Dir. by Steven Spielberg - 1 hr. 47 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
I feel like I need to preface everything that I'm about to say here about this movie: I'm not a fan of this style of animation. As in, not at all. As in, I usually refuse to see movies with the mo-cap/CGI combination. To my mind, it misses the point and charm of animation, which is to simplify and distort for effect. The idea of creating a photo-realistic world via computer animation is pointless; there's already a perfectly fine HD world that we're already all walking around in. I spent many years as a cartoonist, so my opinion here isn't based on nothing. And it's also not an opinion I'm likely to change.
Having said that, "The Adventures of Tintin" was actually pretty fun. I spent most of the first ten minutes trying to remind myself to have an open mind towards the technique, and to just try to get lost in the story. Thankfully, "Tintin" is a fast-paced, light-hearted, adventure movie above all else, so once I was in, I was in. Tintin, who I couldn't tell if he's supposed to be a small adult human or a big teenaged orphan (he has his own apartment, but his appearance suggests that he's not necessarily an adult), gets dragged into a long-running family feud by virtue of buying a much-desired trinket at an outdoor market. Like any good adventure story, there are different settings (the high seas, a desert, exotic cities), lots of action, a plucky side-kick (Tintin's dog, Snowy) and a buried treasure. Probably best of all, Tintin actually has a distinct personality, and isn't just a blank slate for the viewer to use as their doorway into the film.
The thing that makes "Tintin" the most fun is the light touch that director Steven Spielberg shows. There's two great scenes that last less than a minute apiece that really show off that skill. The first comes in the midst of Snowy trying to keep up with a truck that contains a kidnapped Tintin in it: Snowy takes a shortcut through a herd of cattle, eventually falling down to the ground. Snowy raises his head right into a low-hanging udder, which causes the cow to raise it's head in surprise. Then, rather than showing Snowy smacking into udders or zig-zagging through the hooves, the camera stays above the herd, where one after another, cows raise their head in surprise, indicating Snowy's path. The entire chase is a lot of fun, but this particular detail was very clever. The other scene comes in the middle of the movie, where Tintin is swimming in the ocean below the surface, his trademark poof of hair raised above water level. It's a funny throwback to "Jaws," one that all the parents caught and chuckled at. Those are probably the two best examples of the visual approach that Spielberg takes, but it's consistent all the way through the film.
I could nitpick the techniques used to make the film to death out of spite, but the truth is that the movie was good enough to make me forget about that aspect. In a less sprightly film, the technique would have been a major turn-off for me as a viewer, but Spielberg managed to make it a non-issue. That's probably as much as I could have hoped for. I wasn't terribly impressed with the character designs (mostly, it seems that the extent of artistic license used was putting an exaggerated nose on otherwise sort-of realistic face structures), but that was addressed (sort-of) immediately in the film when we're introduced to Tintin as he's sitting for a portrait in an outdoor market. The portrait is in the style of Herge, the cartoonist who created the character in the first place. So what it comes down it that I enjoyed "The Adventures of Tintin" despite myself, and that I'd probably look favorably on a sequel, should it arrive (one was clearly indicated at the end of the film).
3 / 5 - Theatre