The nostalgic The Adventures of Tintin animation series by Herge gave Belgium another famous fictional personality other than Poirot, one whose agenda often involved political conspiracy and espionage. The graphic novels have entertained their readers, delivering a soft James Bond meets Poirot type character in elaborate situations with freedom of imagination.
Tintin wouldn’t be Tintin without its iconic array of lovable characters: Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, Thomson & Thompson, Nestor and of course, Snowy. The beloved “comic” book series was adapted into an animated series in the ’90s. The animation was accurate, the adaptation faithful and it was just as charming as the books – using voice artists that recreate the personalities and voices just as you’d have imagined.
Unfortunately, after seeing the brilliance of this little 2D animation series, every moving-picture adaptation comes in direct comparison. While the cast and film-makers attached to the new The Adventures of Tintin have a wealth of experience in the action-adventure genre – they’ve created a hybrid piece of entertainment, which is well-made but an entirely different beast.
The first notable difference is the style of animation. The new Tintin breaks the 2D mold and enters the world of 3D, single-handedly giving the film-makers license to reinterpret every scene. This is a somewhat alienating, albeit a refreshing entry point for fans of the Tintin series. The characters anchor the visuals, while recognisable themes are weaved together.
The second difference is the character design and voices. Tintin has been turned from strawberry blonde to full-blown ginger. His facial expressions are near-blank and it looks like the animators struggled to bring Tintin to life. Other character modifications include two characters who have been modeled to look a lot like the legendary filmmakers: Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.
The voices are not as well-matched as the original 1991 animated series with Colin O’Meara and David Fox, giving bankable name actors preference over authenticity. While Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings) and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) do a sterling job in giving life to these beings, it’s good different – just not as polished. Daniel Craig plays Ivanovich Sakharine with comic duo, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Paul and Hot Fuzz) as bumbling detectives, Thomson and Thompson.
The focus has also shifted to blend several Tintin adventures in a Raiders of the Lost Ark-influenced story. Once again, this alienates and refreshes… taking liberties to deliver a rendition rather than an accurate recreation of Tintin’s adventures. Apart from some dramatic scene changes and additional peripheral characters, they’ve made Captain Haddock permanently drunk instead of cantankerous and the focus of the film upon introduction.
“Billions of blistering blue bazookas…”
Several add-on action sequences showcase the technology, apparently Spielberg directed with a video game controller. However, these sequences seem clever yet contrived. Tintin may be an animated series, but one of its charms is that it never leaves the realm of reality or the possible. The action sequences breach this promise… offering a roving camera that breaks the rules of live-action in set pieces that are near-impossible.
There just seems to have been too much of an effort to bend Tintin into a Spielberg/Jackson product than leaving the charm of the classic graphic novels to do the talking. Merging several of the comics has resulted in something of a quick-paced highlights package that while exciting, feels rushed and routine. There are no moments to engage with the characters, to catch our breath and embrace the mystery. The action-adventure pacing may be at home in an Indiana Jones adventure, but even a globe-trotting investigative journalist needs time to observe, stake out and infiltrate.
While technically sound and entertaining, The Adventures of Tintin is a sign of the times. The influence of video games, the systematic and often unnecessary rehash of classic series and the reliance on film technology are just some of the factors at play. This adaptation may appease most movie goers, but will feel insubstantial, glossy and superficial to those who remember the real Tintin.
The bottom line: Superficial
Release Date: 23 December, 2011
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