Blistering barnacles, it’s a Tintin motion capture feature!
Young reporter Tintin buys a model ship, just before two other men – one with a creepy pointed beard – both also try to buy it. Intrigued by the potential story behind the model Tintin refuses and sets off to investigate, just to have the ship stolen from his apartment. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard detectives, Thompson and Thomson, are on the trail of a master pickpocket.
If that seems like a rather brisk intro, that’s how it feels in the cinema. Once past the opening sequence, which was drawn in the style of the original comic that had me drowning in nostalgia before the film had even begun, there’s no messing around. It’s just straight into the mystery with no ambiguity about who the bad guys are and who’s on Tintin’s side. We’ve got three whole books to get through here! Well, not quite. The story has been predominantly pulled together from the classic Hergé comic books The Crab With the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure but with events reordered and all those pesky opium references taken out.
The film is a lot of fun with the action on full steam ahead. It’s packed with exciting chase scenes, multiple guns fired by accuracy-impaired henchmen and minimal exposition. There’s plenty of physical comedy, especially when Thompson and Thomson are around and kids won’t be able to resist Snowy’s appeal. Tintin’s terrier frequently seems like he’s smarter than any of his human associates and steals every scene he’s in, although Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock gives the animated dog a good run for his money.
Allegedly (i.e. according to Wikipedia), Steven Spielberg went back and forth on animation versus live action and it was Peter Jackson who persuaded him to take the motion capture route. I can’t decide whether it was worth the effort or whether I missed anything by going 2D. The most I can say is that the production doesn’t get in the way of the film. My fears of an Uncanny Valley feel were allayed and overall it’s technically impressive, if not beautiful. The animation aspect has allowed for the string of spectacular action sequences to be made at all, while at the same time the pratfalls and blows to the head don’t make you wince, in the same way that Daffy Duck landing on his head isn’t cringe-worthy.
This family-friendly adventure is thoroughly entertaining but it’s good, not great. Despite seeing a man killed early on, the slapstick humour means that any feeling that our heroes are ever in real peril is extinguished and the ending is a bit of a damp squib after all the fireworks leading up to it. Tintin‘s makers have set themselves up well for a sequel though and there’s no reason to think that this isn’t a franchise that couldn’t run and run and run. And run.