock the right mix of violence and humour. The development of Haddock comes through his and Tintin's search for the titular secret of the Unicorn, with the ship being captained by Haddock's ancestor and the rediscovery of Haddock's true nature as a sailor through Tintin's help enables Haddock to become a hero by the end of the film.

The other characters in the film also get some plots to themselves, mainly Thomson and Thompson played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (and it feels like the scenes Wright wrote for the film were the scenes with Pegg and Frost) and their subplot involving the thief Silk (played by Toby Jones in a film where he isn't wasted for a change) with this subplot providing for some great comedy, both verbal and physical, with the Thomson and Thompson and one of my favourite dialogue scenes in the film which I won't dare spoil for you.

The villains in the film are also good. Although Allan (played by Daniel Mays) and Tom (played by Mackenzie Crook) aren't really that interesting, it is made up for by Daniel Craig as Sakharine. Through the way he speaks about Haddock you can tell that Sakharine has a history with Haddock that he hasn't let anyone know about and the hunt for the Unicorn is due to his history with Haddock. Now the writing of the character makes him a little bit one-note but the performance by Craig is excellent. Craig relishes his role as Sakharine and it is easily the best performance Craig has given since Casino Royale (keep in mind, I'm reviewing it like I saw it in cinemas and this came out before The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in the UK, and in any case I still haven't seen that film) because of how much fun Craig is having with the role.

Tintin also shows that Spielberg still has the talent to make amazing action sequences in a non-realistic sense, feeling much more like a true Indiana Jones film than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which I did like by the way) in terms of the action and the way Spielberg directs it. There are two stand outs for me, a pirate battle between the ancestor of Captain Haddock, Sir Francis Haddock and the pirate Red Rackham which combines every type of action you expect from pirates and puts the Pirates of the Caribbean films to shame in terms of the direction of the action. The other stand out is a single take chase scene through Moroccan streets which is the best reminder that you can get as to just how useful camera movement and choreography are in making action scenes good, take notes Michael Bay, you don't need to cut every 0.4 femtoseconds in order to make action scenes compelling. Spielberg makes a much more engaging chase sequence in 5 minutes than Bay manages in all of the Transformers films.

Finally, there's the animation and this is the best usage of motion capture throughout the entirety of a film. The problem that Robert Zemeckis had with his animated films is that the characters always had this creepy, uncanny valley effect whenever you see one of their faces in close up. In this film however, the majority of the characters have exaggerated facial features, reminiscent of the Herge books and this element of exaggeration removes the uncanny valley effect on the characters, particularly Captain Haddock and the Thom(p)sons. However, with Tintin, there is still the uncanny  valley effect whenever we see his face and, while not as creepy as in the Zemeckis animated films, is still creepy in its own right but it never fully removes you from the experience of the film. In fact, the normal looking Tintin fully makes it known that Tintin is the straight man to the heavily exaggerated Haddock. Also, the animation for Snowy is brilliant and I have a feeling that Snowy is now a new favourite character for a lot of children.

In conclusion, this is a really fun film, the action scenes are incredible, the characters are really memorable, despite the one-note villains and it feels very much like the film Herge always wanted to see made from the Tintin books. Hopefully, the clout Spielberg and Jackson have in the industry will allow them to make the sequels they want to make to this film in the near future and I will be very happy when these films are made.

My Rating: 4.5/5

P.S. Sorry for how late this review is, I first watched it in October and I am only now getting the review out.

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