After a slow start I worried a little that The Adventures of Tintin might be just another pretty animated film lacking substance. I needn’t have worried.
The time spent introducing us to the key characters and plot establishing devices is understandable given that the source material might be foreign to most – including me (I read the comics as a kid, can’t remember a thing about them).
But this film is no ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘ precursor to something bigger (we hope), this is a cinematic event in itself, let’s just consider Spielberg’s animated The Adventures of Tintin an eye-popping, crowd pleasing ‘getting to know you’, and a film that would have made my 2011 Top 10 easily were it not for the fact that I took too long to get to see it.
A film of glorious scope with far more than a hint of Indiana Jones, Tintin (Jamie Bell) follows the titular cherub faced journalist with a shock of red hair and loyal dog Snowy at perpetually at his heels. Tintin is resourceful, intrepid and definitely not afraid to throw a punch if the situation demands, in Snowy he has a loyal companion who is just as brave, bailing Tintin out or furthering their adventures on more than one occasion.
After buying an ornately detailed model ship at the markets Tintin is immediately flooded with offers from new prospective buyers willing to pay for far higher sums – much to the chagrin of the original seller. But Tintin is entranced by his new purchase and the polite young lad says ‘ no thanks’, heading home full of wonder as to why these gents would covet his new mantel warmer so (Tintin wonders A LOT. Inquisitive as a 4 year old – it seems two out of three of his sentences end with a question mark.)
It becomes evident that this scale model of the original Golden Unicorn is a key component to uncovering the location of the treasure of the original ship, long ago thought to be lost at sea and untraceable. A man named Rackham (Daniel Craig) is also seeking to unlock the secrets of the ship and openly warns Tintin to back off and leave well enough alone. Apparently this is not the Tintin way, he instead embraces the challenge and attacks the investigation with gusto, unwittingly putting he and Snowy in great peril at times and seemingly always running from or after shady types.
It is from this point on that Tintin soars head and shoulders above any family film of 2011 this side of Rango.
While attempting to escape from a cargo vessel that Tintin first meets Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), the alcoholic former boss of the shanghaied vessel and himself a descendant of the former skipper of the Golden Unicorn. As a wee fishy Haddock was once told the inner secrets that may lead to the treasure’s whereabouts, but decades of whisky and sorrow have relegated these facts to brain cells long since soused. For a long while Tintin must tip-toe the fine line between keeping Haddock appropriately drunk so that his visions and imagination might be of some use, but not too Hasselhoff drunk that he becomes a burger annihilating liability.
After the initial stages the film moves at a frenetic pace and the action takes the threesome from London to the high seas and ultimately the deserts and incredible cities of Africa in pursuit of Rackham and his cronies. After a memorable sequence where Haddock outlines the story behind how the Golden Unicorn ended up being sunk to the bottom of the sea there is a chase scene through a city that has to be seen to be believed, including a hawk, motorbike (with sidecar), jeep, a tank(!) and (non-violent) carnage galore. Both scenes reminded me of the best moments of Indiana Jones and 80s Jackie Chan – high praise indeed as these are two of my favourites.
At every step Tintin or Snowy find an important clue that keeps the momentum, balanced out by the nefarious Rackham stepping in periodically to mar their progress and momentarily putting them on their heels.
The film has non-stop action and a few deaths, but nothing you would describe as violent by today’s standards, Tintin is ultimately a boy’s own adventure probably best suited to the 9 to 13 age bracket but it has in my view something for all.
Given the who’s who of names behind the scenes this should come as no surprise, Spielberg and Peter Jackson are responsible for some of the best films in modern history (to be fair Jackson’s began and ended with LOTR), and the film was written by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) and Edgar Wright (whose amigos Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play the bumbling policemen the Thompson twins)
The Adventures of Tintin joins Super 8 as a family friendly flick of the highest order, but where Super 8 petered out a little nearer the end Tintin seems to be just reaching top speed. I was as pleased as half the kids in the audience when the closing moments set up another treasure hunting sequel.
Just as giddy when I got home to see it would be helmed by Peter Jackson once he completes his furry-footed Hobbit flicks.
If you have kids of the appropriate ages I can see no downside to Tintin, for those out of the coveted demographic I suggest that you sit back and try to remember back to when you weren’t quite as guarded and cynical, because this is the space that The Adventures of Tintin inhabits.
Final Rating – 8.5 / 10. Welcome Tintin, thanks for making my cheeks sore from grinning for about an hour. It’s been very entertaining to meet you and I look forward to joining you on further adventures.
P.S. To balance out the universe TOG thought Tintin was merely a ‘meh’ film. This just proves that he is out of touch with his inner child, unlike myself and Michael Jackson…