One of the fondest memories I have growing up in small town Saskatchewan is going to my local library to pick from their collections of two specific titles; Asterix & Obelix and The Adventures of Tintin. They were the first comic books I fell in love with, my gateway drug into that world that led me to Batman, Spider-Man and more. Naturally, I followed Tintin from page to TV screen with the early 1990s animated series and then the 2011 Steven Spielberg film which is now available on Netflix.
If you are not familiar with Tintin, he is a young Belgian reporter who often finds himself dragged into dangerous and bizarre cases, but rarely seems to hand in a story to an editor. He is always accompanied by Snowy, an almost anthropomorphic visage of a white fox terrier given his impressive problems solving abilities. His supporting cast often includes the drunk/heroic socialite Captain Haddock, the befuddled yet brilliant Professor Calculus and the grossly incompetent detectives Thomson and Thompson.
The Adventures of Tintin is derived from the plots of three of Hergé’s (Georges Remi) Belgian comic books; The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. These comics were released in 1941, 1943 and 1944 respectively, and introduced the character of Captain Haddock to the series as well as using the classic Thomson and Thompson characters. Thomson and Thompson have had a surprising cultural impact as the make a cameo in the comic Asterix in Belgium and inspired the band name The Thompson Twins. While Professor Calculus does not appear, the indomitable opera singer Bianca Castafiore does.
While not the first time Tintin had made it to the big screen, Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin was the most high profile version North America had seen. In addition to Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy signed on as producers with Steven Moffat (Doctor Who writer and producer), Edgar Wright (director of Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the upcoming Ant-Man) and Joe Cornish on screenplay duties. Add in a cast that includes Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and you have a lot of hype surrounding the project. As this was a 3D motion capture project and Peter Jackson was involved, motion capture pro Andy Serkis being involved was somewhat inevitable.
One major issue I have is the style of animation, which has been used in other films such as The Polar Express. I must admit I have not been a fan of that style of 3D motion capture animation in past films and find it off-putting, sometimes even difficult to watch. Characters simultaneously look too real and too fake at the same time, sitting in that weird place in the uncanny valley where real is too real. That being said, I found it less distracting in The Adventures of Tintin than other films that were created using only that technology as the basis for the animation.
Overall, it is an interesting take on the story arc from the three comics into one film. It is fun, energetic and engaging, and serves as a great introduction into the world of Tintin for the uninitiated.
Ian Goodwillie is a columnist for the Spectator Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @ThePrairieGeek and on Tumblr at iangoodwillie.tumblr.com.
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