With a slew of comic book movies being adapted for the big screen (including the highly-anticipated Avengers movie), even established directors like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are joining the fray.

However, instead of opting for more conventional heroes like those from Marvel or DC, the duo decided to travel back to early 20th century with Hergé’s boy detective, Tintin.

With Spielberg at the helm, fans can rest assured that their prized stories would be brought to life by the best, and indeed, even Tintin’s creator has been quoted in saying that “If anyone can bring Tintin successfully to the screen, it is this young American film director”.

With the cartoonist’s approval and a string of successful action-adventure movies like Indiana Jones (which drew comparisons with Tintin from movie critics) under his belt, all eyes would be on the filmmaker to see if the faith in him is justified.

Titled The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, it is made clear to Tintin fans that the movie would be based on the book of the same name, where Tintin goes in pursuit of the pirate Red Rackham’s treaaure after finding a clue in a model of a ship christened the Unicorn, but non-Tintin aficionados won’t find themselves outside of the action either.

The movie’s script also borrows scenes and elements from other comics in the series, like The Crab with the Golden Claws, allowing writers Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish to create a coherent screenplay that remains faithful to Herge’s source material as well as keeping the movie snappy and well-paced, chock-full of stunning action sequences and comedy, perfect for Spielberg’s directorial style.

Starting with a delightfully minimalist opening credits sequence that is at once old school and modern, similar to the credits for another Steven Spielberg movie, Catch me if you Can, the movie is essentially, a cartoon brought to 3D animation. Using Avatar’s motion capture technology, Spielberg is allowed to film the move as though it were live-action, but is not hampered by real-life limitations. That means that action sequences flow smoothly from one flashback to another, the characters can attempt impossible physical feats (like fencing with cranes) without a lot of insurance and lawsuits, and cameras can be easily maneuvered to achieve gorgeous shots without a lot of expensive purpose-built rigs.

Having the motion capture technology also ensures that the actors cast need not have to look like they’ve been plucked out of Herge’s comic books. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg for example, are able to play the dimwitted, clumsy twin detectives Thomson and Thompson with their easy comic partnership, even though Pegg and Frost look about as similar as Bert and Ernie.

Which brings us to the acting. If this is motion-capture, where exactly does animation stop and acting begin? With the exception of Snowy, the traditionally computer-animated dog, all other the characters were based on the actors’ performance (body language, voice, facial expressions). Even the Academy can’t figure out how to categorise the mo-cap movies, and are unwilling to put such films up for consideration in the Best acting and animation categories in the Oscars.

A pity then, because Tintin does feature some great performances like Serkis’ drunken Captain Haddock, who provided much of the movie’s most comical moments, armed with a Scottish brogue and inebriated impulsiveness and Daniel Craig’s menacing villain Ivanovich Sakharine.

The computer effects here are also wonderfully rendered, with lushly detailed costumes where each individual stitch can be seen and props that look at once believable and cartoon-like. The characters have also sidestepped the ‘dead-eye’ effect from previous animations, with a gleeful glint adorning Tintin’s gaze or the glazed appearance of Haddock that gives them a human touch, which significantly reduces the creepiness of watching computer-generated people walk around with life-like skin.

With the winning combination of Herge’s charm and Spielberg’s love for adventure, it’s very unlikely that diehard fans will protest. Here’s hoping that Peter Jackson’s second installment will be as rewarding.


Movie: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
ating: 4/5
Nov 10
Duration: 107 minutes
Language: English
Age Rating:
Action, Adventure, Animation

Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig