Saturday 5 November 2011


(Steven Spielberg, 2011)

For all that Spielberg and Peter Jackson's spectacular and expensive adaptation of Herge's popular creation has it's many pleasures, it never quite feels right. It never quite feels like Tintin. It feels as if they sought to make a Tintin film, were denied the rights by Herge's estate, and instead made a blatant knock-off in which everything is extremely similar, but nothing is really how it should be. Given that they weren't denied the rights and that most of the details of Tintin's distinctive fictional world are here recreated with painstaking detail and love, that's something of a major worry.
Part of the problem is the animation. Using the near photo-realistic motion capture and cgi technology beloved of Robert Zemeckis allows for massive invention and precision in so many of the visual particulars that it's easy to see why it appeals to filmmakers. But it also means that the "uncanny valley" is a problem throughout, one only complicated by the decision to render many of the characters - Captain Haddock, most obviously - in a sort of realist-caricature style. It also has its drawbacks in the areas which seem initially like Pluses. Athmosphere seems like something that can be painted into the corners of a scene, augmented by accenting the detail of the objects in a room, sharpening the colours of a palette, softening the lighting, allowing shadows to run longer. But it's more complex than that. The scenes of exotic North Africa and the middle East in the Indiana Jones movies are effortlessly, pungently atmospheric in a way simiiar scenes in this film are not. The Indiana Jones films were made on location, in ancient towns and baking deserts. Here, most everything feels hermetically sealed, without any grit or soul. The same problem afflicts the many, often brilliantly conceived, thrillingly "shot" action sequences. The level of detail and inventiveness is truly incredible, but that somehow only emphasises our distance from such patently made material, and is indeed even a distraction.
The screenplay, by the dazzling trio of Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Steven Moffat, is solid, working a traditional Tintin mystery and a Spielbergan set-piece roller coaster into the same film and making it work, and seamlessly for the most part, though there are a few clunky lines scattered throughout. The cast is impressive, everybody nailing the spirit and personality of hs character. And there are some nice visual gags and slapstick here, together with many beautiful images. But the whole thing, which is breathlessly paced most of the way, ends in a horrendous anti-climax, followed by the inevitable threat of a sequel. And while it may work to some degree with its target audience of 10 year old boys, as Spielberg adventure films go, this is strictly second rank.

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