Still suffering a case the Spiel-Blues in the wake of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Prepare to let that animosity melt away with The Adventures of Tintin. The film manages to conjure all the humor and camaraderie of The Goonies and the adrenaline-fueled adventure and set pieces of Raiders of the Lost Ark while still maintaining its own unique aesthetic and voice. It's been a long time since a Steven Spielberg movie made me both sufficiently nostalgic and hopeful for a new generation of viewers, but good things come to those who wait. The Adventures of Tintin gets everything right.
It isn't entirely surprising that it took stepping out of his comfort zone to bring Spielberg back to his roots -- that's precisely the case with The Adventures of Tintin, the director's first foray into animation (and comic-book adaptation). By the middle of the relentlessly paced performance-capture action flick, I had to wipe the fog off my 3D glasses (the only proper format in which to see this movie, mind you), take a deep breath and attempt to remember that I'm a grown woman. Honestly, the experience is essentially the celluloid equivalent of a handful of Pixy Stix.
Adapted from the internationally beloved Hergé comics, The Adventures of Tintin combines three of the author's 23 stories: "The Crab with the Golden Claws," The Secret of the Unicorn" and "Red Rackham's Treasure." It's no surprise the narrative flows fluidly, though, considering the writing team of Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. The trio's keen eye for humor and human emotion is pleasantly evident, as well. While Tintin isn't an overt Doctor Who, Scott Pilgrim or Attack the Block companion, the trademark elements -- relatable characters, a unique perspective on action and the reverence for authentic treatment of a subject with a built-in cult following -- are firmly accounted for.
We're introduced to our red-coifed protagonist with a chuckle-inducing homage to Hergé's rendering of him, courtesy of a portrait artist at an outdoor market. Tintin (played by Jamie Bell) and his faithful canine Snowy purchase a model of a three-masted ship called The Unicorn, which quickly lands them in hot water with several mysterious characters, among them Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig). With the sporadic participation of bumbling twin Interpol police officers Thomson and Thompson (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg), Tintin and Snowy delve into the history of the ship, eventually leading them to alcoholic Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), the disgrace of his bloodline and the key to solving Tintin's mystery. The inquisition leads the group on an adventure across the ocean, through the desert and into densely populated paradise -- and there's nary a dull moment along the ride.
The look of the film is a combination of motion capture and CGI, courtesy of Weta visual-effects supervisor Joe Letteri (who boasts The Lord of the Rings, Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes among his many achievements). The sweet spot between Hergé’s illustrations and the technology wielded by producer Peter Jackson's team is completely breathtaking, from reflections in bubbles to the realism of Tintin's eyes to Snowy's canine mannerisms to the breeze in Captain Haddock's hair. It's the perfect combination of fantasy and realism.
The pace, as well, is completely immersive, as the film wastes little time getting into things, and then the action is nonstop (kids will not be bored). Also worth mentioning: As with Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, 3D is utilized in a complimentary – not gimmicky – fashion. Make an effort to see it in the intended format; you won’t be sorry. There are countless jaw-dropping sequences, including a sword fight featuring a lit fuse and a one-take chase scene through crowded streets, that feel innately Spielbergian and wholly invigorating.
I've seen The Adventures of Tintin twice now, and I'm still punch-drunk on nostalgia, completely enamored with the idea that it's a film oozing with undiluted fun. It's the movie to beat this holiday season, and -- considering my rocky relationship with Spielberg's recent films -- I'm happy to say that, thanks to Tintin, we're even, Steven.
The Adventures of Tintin opens today nationwide.