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athena's Review of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

rated it: posted: Apr 08, 2012
Reviews: 218 | KF Animation Editor
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This is a movie that I feel like I should've enjoyed a lot more than I actually did.

For one thing, it's a Steven Spielberg film with a lot of elements that he's extremely well know for. The Indiana Jones movies are some of my all-time favourites in terms of live-action films and Tintin is certainly an Indiana-like character with his daring attitude and thirst for adventure.

And, although this is an animation site and we usually talk about the animation in terms when we're talking about the performance of the characters, there's no denying that it's Andy Serkis performing Captain Haddock. While all the characters in the movie are performance captured by the actors that provided the voices, I feel like only Captain Haddock had a really stand-out performance. If you've read my other reviews on motion-captured or rotoscope animated films, you know I have a pretty big beef with most of them, but I think it's because the source material going into the performance isn't strong enough. Captain Haddock is what you get when it is strong enough.

So why is this a two star film for me? Well, for one thing, I never read the comics so I didn't have that instant connection with Tintin that I think was needed for empathy with this character. Tintin has no flaws and he has no backstory. I learned from the Bluray extras that he had no backstory in the comics either, but that still doesn't help me bond with the character. To me he felt like a paper cutout stand in for a hero and, personally, I need more than that. I felt like the movie didn't really start firing on all cylinders until Captain Haddock showed up. Haddock, in contrast, is a delightfully flawed character between his alcoholism and his bumbling ways.

What really knocked the star-count for me down though was the excessive show-off factor that always, ALWAYS seems to happen when you give directors the ability to do whatever the heck they feel like within the digital world. It's almost ironic that Spielberg, who gave the world Jurassic Park, somehow forgot that movie's key lesson--just because it CAN be done, doesn't mean it SHOULD be done. All these insane camera movies and action sequences that try to somehow straddle live-action realism and cartoony exaggeration, but end up being a jarring mixture of the two. There were a number of occasions in the movie, where it felt like I wasn't watching a story unfold, but instead I was clinging to the front car on a rollercoaster ride. Now, maybe I'm just too old fashioned and maybe this is just how movie-making is meant to be today, but when my brain starts going "huh? now where am I...? and where is...? how did...? what...?" that just pops me so far out of the story that I'm no longer paying attention to whether or not our heroes' lives are in jeopardy.

So Tintin is an enjoyable theme park ride. It will likely please fans of the comics more than the uninitiated and it has enough Spielberg whiz-bang to make for an entertaining evening infront of the TV. It won't blow your mind--as I remember the first Jurassic Park movie doing when I was a teenager--but it's a good family popcorn muncher sort of movie if that's what you're in the mood for.

Side note... I thank whoever made the Bluray extras for once highlighting exactly how much ANIMATION work goes into these performance capture movies. I always feel like grinding my teeth every time I hear a director allude to the notion that it's the actor's performance going untouched to the final film, which is a charming notion but hasn't been the truth yet on any of these mocap/performance capture movies that have been made. Credit where credit is due and the animators deserve their rightful share.