Home » Reviews » The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) | Review

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) | Review

 

I must admit, that in a way, I feel under-qualified to comment on The Adventures of Tintin. I never read the comics, and there is only the tiniest flicker of remembrance for a Tintin cartoon that is the basis for my familiarity with the character, but alas, it evidently failed to impress me. Nevertheless, I was drawn to the film out of curiosity, and by a large group of French friends, for whom the series occupied a much more prominent part of their cultural upbringing.

The movie is quite simply one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen in years. Whilst I doubt many share my geeky love for editing and motion graphics, I was hooked by the title sequence alone. Beautifully rendered with stark silhouettes and multiple planes of action, the sequence is reminiscent of the James Bond openings, especially that of Casino Royale, though admittedly a little less sexy. From there, it only got better. Its achievement, and the key to its success, is that is it very much a Chimera of a film; with a plot written for children but played out with the action and cinematics designed for adults. There is plenty of gunfire, and fisticuffs to justify an endorsement I saw, “Tintindiana Jones” – terrible, yes, but very accurate. I have to agree, this film is vintage Spielberg and Lucas of the late seventies and early eighties era, very much akin to that slate of fantastic, escapist fare such as Indiana Jones and Star Wars.

The CGI is just a complete triumph, albeit it has polarised audiences and given a particular term ‘the uncanny valley’ a new relevance today. The uncanny valley is used when creating animated films, and refers to keeping characters ‘cartoonish’ enough, basically so as not to creep out the kids. Personally, I enjoyed this adventure on the ‘wrong’ side of the uncanny valley, marvelling at the flexibility it provided, however it seems others would prefer either straight animation or real-life. As i mentioned earlier, it’s the hybridity of the film that, in my opinion, makes it so enjoyable.

Regardless, the rendering of the characters is so realistic in parts you see genuine flashes of nuanced emotion that you would only see coming from real actors, yet when required, the actors and environment can take on a hyper-real comic effect, that allows some genuinely pleasant slapstick or mind-blowing action sequences. I would go so far as to say that Tintin contains the greatest chase scene I’ve ever seen in a movie. What starts as a chase between a jeep and motorbike just simply disintegrates, throwing the 4 human characters, plus a dog, a hawk and three floating scraps of paper across multiple planes of action, in a variety of vehicles, and with physical leaps, falls, dives, swings and all the while the city of Begghar is torn apart from the ferocity of the action. I never use the term jaw-dropping, but I have to rethink that after finding myself in a puddle of drool at the close of the sequence (NB. There was no drool). A scene like this would lose its effect were it more animated and on the ‘correct’ side of the uncanny valley and just wouldn’t be possible if created for real.

CGI aside, you cannot count out the talents of the cast, both through the motion-capture (though admittedly, you can never be sure which bits were genuine) but certainly through the voice-acting. I have to admit that I thought all the actors outdid themselves. I’m a huge Daniel Craig fan, and have watched Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for years, but once the movie got going, I had difficulty pinning down who played who. Their voices became whole new personas unlike anything I’ve heard from them before, and I’m pleased, it allowed me to see the characters as wholly new without seeing Tim Bisley & Mike every time the Thompsons uttered a word.

It’s hard for me not to rave about The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, and I do urge everyone to see it. If I can enjoy it from a position of complete ignorance (or maybe because of?) I cannot see why others can’t too. I sincerely believe that treating it like another Indiana Jones film is the right way to go. It’s hugely enjoyable, and unless you’re one put off by the CGI, I can’t see what there is to dislike.

 

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