Entertainment Movies

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Review: The Adventures of Tintin * * *

(PG, general release)

Paul Whitington

No doubt it's because I was expecting something awful, but I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin.

The reasons I feared the worst were twofold: first of all, Tintin is, to put it mildly, an acquired taste. A juvenile reporter and amateur sleuth invented in the 20s by Belgian comic-strip artist Hergé, Tintin is a sanctimonious, humourless, strangely asexual do-gooder whose only claim on our affections is his endlessly resourceful fox terrier, Snowy.

And the second reason why this film seemed unappealing was the fact that it was made using performance capture.

You are probably sick and tired of hearing critics whinge and moan about motion capture, the bizarre hybrid of animation and live action that has been championed by Robert Zemeckis in films such as Scrooge and the impossibly dreary Beowulf.

The process, which records the movement and facial expressions of actors and transfers them to digital models, tends to create lifeless faces and a flattened-out visual effect that looks like the worst of both worlds. Much as I dislike the process, however, I must admit they're getting better at it, and The Adventures of Tintin is probably the most successful motion-capture movie yet.

English actor Jamie Bell is Tintin, a young newspaper reporter who's ambling through a market in a city that looks like Brussels when his eye is taken by a model three-masted ship.

When he buys it, a sinister-looking gentleman called Rackham (Daniel Craig) appears and tries to buy it off him. When Tintin refuses to sell, Rackham becomes unpleasant, and later Tintin's apartment is ransacked and the ship is stolen.

The model contained a clue to the whereabouts of sunken pirate treasure, and Tintin is soon embroiled in a globetrotting adventure and a race to foil Rackham's dastardly plans.

Andy Serkis, who seems locked in a deadly dance with film technology, plays the histrionic seaman Captain Haddock, whose battle with the booze provides much of the film's humour, and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are Thompson and Thompson, a pair of incompetent police detectives.

The only reason I can think of that anyone would choose to shoot a film in motion capture is because of the sweeping possibilities it offers in terms of action, and, in fairness, Spielberg takes full advantage of these freedoms to create a series of impressive set pieces reminiscent of Indiana Jones.

There are numerous sly references to his other films, and enough verbal and visual wit to keep things interesting. I'm still no fan of motion capture, but at least this film uses the technology intelligently.

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