Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

               Up until this point I had only ever heard of TinTin in minor conversations about comics.  I’ve never read one of them or really been interested in them.  So, when I heard about this strange collaboration between Steven Speilberg and Peter Jackson to bring these comics to life, I wasn’t overly excited.  Then I heard they would be using performance capture which I thought was another strange idea.  The technique isn’t all that popular to begin with, so to take a franchise not well known in the US and make it in an unpopular form, I was certain it would be a failure.  Having now seen the results I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
                To start, the story taken from the comics was fun.  Tintin and his dog Snowy come upon a model ship, the Unicorn, which thrusts them into a globe spanning adventure.  Together with Captain Haddack the descendent of the original captain of the Unicorn, they travel the world over in order to find a hidden treasure. 
                With Jamie Bell voicing Tintin, he brings a very good likability to the character.  Andy Serkus, now the foremost expert on performance capture filming, is great as Captain Haddack.  He brings the perfect amount of humor to offset Tintin as the straight man. I can’t speak for the dog’s voice acting but Snowy is great.  Daniel Craig voices the typical villain with a sly anger and grit to everything he says.  The moment you hear him you know he is not good.  One of the highlights of this movie is getting to see, in a manner of speaking, Shaun of the Dead’s Nick Frost and Simon Pegg together again as Agent Thompson and Thompson.  They are ridiculous but funny every time they are on screen.  
                The animation is quite amazing and I wonder why it didn’t make the cut for the Oscars.  Spielberg was able to take this medium to its full potential.  In a smart move, the characters faces were obviously not made to look real.  Unlike in Beowulf or A Christmas Tale where Zemekus tried to accurately show an animated human face, Tintin knows performance capture isn’t quite there yet.  There is still just a little too much detail in a human face that animation can’t capture.  That is not to say though, that Spielberg hasn’t managed to brilliantly depict everything else. Even the characters bodies move and feel real, as long as they aren’t doing something no human could ever do.  Every body looks like it has real weight.  Every time they show a close up of someone’s hands they have all the wrinkles and groves.  Everything in the surrounding scene looks almost real.   
                Unfortunately, one of the biggest downfalls of this movie is one of its best assets.   By making the movie animated, Steven Speilberg was able to show some amazing action set pieces that live action could never pull off.  One of the most impressive scenes is a chase through the streets of Bagghar, done in one continuous shot weaving in and out of corridors, through buildings and all around everywhere else.  No live action camera could have ever done that shot.   Like I said even though animating the movie makes some impressive set pieces, it also brings with it the unfortunate stigma that all animated films need to be catered to kids.  Many points throughout the film the laughs come from pratfalls and people getting hit in the head.  Plus many times the acting goes way over the top and can become a little annoying.  It is pretty clear it was done for the younger crowd.  
                        All in all this is a fun film.  One thing that kept coming to mind as I watched this film was, “this should have been what the 4th Indiana Jones film was.”  It really showed that Spielberg is still the master of the adventure films.   Any fan of performance capture films or the Indiana Jones films will enjoy this film.  Now that I’ve seen this film I am interested to see what Peter Jackson does with the character next.  

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