Weta made an appearance in Salt Lake. The booth was busy the whole time I was there on Saturday. I’m guessing they’ll be back next year. Here are statuettes from Weta, the licensed Lord of the Rings and Hobbit toy manufacturer from New Zealand. They also had a few Tintin and and other items. Here you go.
The Tintin movie has been out for a while now and doesn’t seem to be doing as well with American audiences ($64m domestic) as it has with those from the rest of the globe ($269m foreign), but we think it’s still fair to say that The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a success, both financially (combining global income) and cinematically (storytelling, direction, animation). However, although it was reviewed quite favorably, we still held quite a bit of skepticism prior to seeing it. You’ve read how much we love the Asterix series and how disappointed we’ve been with the movies that have been spawned by that series. As a 21st century, technology heavy adaptation of a storyline that’s 75 years old, there was no question that the presentation of the Tintin movie was going to be very different than the books. But Tintin was essentially as good as we hoped, given what it is.
We were completely surprised by the animation. Perhaps it was the trailers that helped. The motion capture technology made us very wary when we saw the first snippets in the trailers, but we became acclimated to it and when we finally saw the film we were quite satisfied with the results. There are still some limits to the technology, but overall it was credible and beautifully done.
One challenge we worried would be problematic (and it was) was that the film covered so much ground. As a combination of three stories, The Crab With the Golden Claws, The Secret of Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s Treasure, Spielberg was taking on a lot at the same time. The film ended up quite long (almost 2 hours) and yet still ended up feeling rushed in quite a few spots. Given that Spielberg decided to combine three albums into one film, we’re sure he had a dickens of a time choosing which elements to keep and which he would have to do without. That’s not an easy task, we’re sure.*
Rather than doing a faithful retelling of the stories, Spielberg changed things up a bit. He made Sakharine, the creepy bit player from the Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn comic, the antagonist and he added his own spin on the sinister motivations of the guy. We actually really liked that new element. It created an opportunity for Spielberg to take the film in a direction that varied from the comics and we think he pulled it off nicely.
Criticisms: we love Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as a team (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), but not so much as Thomson and Thompson. They seemed a bit too childish for our taste. We envisioned them more like Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther series. Not a huge deal since they were relatively minor characters, but what could have been a plus for us ended up as a disappointment. We were somewhat hoping for Snowy’s thought bubble dialogue that is prevalent in the comics but that probably wouldn’t have worked and Snowy’s character in the film was really good in its own right. Oh, and we thought Bianca was going to belt out “Ah my beauty past compare, these jewels bright I wear!” No? In all, the criticisms and suggestions are merely our own preferences. The film is very good and we hope that there are at least a couple of sequels. Bring on Calculus and Rastapopoulos. Bring on the moon shot adventure!
Soap box side note: Given that poor people of Morocco could ill afford the rampant destruction of their dam and their town, we really thought it was Tintin’s and Haddock’s obligation to help rebuild their community, especially with the fact that they had new found fortune. At least reference an acknowledgment from the duo that they would do right by the Moroccans. Another side note: there’s a clever Marvel comic book series called Damage Control that focuses on the activities of a company tasked with cleaning up the wreckage created by the titanic fights between superheroes and supervillains. See, that’s social responsibility. Shame on you Tintin. You are an offending effendi.
*As opposed to Spielberg who took risks in converting the iconic Tintin story to film, not every conversion project has turned out well. Here’s a for instance:
OK. M. Night Shyamalan blew our minds with The Sixth Sense. It deserves the critical and amateur admiration it has received. Inventive, suspenseful, moody. Well done. His next film, Unbreakable, was a small step down, but, for a comic book afficionado especially, still very good. M.’s signature gimmick of springing a surprise ending came off fairly effectively (although a bit far-reaching if one stops to think about it) in this film and it was stellar in the first film. The next film, Signs, was OK and it occurred to us at the time of its release that perhaps M. Night might just be a one-trick pony. All three of his movies up to that point had the same brooding mood and patented plot twists, so things were starting to get old with Signs (besides it looks like he forgot to budget for the special effects). It appeared that M. Night was on a roll … downhill. Given his track record, it seemed inevitable that his next outing would start to make audiences and critics grimace. The Village was OK but no one would have felt bad missing it. At this point in a director’s career, a good professional will figure out the flaws in his/her formulas and change them. Not so with M. He continued his downward slide with Lady in the Water and went even further down with The Happening.
So, after discovering that M. Night Shamalama-ding-dong was at the helm of a new project for a story we love, our hearts sank. Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of our favorite animated series and when we heard it was going to be made into a movie, we felt like it would be a very difficult venture for anyone to convert it. Even if the film had been split into three parts (following the three seasons of the series), so much would have to be left out to create a movie-length production that any director would have had their work cut out for them. But even though we feared that The Last Airbender was not going to be any good, we thought that given its source material there was a slight chance it would still be passable even with a poor director. Nope. M. figured out a way to suck all of the life out of the story. It was easy to sense his arrogance and contempt for the creators’ stories and characters. Jerk.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn has been out for a few weeks in various countries and has already made US$234 million. If it takes off in the U.S., it could easily double that number worldwide. The production budget is posted at US$130 million before marketing and other costs. All things being equal, the movie will be considered a substantial box office success which will fuel the fire for putting a hefty budget into the sequels.
Just for comparison purposes, another childhood favorite, Asterix, had a much smaller impact at the box office with the French big-budget Asterix et Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (2002). It only grossed US$111 million worldwide and was barely even on screens in the U.S. From what we can tell, it wasn’t really intended for U.S. consumption like Tintin is. Too bad. As you can see from one of our reviews of Asterix and Cleopatra, we really like the story.
Tintin has international appeal. Unlike Asterix, Tintin doesn’t have a significant historical element so we think that makes it more accessible. We don’t suppose we’re too far off base in saying that too few Americans know much about ancient Gaul, Rome, and Egypt. Tintin on the other hand is based generally in the 1930s-1950s but that isn’t too significant. In other words, there aren’t many story background roadblocks for audiences to “get” the story and its characters.
Asterix et Obelix does look pretty funny, even with the terrible casting and costuming for Asterix and Obelix so we’d like to watch a dubbed version of this film (pardon, nous non understandez Frenchie). We’re not really interested in the predecessor Astérix et Obélix contre César. Doesn’t look that good. We have watched the animated versions of several of the books and they’re passable. The same can’t be said for the Tintin et le mystère de la Toison d’Or (haven’t seen it hasn’t been reviewed with aplomb by those that have) and Tintin & the Lake of Sharks (we have seen this and it’s horrible). Thank goodness for Monsieurs Spielburg et Jackson. Once again, we eagerly await the North American release of Tintin!
Just for fun, here’s the trailer for Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra.
Steven Spielberg announced that he has selected Peter Jackson to direct a Tintin sequel. We’re rather excited about this. After re-watching the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers tonight (we didn’t remember that it was three hours long!) we are reminded just how good he is.
Steven also indicated that he would like to follow it up with two sequels. As we stated in a previous post, we know which ones we’d like to see developed.
Tintin was released to rave reviews in Europe in October and has been at the tops of the box office in several countries. It landed an estimated $55.8 million (£34.9 million) in its opening weekend.
It is slated to open in North America December 21st.
In a statement, Spielberg says, “The Thompson Twins (Tintin characters) have a much bigger role in the next Tintin movie that Peter Jackson is going to direct. It’s being written right now and he’s directing it after he does The Hobbit and I’ll produce it with him as he’s produced this with me.
“We have the story and we have the book we’re adapting from Hergé and we can’t wait to get started.”
Jackson is currently shooting The Hobbit, in New Zealand. The prequel to The Lord of the Rings will be split into two parts and the first will be released about a year from now.
For all of us North Americans, we still have to wait several days before the Tintin movie hits our theaters. So, in the meantime we’ll just have to be content with the content of this fantastic blog. Here are a bunch of newer screen shots. Feel free to browse through the blog for other entries on Tintin.