Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down


17 April 2012 by Nicholas in Films

I have to admit, I never really liked Tintin over much as a child. I love Asterix. I can quote huge swathes of it and retain a fondness undiminished by age. Tintin, on the other hand, I think I may have read one or two books of and, while I appreciate Herge’s artistic strengths, I find a little dated as a concept.

The film is directed by Steven Spielberg and is CGI animated. Spielberg, for me, hasn’t been great for a number of years. Upon settling down to watch, however, I noticed that the screenplay was by Joe Cornish (Adam and Joe, Attack the Block), Edgar Wright (Spaced, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) and Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock). That is a hell of a trifecta.

The animation of the film is really well thought out and well done: everything is consistent with itself and, although it’s definitely not realistic, it is engaging and conveys depth, weight and a sense of place and setting. It’s a rich and textured world in much the same way that Herge’s art accomplishes, and something that feels real on its own terms.

The writing is largely good, although the set up is a little hackneyed and there is a distinct feeling of boys own adventure to the events and circumstances. I am sure this is a carry over from the source material. For the most part the events are crisp and the dialogue reveals character and is entertaining in and of itself. The only real problems I have with the plot and characters are the Captain’s seeming dependency on alcohol and the two detectives acting solely as comic relief.

Beyond the technical consistency, the crispness of the dialogue and solidity of the story is one of Spielberg’s best films of the past 20 years. I know exactly how long it has been since I enjoyed a film of his this much, and also it eschews his normal rumination on family, parents and reconciliation. This is a straight-forward adventure that moves at a fair pace and takes in many exotic locales and situations.

That isn’t the best of the film though: it has a truly incredible chase in it. Impossible to film in live action, it’s a single shot that takes Tintin and adversary through a long chase with the camera cycling impossibly and the action taking place in the air, on water and road with the balance of advantage shifting repeatedly and the whole sequence being exciting and satisfying. I watch it and I am a child watching “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” again. It’s that good. And worth watching the film for. That the rest of the film is actually quite good is a pleasant surprise.