Tuesday, January 3, 2012
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (2011)
Steven Spielberg’s first animated directorial effort is a fast-paced and visually sophisticated adaptation of the comic book series by Hergé. When we first meet intrepid investigative boy reporter Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) he’s purchasing a meticulously rendered replica of the Unicorn, a ship scuttled during a pirate attack over 300 years ago by its captain, Sir Francis Haddock. But sinister Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig) wants the model for himself because it contains a clue to the Unicorn’s sunken treasure. When Tintin refuses to sell, Sakharine kidnaps the boy and stows him aboard a cargo ship bound for Morocco that he has stolen from its drunken Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), descendent of Sir Francis, who is also held prisoner. Tintin and his loyal, resourceful dog Snowy must rescue Haddock, escape the ship, and find the remaining clues to the treasure before Sakharine does. Writers Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish embrace the source material’s serial nature, and Spielberg attacks the story with a zest and playfulness too often absent post RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, his kindred film from thirty years ago. The motion-capture animation technique the movie employs can be difficult to appreciate, as it often renders movement stilted and alien, preventing immersion in story and character (see THE POLAR EXPRESS as the most aggravating example). However, with minor exception, directorial verve and breathless tempo overcome that obstacle here. Spielberg and the screenwriters also take full advantage of animation’s mutability with one of the most imaginative and economical back-story sequences in recent memory. The vocal performances by the surprising Craig and the reliable Serkis are elegant and devoid of ego, a refreshing change from the stunt cast work in far too many non-Pixar animated films of the past decade. In addition Nick Frost and Simon Pegg provide delicious comic relief as bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson. Though some of the action sequences become overly frantic, Spielberg and company have crafted a satisfying, old-fashioned adventure with excitement and heart to spare.