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.