When I was a teenager, my favourite comic books were "Asterix" and "The Adventures of Tintin" by Herge. You can guess my excitement and anticipation when I learnt that titans Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson were collaborating to bring Tintin to life on the big screen. However, when I saw the trailers for "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn", I was a bit apprehensive.
Will they capture the spirit of discovery and adventure of the young Belgian reporter? Can they flesh out the many wonderful characters of the comic books? The trailers weren't that impressive. Well, just after 10 minutes into the media screening last Friday, my fears were dashed - and I was transported back to my childhood again!
The movie contains elements from three of Tintin's adventures: "The Secret of the Unicorn" (published in 1945), with some parts of "The Crab With the Golden Claws" (1943), and a bit from "Red Rackham's Treasure" (also 1945). It opens with Tintin (voice of Jamie Bell) buying a model of an old ship called the Unicorn at an outdoor market in an unnamed European city. As soon as he pays for it, two other guys come along to try and buy the ship too! They are a sinister-looking Sakharine (Daniel Craig) and an American named Barnaby (Joe Starr).
Expectedly, Tintin refuses to sell, and he soon discovers that the model ship contains vital clues to hidden treasure involving a Capt. Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis). The ensuing adventure takes Tintin, Haddock and the boy's faithful dog Snowy over the seas to the Sahara and a fictional Moroccan city of Bagghar in search of hidden treasure.
For me, the most important part of the movie is its richly detailed retro charm that coloured Herge's comic strips of the early 20th Century (especially the pre-war years). Tintin and Snowy are rendered in the performance-capture shots exactly as they were in the comics and the ageless boy reporter seems to be a tad more mischievous than his comic book persona. Serkis' alcohol-loving Haddock looks so realistic that we mistake him for a live character.
Enhanced by 3D, CGI animation affords all sorts of 'impossible' action and stunts and Spielberg exploits this to the full with almost non-stop chases and spectacles. Tintin's chase of a thieving bird through the streets and rooftops of Bagghar is one of the most exhilarating chases I have come across in the cinema. Herge's brand of humour is reflected in the comic relief provided by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as Interpol officers Thomson and Thompson, respectively. The gags are all very PG-type comic relief, and not hilariously funny.
Some Herge purists may argue that the movie lacks resonance and an emotional connection to its protagonist. That may be true but personally, I don't remember having much emotional connection to Tintin when I read the comic books. He was a young hero with whom I identified, that's all. Also, watch out for Spielberg's tribute to Herge in the opening scene at the open market. The legendary Belgian author is shown as a street artist who does a sketch of Tintin, looking like one of the original strips. Good for you, Spielberg. (Full review at limchangmoh.blogspot.com)