The Adventures of Tintin–Movie Review

4.5 Stars

The Adventures of Tintin represents a landmark of sorts for computer-generated animation. This is the first CG-animated movie I have seen that crosses over the Uncanny Valley. After watching it for a few minutes it felt just like watching a live-action movie (although many of the characters had unusually large noses).

The movie was directed by Steven Spielberg and the story, based on the long-running Belgian comic strip by Hergé, is an over-the-top semi-slapstick action epic, very similar in style to his Indiana Jones movies.

The hero Tintin (Jamie Bell) is a daring young reporter who is always accompanied by his dog Snowy, an amazingly intelligent animal who often seems impatient at how slow his master is to see the point. Tintin regularly solves mysteries and unmasks criminals. His latest case starts when he buys a model ship which is promptly stolen by a shady character named Sakharine (Daniel Craig). The key to the mystery seems to involve the drunken Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) whose family once owned the model ship.

I have long suspected that computer-generated animation would soon be able to cross the Uncanny Valley and produce realistic depictions of humans. The question is “why bother?” This could have been made as a live-action movie using prostheses for the big noses and CG animation for the action sequences. This is how most action movies are made today. Steven Spielberg in particular does it all the time. It would probably have felt more dramatically intense. (It would probably also have been cheaper, since motion-capture animation is pretty expensive.)

Apparently that is how Spielberg originally planned to do it, but Producer Peter Jackson (whose company Weta Digital handled the animation) convinced him to make it a completely animated feature.

I can see one clear advantage to doing it this way. If this movie were live-action it would certainly be rated PG-13 instead of PG, limiting its potential audience. I don’t think there’s anything here that would really harm a child but it is much too violent to be considered a suitable children’s picture by contemporary American standards. The animation adds a slight tinge of unreality, making it seem less threatening to adults (though probably not to children.) Parents should be aware that there is some blood, at least one character is killed, and the hero caries a gun and is not afraid to use it.

If that is not a problem for you then you will probably find this a thoroughly entertaining movie.

2 thoughts on “The Adventures of Tintin–Movie Review

  1. Wonderduck

    The choice to use animation instead of live action was mainly a stylistic one; Tintin IS a “cartoon character,” after all. It gives a feeling reminiscent of the original books, a feeling that “real” actors simply couldn’t provide.

    I’m a huge fan of Tintin. I taught myself how to read using Herge’s books, and have over a dozen of them within 15 feet of me as I type this. I’ve waited my entire life for a good Tintin film… and I haven’t gone to see the movie yet. I’m too afraid. Afraid that it won’t be good. Afraid that it’ll be good, but not good enough. Afraid that it’ll be good enough, but not in the right way.

    Yes, I’m THAT guy.

  2. Jonathan Tappan Post author

    I won’t venture to guess what your reaction will be. The original Tintin was a hand-drawn 2-D cartoon. This sort of ultra-realistic computer-generated animation doesn’t have much resemblance to that, perhaps no more than a live-action film would have. (I’m thinking of course of a modern computer-enhanced live-action film, like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.)

    The thing that bothers me most is: if this movie represents the future, where animation and live-action become so similar that it is hard to tell them apart, where does that leave animation as a distinct art form?

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