A rollicking adventure with great animation, 3D and the most badass terrier ever, the Adventures of Tin Tin provides a nice distraction from heavy awards season pictures and abysmal overly sentimental dreck.
Based on the Belgian comic series of the same name, The Adventures of Tin Tin follows the eponymous hero (Jamie Bell), an intrepid journalist, and his dog Snowy as they are embroiled in an unexpected adventure following the purchase of a model ship called the Unicorn. Upon purchasing the model, an American stranger offers to buy it from Tintin for double the price. Tintin is in love with the piece and turns down the offer. Almost immediately a much creepier buyer by the name of Sakharine (Daniel Craig) shows up and tells Tintin he can name his price if he will give up the model. Tintin again rebuffs the offer, takes the model home, sets it on his mantle and immediately finds it broken as a cat sneaks in the apartment and Snowy gives chase. When he picks up the model, he doesn’t notice the metal cylinder that falls out of the mast and under his dresser. Things get strange when Tintin leaves and finds his apartment ransacked. He finds the cylinder which contains a poem and does some research into the boat only to find it belonged to Sir Francis Haddock, a disgraced sea captain who lost his ship, lost 400 lbs of gold and was slapped with a curse. Tintin, fascinated by case and smelling a story, finds himself embroiled in a globe trotting quest involving a pick pocket (Toby Jones), two incompetent detectives (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), and the last living descendent of Sir Francis, Captain Haddock also a sea captain but much more drunk and much less competent.
The synopsis sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is and the story unfolds easily and clearly against the backdrop of car chases, ship battles, traps, puzzles, sword fights, chases and more fist fights than you can shake a…er…fist at. Director Steven Spielberg is just the right touch for the material as it is very similar to ground covered in the Indiana Jones series although I submit that if Indy had a dog like Snowy he would have had 35% less trouble.
Despite the twists and turns, the story is not the strongest aspect of the picture and I found myself wishing there was something stronger to hang the action on. I have not read the original comics so I am not sure how faithful the unfolding of the story or the details are to it but for this film, I would have liked a bit more meat to it. It isn’t a bad story at all but there are moments that the film gets a little bogged down in telling it. As mentioned above, the story is not hard to follow, it just takes longer to play out than it has actually earned. At 107 minutes, things could have been tightened a bit and it would have played that much better.
Tintin has a nice sense of humor that never overpowers the film or turns it into an action comedy but finds a great balance with the action. This humor adds to the sense of fun in the picture while still maintaining its credibility as an action adventure. At PG the movie is fairly bloodless but they do not scrimp on the action and none of the fights suffer in intensity nor do they feel nerfed for a younger audience. This is a movie that will play with adults and kids alike given it is the sort of thing they enjoy.
The Adventures of Tintin is a performance capture animated film which makes it feel more realistic than classical animation or even Pixar style computer animation. This allows Spielberg to do a lot of things he would never be able to do with a live action cast while still retaining authentic physical performances from the actors. This is Spielberg’s first animated film and he is like a kid in a candy store with camera moves that zoom through and intersect the action in a way that you could never accomplish with live action actors and cameras. This gives the action a truly exciting and kinetic feel and it really puts you in the scene.
The excellent 3D goes a long way toward immersion as well as you get the depth of field along with the dynamic camera to make you feel very involved. There are a few cheap 3D gags here and there but by and large the 3D serves to improve the depth of field and the sense that you are right in the middle of things. This makes for some breathtaking action and some of the most exciting 3D action since Avatar. If this is what Spielberg can do with animation and 3D then I wish he would do more of it and less Warhorse (I have not seen that film but I refuse to believe it can be as satisfying as this picture).
The performances were very good throughout. The voice work was great and Daniel Craig in particular seemed to really enjoy his role with a vocal performance that was a step removed from his normal sound. Jamie Bell is excellent as Tintin with just the right earnestness. Andy Serkis great as Haddock, which is no real surprise given his past work. Here, Serkis plays with Haddock’s various stages of drunkenness and manages to infuse a bit of sadness in there for good measure.
Conclusion [8.5 out of 10]
I don’t know that Tintin is for all tastes but if you are into Indiana Jones style adventures and are looking for a modern equivalent with 100% less Nicholas Cage then this is just what the doctor ordered. It hits all the right genre notes while taking it seriously enough for high stakes and with enough humor to keep it light and fun. This is a great family film that doesn’t require a family to enjoy it. Also, I wish I had a dog like Snowy to go on adventures with. We could hunt Sasquatch.