A Dreamer Walking

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn- Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on December 30, 2011

In The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn Steven Spielberg finally has the ability to do whatever he wants. He can visit any location the mind can imagine. He can create huge ships, vast deserts, and magnificent cities. He has complete control over all the elements. He places the sun where he wants it to be. He makes it rain, fog, or blow depending on what he thinks best fits the scene. There are many scenes in Tintin where Spielberg takes advantage of his limitless camera abilities. The camera can fit through all the small cracks. There are action shots that hold for minutes at a time. And the framing of the picture is often perfect because Spielberg can capture the acting separately from the framing.

With all the cool things that came with the limitless abilities of animation and the vast imagination of Steven Spielberg and collaborator Peter Jackson, I felt astonishingly unsatisfied with the final result. Unlike most motion capture movies I was not bugged by the photo realistic characters and locations for the most part. It was the story and character chemistry that ruined my day.

Evidently we were supposed to just love the main character Tintin right from the start. He is a journalist who apparently is always in search of a good story. However, he hardly needs to do any work to get involved with the story in this film. He happens to buy a ship at the very beginning of the movie that holds a clue to a long forgotten mystery. Everything in the film seems to fall to simply into Tintin’s hands. He gets himself into sticky situations for sure, but we never feel like Tintin is in any real danger. He is always confident and usually knows exactly what to do, which makes the thrills of the picture less suspenseful and entertaining. We have no idea to why Tintin likes adventure. We are given no time to care for Tintin as a character before we are thrown into his adventure. The movie starts out running and never slows down.

Through investigating Tintin is captured and taken to a ship where he meets captain Haddock; a drunker who has lost all confidence in his ability to command his crew. There are hints of life in the story when Tintin meets Haddock. Haddock is a big clumsy drunk who is easy to like. However, it feels like the plot gets in the way of us really getting to know Haddock. Captain Haddock is directly connected to the mystery of the Secret of the Unicorn. The story has more to do with Haddock trying to live up to his old family name, then it does with us getting to know Haddock as an individual. A huge amount of the success of the story lies in us buying into the chemistry between Haddock and Tintin. I however had a hard time liking them as a duo. Tintin is just too one dimensional and Haddock too insecure and delusional.

Steven Spielberg is a live action director and it shows in this film. First off it did not seem like Spielberg was confident in his animation collaborators. In interviews he has said he did about one month of work and then left the movie for the most part to the animation crew for about two years. In the film Spielberg has the control of the camera, but he never seems to hold on anything long enough for us truly to appreciate it. The characters are too busy fulfilling the plot and going from one action scene to another for us to really have time to appreciate them or their relationships to one another. The locations looked beautiful but we never really were given much time to explore. Spielberg also acted like these were cartoons rather then living and breathing human beings. They could survive almost anything, like plane crashes, building collapses, and huge ship fights. With animation shorts like Looney Toons one can get away with a character walking off a three hundred foot ledge and surviving or getting blown up by a TNT with only some hair burnt off. However, if you want to create a narrative that lasts more then ten minutes you need to create characters who the audience sees as alive and vulnerable to the same kind of consequences as we are in real life. All I am asking for is someone to break a limb, have a few bruises, or just be a bit out of breath after a fight or huge chase scene. Because of the huge lack of reality in Spielberg’s imagined world everything felt to convenient and fake for most to really care.

I am sure the younger audience will find The Adventures of Tintin entertaining. Every once in a while I did feel the magic that so often comes with Spielberg’s movies. There are several magnificent transitions in the film.  I felt like John Williams score was just right for the world and story material. I liked the little bit I did see of the Tintin world and am interested in exploring it more. I don’t know if the animation was mediocre because I wasn’t given enough time to appreciate it or because of the limits that come with motion capture. There still was this weightless feeling I felt with some of the animation which bothered me and is typical of motion capture. In some crowd scenes I felt like everyone blended into each other. One of motion captures greatest flaws is the inability to hit extreme poses that help express information more clearly and make each character feel unique. Motion capture is a tool yet to be perfected. However, it seemed to have taken a few steps forward in this film. The eyes never felt dead and the character designs felt more expressionistic and pleasing then in past motion capture films. Spielberg was also given a way to use many of his traditional live action techniques and apply them to the world of animation because of motion capture.

With animation there are limitless possibilities with what a filmmaker can do. However, the artist is required to create everything which means every step of production takes more time. It seems like Spielberg wanted the benefits of animation without putting in the time needed to perfect the art form. Because of this we often get a busy mess of a film. It’s a shame we get a mediocre piece of entertainment from two of the greatest entertainers of this generation, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. Spielberg has said this movie was his only real experience collaborating creativity with a producer. I am interested in seeing the roles reversed when Spielberg is the cheerleader producer and Jackson is in the directors chair. The Tintin series has potential but has a long way to go if they want to make any kind of lasting effect like those of the Indiana Jones or Lord of the Rings series’.

One Response

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  1. CMrok93 said, on January 2, 2012 at 5:13 am

    Spielberg may not score much points when it comes to his use of motion-capture animation here but the film still benefits from a fun and kinetic direction that brings him back to his old Indiana Jones days. Serkis is a riot the whole time as well. Great review. Check out mine when you get the chance.


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