Blistering Barnacles!

The Adventures of Tintin ***1/2

During the end credits of Steven Spielberg’s wild, motion-capture fantasia based on three of the Tintin adventure books (The Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham’s Treasure and The Crab With the Golden Claws) comes this jaw-dropping one: “Second Unit Director: Peter Jackson.” Yes, that Peter Jackson. Not quite running the catering unit, but still, not a job he would typically take. But this is no ordinary collaboration. The Adventures of Tintin is resolutely the first of two (perhaps more) Tintin films, with Jackson co-producing this one and slated to direct the next, and Spielberg swapping over to co-produce that one. It’s all very “insider” and I’m sure the two of them are having a hell of a lot of fun – which is what the movie is.

If, like me and countless millions, Tintin kind of was your childhood, then this film will no doubt have already created a kind of panic within you: what if they screw it up? They haven’t, so don’t worry, but, frankly, maybe it’s simply impossible for it to release that eight-year-old’s sense of thrilling wonder, because maybe nothing can live up to that sort of elation.

Will today’s eight year olds love the movie, if they haven’t gorged themselves on the books? Hard to say. It’s practically impossible for me to write about the film without comparing it to the books, and with the entire Tintin universe. When I try and look at it objectively, I realise the characters are pretty eccentric: a sort of manboy who lives alone in an apartment with a dog for a best friend; two completely incompetent cops (who actually work for Scotland Yard – strange standards) and, of course, a grumpy, alcoholic shambles of a sea captain. Plus that dog. Will today’s kids respond to this motley crew with the passionate love that I always have?

Well, if not, at least they’ve got plenty of action to enjoy, and the action in this movie is absolutely brilliant. There are at least three extended, stunning action set pieces that feel like classic, madcap Spielberg – Raiders of the Lost Ark era. They’re loads of fun, and the 3D is well used.

The motion capture acting is excellent, with Jamie Bell doing a credible Tintin and the master of the medium, Andy Serkis, doing an excellent Haddock (although he doesn’t look exactly as I wanted him to – he looked a little too human for my taste). Unfortunately the comic duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are wasted as Thompson and Thomson, but this was basically inevitable: why employ two intriguing comedians to play two people who are, in look, tone, style, personality and verbal nuance, essentially interchangeable?

The Secret of the Unicorn and the others were not my favourites of the series (they weren’t my least favourites either) but it’s clear why they were chosen: Tintin meets Haddock here, really kicking the series proper off (the few books pre-Haddock always seemed a little lonely to me, a little empty). At the end it is made very clear that these two are off to have another adventure. My vote would be for Flight 714. Now that could make for a perfect Tintin movie.

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