The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn

Looks like the powerhouse team of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have finally cracked the mo-cap blockbuster.

 

4 stars

 

 

Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn

 

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost

 

Tintin spies a baddy - oooooer!

An engaging adaptation of chunks of three of Herge's classic children's books, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn skilfully navigates its way around the uncanny valley into which previous motion capture animated films have fallen. This is a remarkable directorial as well as technical achievement, demonstrating what can be achieved with the motion capture process when it's utilised by a director of Spielberg's stature.

 

Spielberg's hypothetical camera (it was actually shot with over a hundred tiny ones simultaneously) whirls and loops through set piece after set piece, achieving angles and effects impossible in conventional animation, never mind live action.

 

Tintin and Captain Haddock check something suspicious out. It must be suspicious or why are they hiding behind barrels? Da da daaaaaaa¡

No opportunity to show off is spurned. Instead of merely cutting from scene to scene, Spielberg glides from one setting to another using movement and morphing images: Rolling seas become undulating sand dunes or a puddle on a Belgian street. At one point Captain Haddock relays a story about a famous ancestor. As he does so, the images on the screen move between Haddock's tale and reenactment and his ancestor living it, on at least a dozen occasions.

 

While that scene is, in its own way, a respectful adaption of a celebrated part of the book from which this movie takes its title, some Tintin purists have already taken umbrage at some of the liberties taken with the source material by screenwriters Steven Moffat and, later on, Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright. (Incidentally, in terms of the division of work between those two teams, the film's structure feels distinctly Moffaty, while much of the wordplay inevitably reminds one of Cornish sitting on a bed late night on Channel 4.)

 

The Thompson twins bore the poor old man into looking into the camera.

The Secret of the Unicorn provides the films opening, much of the middle is out of The Crab with the Golden Claws and the conclusion is from Red Rackham's Treasure.

 

The villains of all three stories are conflated into a single Hollywood black hat, one Ivan Sakharine, who later turns out to be an ancestral enemy of the Haddock family.

 

Sakharine is a vastly more villainous version of an antagonistic, but not evil, figure from the books, brought to life by a surprisingly restrained Daniel Craig. It's possible Craig concluded that, when acting with Andy Serkis' genuinely outrageous Captain Haddock, less really was more – and even if it wasn't, more more isn't really an option when faced with Serkis' delightfully eye-popping turn here).

 

Tintin and Snowy do some late night studying.

With these two joining Jamie Bell's appropriate Tintin as co-leads, and supported by Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Mackenzie Crook, this is about as British a representation of francophone cultures as casting a Huddersfield born RSC man as one Jean Luc Picard.

 

That comparison is relevant because in this case, as in that, it's really very difficult to quibble with the end result.

 

Wrapped in one of those John Williams scores which is so infectious you can hum along before the picture has even ended, Tintin is brisk, bright, frequently exciting and consistently delightful.

 

Jim Smith

 

 

Click below to hear Spiels and Jacko doing their promotional duties:

 

 

The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn
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FACT YOU!

Frasier's Daphne and Marty

John Mahoney, aka Frasier's Marty Crane, was born in Blackpool and raised in Manchester. So he can do a Mancunian accent. Unlike Jane Leeves.

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