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Since the project’s inception, people have wondered if Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin will be able to find an American audience. While the comics by Herge, on which the film is based, are immensely popular overseas, they’ve never had much appeal in the United States. The truth, however, is that so long as people still love Spielberg-brand adventure films, Tintin shouldn’t have any issue.
The story follows a young journalist named Tintin (Jamie Bell) who begins to piece together a mystery after purchasing a model ship modeled after a legendary sailing vessel called the Unicorn. Learning the story of a battle at sea and a long lost treasure, Tintin sets out on an adventure along with the descendant of the Unicorn’s captain, Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis). But there is another man, named Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig), who is on the hunt for the treasure as well and won’t let Tintin and Haddock stand in his way.
While Robert Zemeckis has spent much of the last decade developing and advancing 100% motion-capture film, it’s ended up that Spielberg is the one to bring the technology to its greatest heights. From their skin texture to complex expressions, the characters in The Adventures of Tintin look incredibly life-like, but also have exaggerated features that allow the movie to have a stronger connection to the source material and create a unique aesthetic. But it’s not just about the look; it’s the direction as well. Just as he’s been proving his entire career, nobody does action-adventure quite like Steven Spielberg and this film shows that medium makes no difference. The movie is filled with fun, exciting scenes, some small and some absolutely epic (While I won’t spoil it, there is one major scene in particular that will assuredly cause your jaw to hit the floor with a cartoonish “glonk” sound) and each one is peppered with the shots and editing that made the Indiana Jones series so legendary.
Performance capture would be nothing without the performance, however, and The Adventures of Tintin shines with them. But while Jamie Bell is great as the lead, it’s the supporting characters that actually end up stealing the show. Serkis is wonderful and hilarious as the drunk, blusterous Haddock and is a terrific foil for the more straight-laced protagonist. Also providing a great deal of the film’s comedy are Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who play a pair of nearly identical police officers known only as Thomson and Thomson. Just as they have in their previous films, Pegg and Frost have a brilliant repartee that works perfectly with the bumbling characters. Lastly there’s Craig, who we are now used to seeing as the ultimate hero – James Bond. As Sakharine, Craig is wonderfully villainous and while not overtly evil (we have to remember that this is a kid’s movie) he plays the character with the perfect levels of sliminess and swagger.
What truly shines about The Adventures of Tintin is that, at its core, it is a true Steven Spielberg film. While the film has flaws – there’re some small plot problems and some pacing issues – overall the movie an immensely enjoyable experience and also quite beautiful.