Nick Nunziata: If you look up “Rollicking Adventure” in the dictionary you have some sort of shitty dictionary because that’s two words and those books are not meant to define phrases. With that in mind, if you travel down to the multiplex and pony up the coins to gain admittance to see The Adventures of Tintin you will be treated to a rollicking adventure of which the likes of we haven’t seen since the still amazing Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl shambled into theaters almost a decade ago. There’s a much-needed purity to the film that seeps from every frame, a cynicism free embracing of pulp and immaculately staged action that showcases exactly the kind of adventure that has turned Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson into two of the premier cinematic storytellers of all time. Add the writing team of Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Steven Moffat and the stage is set for an all-star collaboration of the highest order.
Renn Brown: The technology at hand definitely seems to have reinvigorated Spielberg, as his visual command of the cinematic form–at least in service of big screen adventuring–feels as masterful and inventive as ever. And as much ballyhoo as the film’s signature “one take” action sequence certainly earns, it is everywhere else where the Beard really demonstrates the successful merging of his storytelling might with an environment of utter photographic freedom. Much more impressive than a series of (admittedly awesome) digitally stitched-together chase-scene gags are the action scenes–one centered around Snowy the dog chasing down his capture owner for example–that may have been filmable as live-action sequences, but magically open up when endowed with the immediacy and freedom of cutting-edge digital animation. Spielberg is right at home among these waves of pixels, and fortunately he’s working off of a script that is breathlessly fun and inventive, if forgivably dodgy in the logic department from time to time. Even better, he’s working from material that has for decades married daring adventure and indomitable cheeriness with a balance that has often eluded Spielberg in his other work. Here that long-perfected tone represents a major component in a well-oiled action machine, the result of a an excellent marriage of filmmaker, material, and tools.
Nick Nunziata: The original graphic novels by Hergé have long been a staple overseas and though few adventure movies of the past half century haven’t owed at least a little nod of the cap towards Tintin, this doesn’t feel too familiar. I have a fear that the upcoming John Carter movie won’t have as smooth a ride as it looks like decades of wannabes stealing concepts and moments from the material has robbed it of its essence. Tintin is a much more wide-eyed and old school romp and as the genre has gotten more mean and aggressive this serves as a reminder about simplicity and nostalgia and how they can still be effective fuel for narrative. The movie embraces 3-D in a way that doesn’t feel forced and the motion-capture approach allows for a more seamless suspension of disbelief. This is heightened action. The set pieces unfold with a precision unique to the genre. The characters are much more believable as they dodge massive physical trauma. As a live action film it would have felt too superhuman and gimmicky but here it’s one of those gateway movies. Kids will love the visuals, the near misses, and that amazing little dog and adults will love being able to watch a family film that never insults their intelligence.
Renn Brown: The film is doubtlessly improved by a number of great vocal performances that are well integrated with the stylized character animation, without resulting in any creepy half-performances. Be it Daniel Craig tearing it up as the gentlemanly villain or a Pegg/Frost pairing as detectives Thomson and Thompson, there’s just enough personality in the casting without feeling like its a typical assembly of names for the sake of names, as is often the case with tentpole animated films. At the core though is Tintin himself, who proves to be a solid screen protagonist. Just straight-laced and bland enough to be the “every” hero, he’s still got enough self-doubt and personality to be relatable, all the while demonstrating the kind of adaptive competence that a good adventurer needs. It certainly doesn’t hurt that his sidekick is an adorable and equally adventurous mutt named Snowy that is sure to be a family favorite. Jamie Bell captures the wide-eyed optimism of the character well and balances it nicely with the moments of despair that give our hero a little dimension. Things certainly light up once Andy Serkis’ Captain Haddock enters the picture, bringing a bit of bumbling drunkenness to the hero’s ultra-slick approach to heroics. Of course Serkis is an old vocal/motion pro, so it’s no surprise that Haddock is a standout character.
Nick Nunziata: Let’s face it, Haddock is by far the second best motion capture performance from Serkis [Apes‘ Caesar] this year. With that said, Spielberg and company have wisely populated the film with performers who don’t distract the audience from the material. The presence of any celebrity voice/performance would have betrayed the timelessness of the adventure. Even Pegg and Frost, a brand all their own, disappear into their characters and had I not known the cast list there’s no way I’d have pegged Daniel Craig as the voice of the villain. There’s a stripped down element to the film that some audiences may misconstrue as blandness but without using pop culture references, any semblance of sex appeal, and action sequences that aren’t meant to be eye candy the filmmakers have made something so retro that it’s fresh again. In recent memory only the masterpiece Fantastic Mr. Fox managed to pull that off.
Renn Brown: It’s nice to see Spielberg knock this one out of the park and it will be exciting to see what unique spirit Peter Jackson will bring to his entry. The synergy of Tintin’s universe and Spielberg’s sensibilities is a tough dynamic to top, though there’s certainly room for improvement on the script side of things, as the film kind of trips over its own breathlessness towards the end. It’s one of those film where you may find yourself enjoying the final climactic battle as just another action sequence till more than halfway through, or even after adventure has halted and the denouement has kicked in.
Here might be an appropriate place to go ahead and pour a sip onto the concrete to commemorate the decade of Bob Zemeckis’ career sacrificed to the shitty movies that pushed the development of this technology to the point that others could swoop in and exploit it properly. The motion-capture in Tintin is not necessarily a massive leap forward, but it’s the final big step needed to push it well past easy watch-ability and it’s combined with what often does feel like a great leap forward in general animation. More than a few photoreal environments could pass for genuine locations were it not for the characters moving about in them. And fortunately, Spielberg exploits the 3D with easy grace.
Nick Nunziata: I’ll defend Beowulf until my dying days but there’s quite a divide between what most others are doing with the technology and what Spielberg and Jackson have pulled off here. Imagine if they can get James Cameron involved further. Regardless, this material with these talents and with the music of John Williams showcases just how much fun can be had with pulp married to technology. There won’t be any 3-D hatred coming to this film, nor will it be one people have much antagonism for. Some may find it bland, but to me it was thrilling, exhilarating, and a showcase how little we need transforming robots at 900 miles a second. It’s great clean fun. If you have a kid with even a modicum of creativity and yearning spirit, there is no better movie this holiday season.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Renn Brown: Filled with show-stopping action sequences, just enough fun characters, and a variety of beautifully rendered locations, Tintin is a well-timed adventure flick for both Spielberg and for audiences. It’s the right kind of refreshing mainstream effort that acts as an excellent palette cleanser after a relatively rough year for blockbuster action as we move into one more promising. I hope we see more from Tintin every few years, and that the world provides a nice playground for the big names to craft a straightforward but carefully crafted romp as it did for Spielberg. Even if we were to just be left with this entry though, the Tintin film legacy would be a strong one.
Renn: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars