I’m a pretty huge Tintin fan. Not exactly what you call a Tintinologist, but I grew up reading Tintin and co. and their many adventures across the world, so naturally when I heard there’s going to be a film based on the Belgian reporter (directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson, no less!), the immediate reaction is a jizz in the pants.
And trust me, the film does not disappoint!
The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn tells the story of Tintin (Defiance’s Jamie Bell), a young reporter spurred into action after stumbling into a secret concerning a lost treasure of a long-dead pirate. Joining him is Snowy, his faithful dog; Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), an alcoholic sailor whose ancestor fought the pirate over the treasure; and Thomson and Thompson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), two bumbling detectives. One step ahead of them is Mr. Saccharine (Daniel Craig), a mysterious man who is hunting for the treasure himself.
Secret of the Unicorn is without a doubt a return to form for Steven Spielberg. Channeling his 80s self, Spielberg takes us to an era long gone, with swashbuckling heroes a la Indiana Jones, whose shooting always hit and punches always knocks out the enemy. It might be off-putting to some, but could be seen as a fun and refreshing break for today’s generation of moviegoers who are so used to the dark and grittiness surrounding films of late. The animation is also nothing short of superb, treading the thin line between realistic and computer imagery, and boasts a 3 minute non-stop (!) shot sequence that can only be described as breathtaking.
While some would find the character of Tintin to be bland (though Tintin in the comics is kind of a blank page himself), the supporting cast beside him is anything but. Andy Serkis churns out a masterful Oscar-worthy performance as drunk sailor Captain Haddock, complete with his trademark colorful choice of cursing words and constant need for whiskey providing the film’s many jokes. Pegg and Frost’s comical talent are also spot on as the clumsy Thomson and Thompson, and Craig gives a serviceable performance as the menacing villain Saccharine.
If there’s two criticism I can make, first is the Hollywoodized script. Tintin stories usually lacked a final boss-type villain, so in true Hollywood fashion, a big bad has to be made. This move might be necessary in order to increase the stakes, though it kinda takes away from the core of the stories itself, which is the adventure rather than the villain. The film also slips in a cheesy empowering message that’s just so uncharacteristic and out of place in a Tintin story (but I’m probably nitpicking). Second, a running time of 107 minutes might feel a little long for an animated movie. Luckily, the fun and action always comes at the right time to save the audience from feeling a bit too bored.
With the second film already greenlighted (Peter Jackson is directing), hopefully it can match the high quality and fun level the first film has set, and remind us why we’re still in love with family adventures movies. Tintin can’t go to the moon soon enough!