Monday, December 26, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin. B+

I wouldn't expect those who aren't familiar with the Herge comics to find The Adventures of Tintin to be a very good movie. One foreign to the source material would likely see the film as a bland, overloaded action picture that's fun to look at. Yet a reader of the comics would see the details and the humor and immediately know that Steven Spielberg and his team of writers get Tintin. This is a movie devoted to its source, firmly intent on not disappointing the true fans. So often a movie adaptation leaves out segments and/or adds problematic content not from its source, yet Spielberg seems set on getting everything right. And despite a few action scenes not found in the comics, he stays very close to the stories he chose for the film. The central source here is The Secret of the Unicorn, one of my personal favorite Tintin adventures. Spielberg uses that tale mainly for the narrative, and then puts in pieces from other adventures for the action scenes. Some say Tintin has too much action, and I could see why after watching the film. Yet the comics have a fair amount of action scenes, too, only they end much quicker on the page than on the screen. Reading an action scene in Tintin is like a brief excursion from the story, yet in the film Spielberg seems to build his narrative around the fights and the chases. For the first half he has a great balance of smooth, brief bits of action mixed with the intrigue of the plot. But after an escape from a large ship, Spielberg suddenly seems concerned with nothing but loud action pieces. They're elaborate, with Spielberg taking full advantage of the possibilities of performance capture animation, but they're also a bit of a grind. The final single-shot stunt Spielberg inserts in the film should have been wowing, but the movie has pummeled the viewer with so much chaos that it's hard to really care about it. That being said, everything works in the film. It feels very close to the perfect Tintin movie, especially when you then go back and flip through the comics again. But I'd recommend those who don't know Tintin to do that first before seeing the film. It's the difference between mediocrity and enormous fun.

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