The response online to Tintin has been more than a little… underwhelming. Here is a trilogy of films being made by Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg and their base – internerds! – simply don’t seem to give a shit at all.
When the news broke this week that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost would be in the films, I saw people on our message board and elsewhere say things along the lines of ‘This movie just became interesting to me.’ Just? What the hell is going on here?
There are, as far as I can tell, a trio of factors that come into play in defining the lack of geek enthusiasm for this project. Each of these factors builds on one another, and I think it’s the third factor that’s really fueling the internet malaise.
1) Nobody knows who Tintin is. Now, I know that this is a huge innacuraccy because Tintin is a major pop culture figure outside of the United States, but it’s the United States that drives the engine of online movie enthusiasm. If you sell a movie to the nerds in the US, the nerds in Belfast and Rio will follow.
I thought that this would be a big opportunity for international nerds to step up and shape the debate. With the trilogy heading into production in the coming weeks, I thought we’d see foreign types stepping up with lists of the best Tintin books for the newbie, or a dissertation or two on the appeal of the character. We will see these things when the first film nears release, but that will be marketing driven. The early buzz among nerds is wholly enthusiasm driven.
2) It’s a kiddie property. The only people who get to make films that skew young, according to the online nerd base, are the people at Pixar. And even then the nerds are itching for a PG-13 Pixar movie. But the fact that Tintin is perceived – right or wrong – as being for kids is really hurting it among the geeks.
Double that with the fact that it’s a CGI mocap movie and you really lose people. I think that if Tintin was going to be live action we’d be getting more excited for it, if only because there would be things like locations to look at and pictures of people in costume to leak. The feeling of a movie coming together gets the online masses excited. The idea of Spielberg and Jackson hanging out in front of a big green screen and making a KIDDIE MOVIE is not enough to get people worked up.
3) It’s Spielberg and Jackson. This is the big one. The lack of online buzz speaks, to me, of the state of these filmmakers in the estimation of their base audience.
Think on this: Spielberg hasn’t made a universally loved geek movie since Jurassic Park! AI and War of the Worlds are often held up as examples of Spielberg’s lack of teeth these days (despite the fact that he’s making movies like Munich. I’m not endorsing the point of view, simply explaining it). The movie nerds get excited about Steve’s Oscar bait movies, but they simply don’t speak to forum-dwellers the way his earlier, genre material did. Add to all of this the incredible ill-will created by Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and you have a fanbase impatiently tapping their feet, wondering when the hard scifi of Interstellar is going to actually happen.
Jackson, meanwhile, is steeped in two backlashes. There’s the reaction to King Kong, which has cooled considerably; I’m not even sure if people think about that movie at all anymore. The bloated mess has shown itself and can no longer be hidden. But on top of that is the backlash against The Lord of the Rings that has been simmering for some time. No movie series can be as popular as that one without causing some people to vocally push back. And then there’s the fact that the trilogy – and its director – were massively overexposed in a very short period. Jackson’s been smart post-Kong about hanging back, and doing an Oscar baiter may have been the exact right move for him, but The Lovely Bones hasn’t come out yet, so the nerds are still looking at him through Jack Black colored glasses.
The fact that these two guys are working together should be creating huge boners in the geek world. They should be able to get us excited for a movie called Hey Guys, We’ve Traveled the World and Raped Your Mothers in IMAX. Normally a property that we never heard of wouldn’t dissuade the excitement. Hell, I’d imagine that half the fanboys out there would have been butt deep in Tintin books by now. It’s possible that we might even be happy to look past the fact that the Tintin films will be, at the hardest, PG movies. But when you add all of these factors together with Indiana Jones and King Kong, the geek nation suddenly finds itself left cold.