Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Adventures of Tintin - Dir. Steven Spielberg

Recently Steven Spielberg has been one busy man, not only has he been producing numerous television and film properties over the past year or so, but he has also been juggling two directorial properties. While ‘War Horse’ isn’t due to be released for another month, his latest offering, ‘The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,’ is based on the classic, best-selling comic books created by the Belgian artist Georges Remi (who was also known under the pen name Herge). The comics follow a young Belgian reporter named Tintin and his dog Snowy as they go about their days solving mysteries and getting into various misadventures along the way. Directed by Spielberg, produced by Peter Jackson and written by the British trio of Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Steven Moffat, it marks a new turn in Spielberg’s cinematic journey as he ditches live action for motion capture, and while the film takes full advantage of the technology at hand to create lavish environments, the story itself is too disorientating to hold an adult audiences attention for its one hour and forty minutes running time.

Tintin (Jamie Bell) along with his faithful dog Snowy, is enjoying his day meandering around a local market when he finds an intricately designed model ship called the Unicorn available for sale by a somewhat anxious merchant. Once in Tintin’s possession, the ship sets off a sequence of events which sees the young reporter come up against the mysterious Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig), befriend the alcohol loving Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), and help the bumbling Interpol agents Thomson and Thompson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) in their many endeavours, as he attempts to unravel the mystery behind the legend of the Unicorn and the secret cargo stowed away by the ships fabled Captain Sir Francis Haddock. Action, adventure, explosions, and bumbling detectives follow as Tintin races throughout the world to solve the mystery of the Unicorn.

It is a phrase which is thrown around a lot when evaluating films within the action-adventure genre, but ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ is literally a non-stop thrill ride. But, while this phrase would usually be attributed to the praise of a motion picture, in the context of this film, it becomes a part of the criticism. From the beautifully crafted opening titles to the closing scene, there isn’t a moment which goes by in which something isn’t being blown up, jumped on, ridden or used as a makeshift weapon. It is as if Spielberg doesn’t trust the primarily young audience members to actually engage with the film when a lavish action set-piece isn’t taking place, and because of this, the audience is presented with a film which becomes disorientating due to its constant fast and frenetic pace. Also, due to the narratives exhilarating pace, the film requires that many of the large set-pieces take place one after the over, thereby once again detracting heavily away from their overall impact on the viewer.

Aside from the fast-paced nature of the motion-picture however, the performance capture works well, as the computer generated backgrounds, locations and scenery are a startling indicator of how far technology regarding motion capture and three-dimensional imagery has come in the last decade. When it comes to the characters themselves however, while the motion capture allows for startling facial detail, it cannot replicate the emotional disparity of real human beings. The script written by three of the most promising British filmmakers at the moment contains a multitude of in-jokes, friendly humour and an attempt at characterisation. But again due to the pace of the film, this aspect falls flat due to the central narrative stream taking precedence over everything else on-screen throughout its running time.

‘The Adventures of Tintin’ is a family-friendly, fast-paced, loose, action-adventure film that will no doubt be lauded by children across the land. It is essentially Spielberg doing what Spielberg does best: entertaining the public. But unlike the ‘Indiana Jones’ series and ‘E.T,’ among many of his other films, ‘Tintin’ is unable to cross generational boundaries to become a film for all the ages. While children will appreciate the non-stop, in-your-face action sequences which are constantly loud, bright and full of computer-generated destruction, older cinema-goers will no doubt become tired of the repetitive series of events. With a ‘Tintin’ sequel and even a trilogy potentially on the cards for the future, it would have been nice if Spielberg had attempted to scale back the action sequences for further plot and character development, rather than throwing every available device at the viewer hoping that something would eventually stick. While this approach may work with young children viewing the picture, it will almost certainly pass most adults by.
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