Review: The Adventures Of Tintin

Haddock, Tintin and Snowy are all at sea in the big screen adaptation of the beloved Belgian comics.
Haddock, Tintin and Snowy are all at sea in the big screen adaptation of the beloved Belgian comics.

(PG) ****

Director: Steven Spielberg.

Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg.

THE popular Belgian comic book character has finally made the leap to the big screen and the good news is that it doesn't disappoint.

As with any well-loved source material, there is the fear that justice won't be done - even when it's in the hands of Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson.

But fans will be satisfied with the results here - it's faithful to Hergé's creation in spirit and tone - and newcomers who aren't familiar with the red-headed journalist and his inquisitive dog Snowy will be equally impressed by the freewheeling sense of adventure.

The MacGuffin at the middle of Tintin's tale is a sunken treasure, lost centuries ago in a blazing sea-battle between Sir Francis Haddock and the evil pirate Red Rackham.

On the trail with Haddock's descendant, Captain Archibald Haddock (Serkis), Tintin (Bell) must unravel the clues to find the missing gold before the evil Sakharine (Craig).

In terms of Spielberg's career, this is most like Raiders Of The Lost Ark. It's a '50s B-movie-serial-style adventure with a new millenial sheen courtesy of cutting edge motion capture and CG animation.

This technique of film-making obviously opens up new possibilities for Spielberg, who swoops, glides and slides his camera through the digital realm with the glee of a kid in a candy store. It's almost too much - the great director can't seem to keep his camera still, almost to distracting levels.

But when it works, it's amazing. One extended take involving a motorcycle chase that features falling buildings and an impromptu flying fox is a dazzling display of what this style of film-making can achieve.

The film works well at capturing Hergé's style of action and comedy - there is plenty of slapstick (and Tintin's habit of getting knocked unconcious remains), and the humour flows seamlessly with the big explosive set-pieces.

Some of the plays for laughs will seem quaint or old-fashioned to modern audiences, and there is a nostalgic quality to the film that will put some people off.

Where it really falls down is the dreaded dead eyes of motion capture. Admittedly the animators have done an amazing job to create a realistic yet still cartoonish world for Tintin to inhabit, but those vacant eyes appear every so often, instantly putting up a wall around the characters. It's a shame because the characters are so well put together at all levels - script, performance and animation.

Dead eyes aside, this is the type of adventure that the term "rollicking" seems to have been invented for.