Sunday 30 October 2011

Review: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of of the Unicorn

Year: 2011
Director: Steven Speilberg
Screenplay: Steven Moffat, Joe Cornish, Edgar Wright
Starring: Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis

Synopsis is here

I can't lie here. I've been putting this Tintin review off. This is mostly due to me not thinking of anything witty or engaging to say about the film. However the biggest problem is how I wasn't won over with the final product. The motion capture (I'm NOT saying mo cap as I'm over the age of 15) was amongst the best I've seen. We have a group of actors that are clearly game for the project and a director whose more than capable to producing something special. But by the end of the film I was considerably underwhelmed. I found myself asking those questions that those who enjoy the film (and there will be many) will ignore.

My first query came about as soon as we met our intrepid reporter.  Tintin, a character that is known for purposely being a blank slate is portrayed quite accurately as one, but he's also a protagonist who manages to be quite smart. Almost too smart you could say as here we have a character who will question something and answer it straight away almost eliminating whatever mystery that could have been had.

You see, it comes so easy for the boy and while it's great to have such a sprightly and smart character, there never appears to be that element of risk. The stakes don't seem as high as they could be. While that appeared to be fine with me on the page (the comics) or small screen (Animated series) when I was a youth, here I struggled to get to grips with how safe everything felt.

I guess that's why some had/have a problem with the motion capture aspect of the film Much like how many critics talk about the soullessness of CGI, it's difficult for some to get on board with a film that is completely motion captured. I didn't have too much of an issue with the effects. It allows Spielberg to complete set pieces which would be nearly impossible with the usual human mixture. In that bizarre way how life weaves it's web, I watched Tintin a day after hearing the death of a stuntman on The Expendables 2. I'm fine with such aspects limiting such tragedies, I do hope however, that the stories are as formidable as the effects.

Visually, the film is stunning at points and Spielberg manages to add his trademark wit to many of the scenes. It's worth watching; not the main narrative of the story, but whatever may be going on at the side of the screen. Snowy is a dog that at times has his very own adventure going on in the background and one could miss a chucklesome moment because of it.

The performances are also worthwhile. Daniel Craig is clearly having a bit of fun as the bad guy, while Jamie Bell is a snug enough fit for the titular Tintin. It is however the work of Andy Serkis that tops the cast list. Serkis; the Lon Cheney of motion capture, reminds us that he really is one of Britain's best secret weapons. We love to fawn over the work of the likes of Gary Oldman, Judy Dench and the like but ask yourself this: When was the last time you saw him in a weak performance? Serkis provides the film with it's heart which helps illuminate the film much more than it's main character.

I think my main problem with the film is how formless it appears to me. I don't expect rigid three act structure to every film I see, but there's no build or peak to the film. Save for a monologue from Serkis' Captain Haddock and a delightfully full on set piece in the final third, I found myself difting in and out of the film.While I know Tintin is a blank slate in the comics, did he have to be here? Was there anything that could have been done to up the stakes? Why didn't I get the chills I get with other Spielberg projects? Once again I'm in the minority but I found Tintin passable and yet forgettable. However, I'm interested in what Peter Jackson will do with the sequel once he is done with middle earth.