THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN Review; An Outstanding Adventure For All Ages

Steven Spielberg has crafted a fantastical 3D adventure which is by turns visually stunning, thrilling, sophisticated, silly, and a whole lot of fun.

rating: 4

It appears that, following his hugely underwhelming revisit of the Indiana Jones franchise, Steven Spielberg is keen to remind us that he hasn€™t lost his firm grip on robust Hollywood filmmaking. With two features set for release within the next three months €“ the other being his much-anticipated War Horse adaptation €“ it€™s relieving to report that the first, The Adventures of Tintin, sees the director back on strong form. Working from three of author Herg這s Tintin stories, "The Crab with the Golden Claws", "The Secret of the Unicorn" and "Red Rackham's Treasure", Spielberg has delivered a ludicrously entertaining adventure film which will entertain both fans of the source material as well as the uninitiated, no matter their age. All begins innocently when intrepid Belgian reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) buys a model ship of the legendary navy vessel the Unicorn, but soon finds the slippery and mysterious Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig) trying to steal it from him. As it turns out, there are three models of the Unicorn, each providing one piece of the puzzle that will reveal the location of the real, sunken Unicorn, which houses a grand measure of wealth in its watery depths. Along with his trusty dog Snowy and the last living descendant of the Unicorn€™s Captain, alcoholic eccentric Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), Tintin must race to stop Sakharine from pilfering that wealth which rightly belongs to Haddock. The debate around performance capture films has been raging fervently since the early adoption by Robert Zemeckis with several works €“ The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol €“ which boasted visual invention, though crucially failed to retain the complete human essence of their characters. This resulted in creepily canny pod-people with vivid mannerisms but cold, dead eyes. James Cameron€™s Avatar was the first film to truly defeat this flaw in the performance capture method, delivering characters with a vibrant, human expressiveness, somewhat ironically given their mostly alien origins. It is here with Spielberg€™s first foray into both performance capture and 3D, that we get our second hit-for-six, no doubt thanks to the partnership with Peter Jackson and his extraordinarily skilled studio of animators at Weta Digital. The Adventures of Tintin is first and foremost, make no mistake, a visual spectacle and an eye-meltingly gorgeous reminder of how close we are coming to photo-realistically recreating a human being. While the majority of the supporting characters sport comically bulbous noses and the overarching style is rightly divorced from realism, Spielberg€™s rendering of his protagonist is frighteningly lifelike; the young sleuth reacts with unerring verisimilitude to the events happening around him, and because his eyes pierce through the screen, it feels real. Other characters - chiefly Captain Haddock, played superbly by motion capture master Andy Serkis - are expressive to a cartoonish degree, yet each crease of their face and dart of their eyes still rings positively human. Action is meanwhile directed with the impeccable skill expected from any Steven Spielberg film, and he has adapted seamlessly to the vastness of the 3D format, staging elaborate and lengthy chase scenes which neither forget the frenetic thrill of the pursuit nor abandon plausibility for the sake of outlandishness (a few lovely dog-related stunts aside). The inventiveness of these sequences recalls the films of Buster Keaton, deeply rooted in physicality if, of course, accentuated grandly by sophisticated computer-generated imagery. The overall feeling, indeed, is that Spielberg saw how much fun James Cameron was having on the Avatar set, and simply had to get in on the action himself, for this is the filmmaker at surely his most unrestrained, and after the seriousness and less-stately quality of his last few films, this feels like a director rejuvenated by a new set of tools. Drawn from the pens of Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, it€™s little surprising that this is an adventure film that brims with wit, while also being fundamentally daft in the best way possible. While the central narrative is densely-packed and bounds along at an energetic pace, the small moments of character building €“ particularly those departures to flesh out Captain Haddock, namely by way of his alcohol dependency €“ ring manically funny even if, when the laughs are over, it ultimately feels more than a little sad. It results in one rather brilliant moment, however, when Haddock€™s lack of alcohol and subsequent dehydration causes him to see a mirage of the Unicorn which, in turn, triggers a long-buried memory that is crucial to finding the ship's wreckage. Spielberg has delicately managed to combine some of the more savoury elements of film noir targeted at adults €“ streets awash in chiaroscuro lighting, heavy gunplay and creeping suspense €“ with larger-than-life moments sure to have the kids giggling with glee. The legendary filmmaker strikes a perfect tone, creating a film unafraid to have a character die before our eyes in a hail of bullets, yet one that's also studiously focused on living up to the quaint €“ and very exciting €“ lineage of the original works. Spielberg has crafted a fantastical 3D adventure which is by turns visually stunning, thrilling, sophisticated, silly, and a whole lot of fun. The Adventures of Tintin is OUT NOW IN THE UK and will be released in the U.S. on December 23rd.
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Frequently sleep-deprived film addict and video game obsessive who spends more time than is healthy in darkened London screening rooms. Follow his twitter on @ShaunMunroFilm or e-mail him at shaneo632 [at] gmail.com.