The Adventures of Tintin

Innovative action sequences more than justify the use of animation – if only it felt like more effort had gone into everything else

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis
Runtime: 107 minutes
Rating: ***

This film is now showing at City Screen. Click here for more information.

The Adventures of Tintin is a film I almost feel guilty for not raving about. On paper it looks incredible; Steven Spielberg and Lord of the Rings‘ Peter Jackson team up to adapt a best-selling series of comic books, penned by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), and that’s not to mention a cast including Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis and Daniel Craig (Billy Elliot, Gollum and James Bond, no less). So why can’t I muster any more than a mild liking of it?

The plot is a standard adventure romp – Tintin (Bell), a journalist/detective and his companion/dog Snowy are dragged into a mystery involving a model ship, and soon find themselves pursued by the sinister Red Wrackham (Craig) and an assortment of British talent that might just put Harry Potter to shame. Director Spielberg strikes a tone reminiscent of the Indiana Jones movies, with a mixture of globe-trotting and large scale action set-pieces.

These ‘big’ moments are where Tintin impresses the most. The motion-capture/3D combo is glorious to look at and there are numerous standout moments; a desert is blasted apart by a tidal wave carrying a pirate ship, a rusty old steamer is brought to life in minute, grimy detail. Innovative action sequences more than justify the use of animation, as Spielberg uses his new digital playground to stay close to the action in a way that no live-action movie could – witness the motorbike chase, during which we leap along with Tintin as he jumps, ducks, slides and swings through a fantastically realised North African town.

If only it felt like more effort had gone into everything else. It isn’t that the script or performances are bad; they just aren’t quite at the standard you’d expect from such a talented group of people. While Jamie Bell nails the voice and movement of the titular hero, you can’t help but find the characterisation, well… a bit dull. Daniel Craig’s villain is nowhere near as much fun as he should have been, and its a sad day when Simon Pegg and Nick Frost struggle to get a single laugh. Thank goodness, then, for Captain Haddock, brought to life with heart and humour by Andy Serkis through a thick Scottish brogue and a mist of whisky vapours. In many ways Haddock is Tintin’s real hero, providing an emotional through-line that should have been made more of.

This makes it sound like a bad film, which is unfair. It has moments of brilliance, including a gorgeous opening title sequence, John Williams’ typically brilliant score and a bestiality joke that was nowhere near subtle enough for a PG movie. The main problem is that it just lacks a bit of depth – nobody was expecting Schindler’s List, but from the man who gave us E.T., it would have been nice to have some substance behind the CG sheen.

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