Friday, November 4, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Some movies are not about deep thoughts, insightful lessons or revelations about humanity—some are simply good yarns. For a long time they were the territory of B films and serials; but Spielberg changed all that in 1981 with the adventure film to define all adventure films. The artistry and near perfection of “Raiders” raised that effort to the level of classic, and created a slew of imitations—some of which are actually good.

With “Tintin” Spielberg has created another great entertainment. For 106 minutes and 47 seconds (minus credits) you can sit back and enjoy the fun ride that it is. But, where does this film fit in cinema? Is it among Spielberg’s greats? How about the year’s best?

This is Spielberg’s first animated film, but then this is one of those motion-capture-appear-to-be-live-action cartoons. Most of the time that creates a whole bunch of “uncanny valley” issues, but they manage to avoid that for the most part here. In some ways the successful use of the motion capture is a shame, because the “Tintin” books are known for their appealing, stylized drawing. (Which is nicely paid tribute at the opening of this story.)

The real problem the look of this film causes is minor. The film looks nearly live action, but the action itself is decidedly cartoony. Sometimes it goes so over the top that the viewer is taken out of the story. There is no way some of these set pieces (as amazing and applaudable as they are) could ever really be pulled off. In a cartoon universe we are conditioned to buy the incredible, but live action requires us to believe what we see. However, we are in very capable hands here so it does manage to work.

The source material is good and the adaptation is great so, even if it is light entertainment that isn’t instant classic, here’s hoping they make more.

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