I finally got a chance to check out the Tintin movie the other day and in light of my previous column on the source material I thought I would share some thoughts. As the Vulcans say “only Nixon can go to China”.
First I need to add my voice to the every rising chorus of film geeks that hate 3D movies. Or, at very least, the overuse of 3D in movies. I had some hope that since this movie comes from Spielburg and Jackson that the 3D would actually add something to the movie instead of being tacked on foolishness designed to get an extra $4 out of my pocket. No dice. The 3D was boring, useless, and adding nothing to the picture. Such is the way of movies now and I can only hope that the winds will change very soon and we can go back to watching old 2D.
Number of Ds aside the movie does a much better job than the comics in making you actually enjoy the characters. Everyone is far less annoying and, dare I say it, actually likeable in the movie. Now we never actually see Tintin write anything (he might be the worst journalist ever), and at times he is a complete simpleton. I especially like the instance when he walks up to a giant iron gate that is padlocked with a chain and tries several times to open it. Captain Haddock is still a liability, but the film wisely decides to tone down Haddock’s alcoholism, trying to turn the source material of serious 12 step candidate to a stumbly boozy uncle. It mostly works, but alcoholics just aren’t as funny as they used to be. The real winner in the movie makeover though is Snowy, who is now totally baddass and solidifies his position in the dog sidekick pantheon.
The film’s structure and script are excellent. The pacing is tight, the action moves flawlessly from scene to scene, and the writing team manages to weave source material into a fresh new package. It is a vast improvement over the source material, which can crawl at a snail’s pace. The best scene involves Tintin, Haddock, and Snowy destroying most of Morocco while chasing down their enemies. It has a Nathan Drake vibe to it, and reminds us how Tintin has inspired Indiana Jones type adventure since his 1929 debut. There are certain elements of the story that seem dated, and I found it odd that there were almost no women in the entire movie. I know that is the source material, and a sign of the genre and time in which it was written, but it seems jarring in today’s society.
The strongest part of the film, without a doubt, is the voice acting. Every character comes to life and the respect and passion for the source material shines through. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are fantastic as Thomson and Thompson, Jamie Bell perfectly captures Tintin, and Andy Serkis (everyone’s favourite Gollum) is absolutely brilliant as Haddock. Aspiring voice actors should take note of Serkis’ performance, and I am once again reminded at how Oscar nominations should go to voice actors.
At the box office the movie only did okay in North America. Audiences enjoyed it, but Tintin is quintessential figure in European comic books. Some types of storytelling are universal, but we need to be honest that North American and European tastes are different. So the filmmakers were caught in a tight spot: they either had to ignore source material and make Tintin a iron-jawed roguish ladies-man, or they needed to stay faithful and risk disinterest from Joe Six-Pack. They do a pretty good job of running a middle line, and I feel that the flick will find its place with home release.
So I still don’t really like Tintin, but Spielburg and Jackson did manage to take my hatred and change it into mere dislike.