Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin has been eagerly anticipated by many for some time. It has been adapted to the screen before in 1947 with The Crab with the Golden Claws, which used stop motion and puppetry; in 1961 Tintin and the Golden Fleece saw Tintin adapted to the screen as a live action film by French Director Jean-Pierre Talbot, and in 1969 Tintin and the Temple of the Sun, the comics The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun were adapted to the screen as animated feature films.
This year’s film, however, is the first time Tintin had been adapted to the screen using motion capture, a technology that tracks an actor’s movements through the use of reflective markers placed on the body (which are basically tiny silver balls) and transfers this movement into almost photorealistic animation. The technology will be one of the main focuses of the film and so far it’s had a mixed reception, with Avatar bringing in the Blockbuster gold but failing to win over the critics at the Oscars, and films such Polar Express suffering from the characters in the film having dead, lifeless eyes.
Tintin starts brightly with a scene in Paris that is colourful and nicely lit, elegant and beautiful. We are quickly introduced to Simon Pegg’s and Nick Frost’s charming buffoons Thompson and Thompson and the devious and leering Red Rackem voiced by Daniel Craig. Jamie Bell’s Tintin is also introduced and is easily likeable, though at times he is a little too earnest and straight-faced.
The script is based on three of Herge’s comics: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure — the film zips through those plots at a rapid pace. The pace of the film is one of its greatest strengths, but also one of its major flaws. The action scenes, as you would expect from a Spielberg film, are executed well; exhilarating and infinitely cinematic, with a sequence involving a Plane flying through storm standing out as particularly brilliant. Clearly, Spielberg is not in any way encumbered by the new technology, with the camera flying around confidently during these scenes. Peter Jackson has worked with motion capture before and his experience can clearly be seen; the audience is taken from the vividly detailed Paris to the Sahara desert with ease.
However, the pace of the film does make it feel a bit rushed, with more time needing to be spent with characters in order to flesh out the story; in particular more screen time with Andy Serkis’ entertaining Captain Haddock would have been beneficial to the film.
Overall it’s a fun family film with some excellent motion capture. The characters’ faces are expressive as the film manages to avoid the dead-eyed characters that have plagued other motion captures. Although, after all the hype, it’s difficult not to feel short-changed — it’s perfectly enjoyable but not extraordinary and with Spielberg and Jackson, many people would have been expecting more.