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“The Adventures of Tintin” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

December 10, 2011

Steven Spielberg & Peter Jackson! A pairing that’s history in the making. Two legendary filmmakers, each with their own ideal touch to their craft, have joined forces to bring us an adventure film that’s as old fashion as a 30’s serial, with the thrills of Indiana Jones, the technological wizardry for today’s modern generation.

Having bought a model ship, the Unicorn, for a pound off a market stall, young journalist Tintin (Jamie Bell) is initially puzzled that the sinister Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig) is so eager to buy it from him, resorting to murder, and the kidnapping of Tintin. Accompanied by his marvelous dog Snowy, to join him and Sakharine’s gang, as they sail to Morocco on an old cargo ship. Sakharine has bribed the crew to revolt against the ship’s master, drunken Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), but Tintin, Snowy and Haddock escape, arriving in Morocco at the court of a Sheikh, who also has a model of the Unicorn. Haddock tells Tintin that over three hundred years earlier his ancestor Sir Francis Haddock was forced to scuttle the original Unicorn when attacked by the pirate Red Rackham, he managed to save his treasure and provide clues to its location in three separate scrolls, all of which were secreted in models of the Unicorn.

The movie opens with amazement, hinting back to the classic “Catch Me If You Can” opening credits, but Tintin-style. John Williams catchy crime-Jazz score works wonders for the ears. We then open up into the world that Tintin lives in. Full of colorful characters, cartoony facial structures mended to look realistic, it’s quite surreal. The movie is indeed performance capture, a-la-“Avatar”, so everything you see is performed by the actual actors (with the occasional stuntman at play).

Jamie Bell was fine as Tintin, don’t get me wrong, but the two that stood out the most were Daniel Craig and performance capture master Andy Serkis. Can anyone think back to when Craig has ever played a villain? Not an anti-hero, but a true old school villain. He was a fantastic villain you can see that he really had a good time playing the traditional vengeful-fueled bad guy. Andy Serkis has mastered performance capture since his Gollum days. You can see him so well hidden beneath the character of Haddock. He was a riot when he needed to be, and inspirational when the time called for it. Simon Pegg & Nick Frost are in the movie too as Detectives Thompson & Thompson! What great fun they are.

The movie has some great pay offs to Spielberg’s past movies, most notably “Raiders of the Lost Ark” & “Jaws”. There’s a scene in particular where Bruce the Shark makes a cameo, while Tintin is trying to steal a pair of keys from one of Haddock’s shipmates. If you’re a true movie buff pay attention to these Easter eggs, they’re quite refreshing, and amusing to point out with a friend.

The story may seem a bit too traditional as a treasure-hunting movie, but that’s ok. What really capture’s the imagination of the audience are the fantastic visuals this movie throws at us. One sequence that comes to mind is set in Morocco, it’s one long continuous shot for about 5 minutes, and by the end of this sequence audiences will be applauding & cheering. The 3D itself was fair at best, it was a little gimmicky at times, but what can you do? I’d recommend this more for a 2D viewing over a 3D viewing any day of the week.

The ending leaves us with a classic adventure film cliffhanger that screams sequel. In an interview, producer Kathleen Kennedy stated that production on “Tintin 2” is set for a September 2012 start, with Peter Jackson taking over the director’s chair this time around, and possibly leaving the third movie with both Spielberg and Jackson as a duo directing team.

I’ll say this about “The Adventures of Tintin”; it was a lot better than what I was expecting it to be, than how it was perceived in the trailers. You want a fun adventure romp this holiday season? Go see this movie!

GRADE: A-

Special thanks to Tyler Pickens for the input on the movie and for attending the screening.

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