The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) Directed by Steven Spielberg

I believe that me never becoming very fascinated with comic books as a child was to do with what I was offered. I was given the world of Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson, the visuals of Rudolf Koivu and Carl Larsson. The outlines and block-colors of Donald Duck were foreign to me and I didn't even know what order to read the comic book boxes in. I did have a Tintin book though. It was from my father's childhood and I read it many times, even when I did not know my ABC.

There was something about Tintin that seemed slightly adult, over-my-head, sophisticated and yes indeed, fascinating. Tintin was a boy in adventure, but he was also an intelligent journalist (which I must have not really understood for a long time) and his friend Milou/Snowy added an endearing touch. My distant affection for Tintin has survived to this day and it now led me to the opening night of The Adventures of Tintin in 3D. It was my first time wearing 3D glasses and let me warn people with glasses: it's not a fun combination to wear two pairs on top of each other for two hours. Next time I'd prepare by wearing contact lenses underneath. My initial shock of seeing things in 3D felt a little like it must have felt for people a hundred years ago when they first drove a car. Sadly, this exhilaration wore off quickly and was replaced by a feeling that the film really didn't need to be in 3D at all.

Having freshly viewed all 3 first Indiana Jones films I must say that at times Spielberg's Tintin veered very close to Indie-like-action-filler. That's my criticism of an otherwise entertaining and great looking fairytale. The style of animation used in the film seems to aim at mixing very realistic human features and movement to very fantastic and unreal scenarios. I'm not convinced all this fancy technology is necessary for a good movie experience, or for a good story. The success of a fairytale is so much down to our own imagination. Nowadays it looks like adults are making children's movies prioritizing the advances in technology over our capacity to imagine. Yet the kids love their movies, I know. But why the hell does the theater turn up the sound so much we have to block our ears in the fighting scenes?
Tintin is still good and intelligent though, Haddock's alcoholism is an interesting topic rarely openly discussed in a film for kids and Milou is a genius.

It has been fascinating the last few weeks reading Tintin experts (yes they exist), spouting forth all kinds of nonsense about how violated they feel by Spielberg's movie. The Guardian newspaper especially seems to have a vendetta against the film, as article after article spouts on about how rubbish The Adventures of Tintin is. Personally, I've found some of the claims made on behalf of Hergé's creation really ridiculous" "Greatest comic strip ever" (calm it!) "deep, hidden layers of meaning" (patronizing or what?) It's amazing, but I'm pretty sure most of these Tintin experts are white, middle class and middle-aged males who as well as obsessing over Tintin, probably masturbate over the thought of the Hubble Telescope. Getting a life has a lot to do with it. I'm a Tintin fan, I've read the books (ages ago), I used to love the old TV cartoon series as a child and even the very confused 1960's movie adaptations. Spielberg's Tintin (produced by the Lord Of the Rings guru Peter Jackson) has been accused amongst other things of simplifying Tintin for US audience demands, a country where Hergé's creation has never really caught on. That The Adventures of Tintin really works and is totally in keeping with what we expect Tintin to be, makes me wonder what all the fuss has been about.

Spielberg combines three of Tintin's stories to create the plot for The Adventures of Tintin. This Tintin, as so many are, is a treasure hunt with twists and turns, a fair dollop of action and a smart level of humor. Jamie Bell plays Tintin, Andy Serkis his drunken sidekick Captain Haddock, whilst the latest James Bond Daniel Craig wickedly enjoys himself as Ivanovich Sakharine. Spielberg uses motion capture animation and 3D to heighten the adventure. The 3D felt a bit pointless to be honest (it is used relatively subtly). The motion capture looks great and allows Spielberg small exaggerations in character, but most importantly to comfortably transport Hergé's comic book world to the big screen. Being the king of the action set piece, I'm glad to report that The Adventures of Tintin contains 3 or 4 amazing sequences from Spielberg that show he's still got it. In truth, some of the creativity on view from the art department to the staging of these scenes and general use of imagination associated with The Adventures of Tintin is breathtaking.

Anything wrong here? Bell maybe still lacks the overall presence to carry a film this big and ambitious, but still his Tintin works, so it's a minor quibble. I'm sure it's a role he'll grow into (there is already talk of a Jackson-directed sequel.) This is definitely a kids movie, my 10-year-old loved it.  Saying that, Spielberg injects enough knowing to satisfy the adults. Special mention must go to the opening title sequence which is a thing of rare beauty to watch on the big screen, almost worth the price of admission alone. I can't give you enough of a recommendation other than to say The Adventures of Tintin finds Steven Spielberg on top of his game. No desecration going on here, just passion for the subject, a big heart and a lot of fun.


  1. I was never an ardent fan, nor an expert, but the name Tintin was not a mystery to me. Yesterday I saw a trailer for the film and for the first time in over, say, 50 years, I heard someone pronounce the name in American pronunciation.
    It was funny to hear it.
    Most people think the speaker dropped the initial "Rin-".


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