[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B007X4ODT0][/pullquote] The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is based upon an incredibly popular series of comic books written by Belgian artist HergÃ©. Steven Spielberg optioned the rights to the books in 1983 after HergÃ©’s death and in 2002 announced work on a feature film. After a series of delays the film finally got made, with Spielberg attached as director, Peter Jackson as second unit director, with a script written by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Dr. Who supremo Steven Moffat. The film was shot entirely using motion capture, with Weta Workshop providing the technology based on the work they did on Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and specifically the character of Gollum (Andy Serkis). The plot is loosely based on three Tintin comic books: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. Tintin (Jamie Bell) is a young journalist who sees a model ship for sale in a market and upon purchasing is immediately warned that people are after him. He is then approached by the sinister Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig) who offers an open cheque book for the model, Tintin refuses and begins to investigate the history of the ship, The Unicorn, hoping to find clues as to its importance. After a night at the library his house is burgled and Tintin is kidnapped by Mr. Sakharine, in search of a hidden note stowed aboard the model ship. Tintin is taken aboard a ship formerly captained by Archibald Haddock (Serkis) and the two escape and set about trying to retrieve the hidden note and discover the mystery of the Unicorn.
The first thing you’ll realise upon watching The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, is just how far technology has come since Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers gave us a fully rendered Gollum. The scenery, charcters and lighting is sumptuous, rich and almost photo realistic. It’s so good that it puts Avatar to shame. The hair on all the charcters looks real, and there are points where you’re convinced that you are actually watching real people. The technology still struggles with mouths and eyes, but other than that they are fully engaging and sometimes jaw-dropping effects. The plot, while confusing and full or insane leaps of logic from Tintin himself, are interesting and resenably well-rounded. Craig’s Sakharine is suitably menacing and dastardly and Serkis’ Haddock is the pick of the bunch, bringing his character to life, like no other. Fan favourites Thomson (Simon Pegg) and Thompson (Nick Frost) are funny in their limited roles, although they feel a little tacked on, as does Aristides Silk (Toby Jones), and the inclusion of these three helps to take the film to 107 minutes in length, which makes it feel baggy and a little messy by the end.
It might be a case of ‘too much of a good thing’ with the script as there are some corking lines from each of the contributors, but too much material has been included and about 20 minutes could be cut. There are nods to the original animations in the comic in the form of caricatures, which will amuse fans of the comics and there’s even time for a nod to Spielberg’s summer classic Jaws. The action scenes are treated with care and an incredible sense of fun, as Spielberg puts on his Indiana Jones hat to make them heart-stopping and constantly escalating in size and impact. But the main problem for those who are not fans of the comics is the central lead.
Jamie Bell does an excellent job voicing Tintin, the problem with the character is that he is endlessly annoying. He always makes outrageous leaps of logic, that prove to be true and spends the film acting as a moral lightning rod against the flawed but lovable Haddock. His speeches, comments and general behaviour denote someone who is right, and serious too often, meaning that his character lacks the engagement level that an Indiana Jones reaches in a similar role. If it wasn’t for Snowy, he would almost no emotional standpoint. This won’t effect fans of the comics, as they’ll be used to it, but for a casual observer he comes across as preaching and irritating.
Still with future films slated and fairly healthy takings on its opening weekend, it seems the future will be populated with the further adventures of the boy genius. With Spielberg pulling back and Jackson stepping up to direct before a collaborative direction in the third film, there’s plenty of room for improvement in the basic mistakes made.