Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Adventures Of Tintin (2011) Movie Review

Yes, the original plan was to post a few days from now. But I would be remiss if I didn't share several words regarding the newly released supergroup project based on Georges Remi (Herge)'s legendary comic strip creation, The Adventures Of Tintin. The much-awaited collaboration between Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and featuring a script by Steven Moffat, along with Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish, offers a rip-roaring example of what is possible with three-dimensional animation technology melded properly with the very idea of bringing a comic character and his world to life. It's a seamless marriage that showcases much of what has made The Beard the cinema legend has has been for so long, and at the same time plays well with the source material that served as an inspiration for so many filmmakers of the past. It is also evidence that perhaps it was necessary for technology to reach a certain point in order to best sell certain storytelling approaches. For every time a movie fan decries a nuclear test sending a refrigerator into the sky, only to land, open and spilled out our hero unharmed as he continues to stare at a mushroom cloud a distance away, it is filmmaking such as this that can sell it, and work. Suddenly, the story takes center stage with the spectacle. Something that has often eluded fantasy film since the advent of computer generated effects. And as recently mentioned, had the story not been so well conceived, such an event would hardly be as potent..

Tintin is a young , Belgian reporter with a penchant for adventure who is again tumbling into trouble over a rare model replica of a lost at sea ship known as The Unicorn. With his semi-reliable Fox-Terrier companion, Snowy, things become ever more complicated as dangerous parties are relentless in the secrets that lie within the model. Complications which eventually lead Tintin into meeting the near-washed up drunkard ship captain Haddock(Andy Serkis), ultimately setting off a chase around the globe against the nefarious Ivan Sakharine and his gang, also intent on unlocking the secret of the Unicorn, while using the wayward helmsman as key. Also along for the ride, are geek royalty, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the hopeless duo from Interpol, Thomson & Thompson. Straight out of three of Herge's book collections, The Crab With The Golden Claws(1941), The Secret Of The Unicorn(1945), and Red Rackham's Treasure(1945), Spielberg and company fashion a wildly entertaining cross between loving tribute, and adventure romp on par with one of the famed director's most beloved genre legacies before a certain Crystal Skull came to prominence.

Without delving any deeper into what in many ways is a simpler plot than the twists suggests, another arrow in the quiver is in just how much Spielberg and company are finally able to experiment with the motion capture technology in ways that not only drive the thrill level up by notches, but enhances the very concept of what it is to be an observer in a film. Geography and setup are key elements in delivering what are an impressive array of comedic and action sequences that deliver as much character exposition as raised hairs. The prep work must have been both liberating and punishing, as it become clear that the tools are being utilized to their fullest, even in ways that eluded James Cameron a few short years back. It's rare when we get this much direction in a film that contains as much slapstick and non-verbal action these days, and Tintin offers a textbook example in how much one can learn about characters merely by their actions. Great moments include our hero's "trusty" dog, Snowy, and his tendency to be distracted, and Captain Haddock's bumbling becoming a boon rather than an obstacle when held up near an dangling lifeboat..Perhaps the largest, most impressive example is the dizzying downhill chasing of a raven down the hills of Bagghar. It is an Indy special gone Rube Goldberg berzerk, and could only be done now. And in 3D, it is only made greater.

Again, as an honest to goodness adventure film, this is much less about nuance and character, but what is present is a bounty of wonderful performances by Jamie Bell, as a wide-eyed and likeable Tintin, and Daniel Craig(another Bond gone bad for Mr. Wright?) as Sakharine. But the biggest triumph (again) is the lovely work of Andy Serkis, who grants Haddock three dimensions that even the current CG couldn't do on its own. It's a winning role that cements the character as one of my favorites of the year. And as much of the story operates on a move, it's surprising how far an old school storytelling approach works when played perfectly straight. And seeing as how this is planned to be a series, the only misstep might have been the very end. But even at that point, the characters have proven themselves so likeable, it becomes hard to fault it when the adventure has only just begun. 2011 has ended with an unexpected bang. One that thrillingly answers some long elusive questions about approach, and challenges what we've known about adaptations. It's a welcome melange, and possibly Spielberg's best pure balls-out adventure film since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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