'The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn' Review - Cert: PG
Before his passing in 1983, Hergé said that if any filmmaker was to adapt his collection of timeless tales following the adventures of a Belgian reporter to the big screen, Steven Spielberg was the only man for the job, and after two decades of trial and error, the cinematic version of ‘Tintin’ has finally reached our screens with the desired director at its helm. Alongside Spielberg sits ‘Lord of the Rings’ (2001-2003) maestro Peter Jackson as producer and three of Britain’s brightest writers (Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish) have that almost impossible task of translating the stories from comic strips to 35mm. This 3D motion-capture and CGI extravaganza combines three of Tintin’s most beloved outings; ‘The Crab with the Golden Claws’, ‘The Secret of the Unicorn’ and ‘Red Rackham’s Treasure’ and hits UK multiplexes during the school half-term.
After discovering a elegant model of the Unicorn ship at a marketplace, Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) and his loyal dog Snowy are intrigued as to why so many desire it and comment on the secrets it holds. After the model is stolen and more information begins to surface, the pair set out to discover the truth and team up with the boisterous and drunkard Captain Haddock (voiced by Andy Serkis) after a surprise meeting. The group’s adventure spans the globe and with each destination comes more danger and that crucial step closer towards unravelling the secrets.
From the moment the picture opens, the film’s tone and mood is set – mystery and adventure merged with fun and frolics. The classy hand-drawn animated titles use the signature silhouette imagery with style and sophistication making the wit and wonder evident even before audiences has graced their eyes on the monumental motion-capture work.
In a rather lacklustre animated year, the only true blossom of beauty has been Studio Ghibli’s impeccable ‘Arrietty’ but thankfully Spielberg’s latest ends this dry-run with a picture that explodes with vibrancy, craftsmanship and realism. This is not like the Robert Zemeckis motion-capture entries (‘The Polar Express’  and ‘A Christmas Carol’ ), ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ is an entirely different bunch of blistering blue barnacles – every frame enforces impeccable detail and naturalism, and like the best animated pictures, viewers will forget they are watching digitalised representations in no time. Whether the visuals are mind-blowing like in the all-important action sequences or brilliantly subtle like the redness and clammy sweat resting on Tintin and Haddock’s cheeks and brow as the trek through the desert, this film is a clear example of just how magnificent technology is in this day and age. Without a shadow of a doubt this is the year’s finest animated entry – expect an Oscar nomination and a deserved win.
As well as its tremendous visual flair, the feature’s script is a revelation; beautifully written and whimsical dialogue that is frequently hilarious and manages to merge the three classic tales so seamlessly. Considering Hergé’s stories are separate volumes, the typing trio behind this movie are able to make a sensible structure with the texts making the film flow as gracefully as its perfect imagery. As well as the laughs, the script provides great character development for those new to the world of Tintin but fails to insult audiences by giving them an hour lesson about those involved. Young children will have no trouble picking up who’s who in the early stages before enduring the incredible rollercoaster ride through the second and climatic act.
|Still from 'The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn' (dir: Steven Spielberg, 2011)|
Action fans will gain greatness from this movie too; expect high octane chases, pirate swordplay and more bullets than a Sylvester Stallone entry, just a lot less gore and swearing. In fact although ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ is action-packed, it’s PG certificate is justified and one cannot recall anything remotely damaging or frightening for young eyes so parents have nothing to fear with this when deciding on their half-term picture.
The film also sees the much needed return of composer John Williams who provides yet another dazzling and effective score. The music captures the essence of the film in an instant and compliments it throughout.
The voice casting is collectively brilliant with Bell and Serkis being the obvious standouts. Bell’s inquisitive tone and frequent high pitch bursts mirror the speech bubbles Tintin utters in the comic panels. When reading a Hergé story, this is exactly how the character sounds in your mind. Serkis steals the show as Captain Haddock and is given splendid dialogue to growl through bitter Scottish chords. Haddock’s often stupid remarks and forgetfulness is beautifully represented through the animated character and indeed the verbal counterpart. Daniel Craig is also fantastic as the less than trustworthy Ivanovich Sakharine and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are side-splitting as the loveable policing dunces Thomson and Thompson. Plus Snowy is absolutely wonderful.
There is no doubt in one’s mind that Spielberg’s adaptation will be top of the box-office upon release and I wish it all the success in the world, but I sincerely hope those new to Tintin are influenced to re-visit the books and television shows of yesteryear after seeing the movie and become more involved with one of the century’s most beloved and important literary creations.
‘The Adventures of Tintin’ is quintessentially the perfect family film and has plenty to offer all audiences of all ages. This is an incredibly joyous, thrilling and comically genius adventure that I cannot wait to experience all over again. Hergé was onto a winner with his thoughts towards Spielberg and he can rest easy now knowing his tales have been faithfully and beautifully translated into a cinematic masterwork. Great Snakes it’s good.
Beautiful, creative and loving to the source material, Spielberg's 'Tintin' is a tour-de-force in movie-making.
By Chris Haydon
Review originally sourced and printed for The Upcoming