Steven Spielberg (“Jaws”, “ET”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) and Peter Jackson (The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy) are responsible for some of the greatest movies ever made. So what happens when they (Spielberg as director, Jackson as producer) team up for a movie? You get this hoary, stale boiled lolly of a film from 2011 that was probably a big hit with the over 65 crowd. They were aiming for kids? Really? Sorry, but this archaic boys’ own adventure did absolutely nothing for me, and there’s absolutely nothing indicative of the two great filmmakers’ talents on show here. Hell, you can add co-writer Edgar Wright into the mix too, as he’s seen better days as well (“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”, specifically).
I’m sure a lot of people will get entertainment out of this film, especially if they grew up on the Hergé comic series (which began in 1929!), but for me, I couldn’t understand why Spielberg was bothering with this cornball stuff when he had already perfected a grown-up version of this kind of thing in 1981 with “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. All adventure films of this type ever since have paled in comparison (He also produced the best juvenile version of this sort of thing in “The Goonies”). Yes, Tintin easily pre-dates “Raiders”, but that kinda proves my point. It’s not just a bit old-fashioned, it’s archaic and best left to its niche market of built-in supporters (Though it was a box-office hit, so what do I know?). This film really smacks of two giant egos collaborating on a joint nostalgia trip (though apparently Jackson has been a Tintin fan a lot longer than Spielberg), without any consideration to whether anyone else gives a crap about it.
The first thing that took me out of this film was the combination of CGI and motion capture technology, ala Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” and the poor “King Kong” remake. I guess being a completely animated film means that I can’t quite make my usual complaint of phony-looking animated characters rendering the use of motion capture pointless, as was the case in the otherwise live-action “King Kong”, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (an otherwise fun film), and the overrated “Avatar”. But, y’know what? Just because this film is meant to be animated, doesn’t mean it needs the extra step of motion capture (Nor 3D for that matter, but I’ll spare you my already oft-repeated rant about that fad for once). Does animation really need to be totally ‘realistic’ anyway? Not unless it’s trying to present itself as non-animated, I reckon. At very few points in this film did the combination of motion capture and CGI fool me into thinking this was anything other than animation. Because it is. There were moments where the motion capture made things a bit more realistic than in “Rango”, but with motion capture, it should’ve been even more realistic, shouldn’t it? It isn’t, and it also sucks. It didn’t look much more realistic than the non-motion capture “Toy Story” series, in fact. However, it’s an improvement over (the live-action) “Avatar” simply because there’s no ridiculously bright blue aliens. But we’re not really talking about much of an improvement, and it’s only partly successful at what it’s trying to achieve. The characters are far too cartoony-looking, especially their bulbous noses and too-smooth faces, so why bother trying for a realistic motion capture vibe in the first place? It’s pointless and, because it alternates between looking halfway realistic and completely phony, distracting. I spent so much time focusing on the animation that I found myself entirely disengaged from the story (For instance, why are there lens flares in an animated film that isn’t going for absolute realism so much as ‘animated’ realism? Weird). At best, the animation looked like puppetry minus the strings. So I guess I am going on a rant, just a slightly different one than usual. Jackson has made this mistake before in “King Kong” (and also succeeded marvellously in “The Two Towers” and “Return of the King”), but I can’t believe Spielberg would allow this to have his name attached to it. Then again, he’s made a few tech-obsessed clunkers in his time, too (“Jurassic Park”, “The Lost World”, “A.I.”). But I saw nothing in the animation here that I couldn’t find in a computer game. Big deal. Apparently it was Jackson’s call to have it be animated, and faithful to the comics or not, it’s the wrong call, at least the mixture of phony CGI and motion capture technology was the wrong call. I’m not saying that animation is beneath the talents of Spielberg or Jackson, but they certainly don’t live their prints on the film in any laudable way, and this particular piece of animation and this particular story are definitely beneath these men’s talents.
I also think casting Daniel Craig as the voice of the villain was a big mistake. An animated Daniel Craig proves even less interesting than the real thing, it would appear (Worst. James Bond. Ever.) Meanwhile, Andy Serkis is a tremendously talented actor, but he’s delivered far superior Scottish accents than the one he does here.
I guess I might’ve liked this sort of stuff better in written form, especially as a kid. Unfortunately, the comic passed me by, though I had definitely heard of it. It wasn’t in my wheelhouse. I started off with Roald Dahl, and as an older child and teen I moved into fantasy and humorous sci-fi novels. So maybe on second thought, it wouldn’t have been my thing after all. This seems to be for fans of the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and boiled lollies. Besides, Tintin, as voiced by Jamie Bell, is a completely blank character of no charm, personality or interest whatsoever. That wasn’t so much of a problem in the “Narnia” books, where Lucy was essentially the reader’s entry into the book’s world, but it became more problematic in the underwritten characters in the films. This is even moreso the case with Tintin, I would wager. At least as adapted by Joe Cornish (director of the cult hit “Attack the Block”), Steven Moffat (the recent incarnation of “Dr. Who” on TV, another antiquated ‘classic’ I’ve never understood) and the aforementioned Edgar Wright, Tintin is boring. He’s more bearable than his dog Snowy, however. The only tolerable thing about this little shit is that he’s not burdened with distracting motion capture technology. However, he’s the most insufferable animated creation since General Grievous in “Revenge of the Sith”. He proves that even animated characters can be camera hogs, and I kept wanting the mangy mutt to STFU. By the way, does anyone else think Sakharine looks a bit like Spielberg himself? Weird, but it’s what I kept thinking.
I may be completely out of touch, and kids might indeed love this film, but I used to be a kid and this was never really my bag unless you’re talking about Indiana Jones or “The Goonies”. I was bored senseless (it has a more drawn out ending than “Return of the King”), and felt the great talents involved here could’ve spent their time and talent on something far more worthwhile. Sorry, but I didn’t get this one at all, I thought it was terrible.