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The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/13/2012

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/11/2012

We Americans like to think that we invent everything and that the rest of the world follows, especially when it comes to entertainment. After all, we've got Hollywood and the hundreds of movies which come out of the United States every year. But, the reality is that there are movies, books, and characters which are popular in other parts of the world which are unpopular or simply unknown in the U.S. Every once in a while, one of these entities comes to the West and it's a challenge for the creative teams and the marketers to get audiences involved. A perfect example of this is The Adventures of Tintin.

Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) is a young reporter who lives with his dog, Snowy. While in the bazaar, Tintin buys a model of an old sailing ship which has a unicorn on the front. Seconds later, Tintin is accosted by Sakharine (voiced by Daniel Craig), who offers to buy the boat from him. Tintin refuses and take the model home. Not long after, it's stolen from his apartment. Tintin begins to research the ship and traces it to the Haddock family. However, Tintin's research is cut short when he is kidnapped by Sakharine's men and placed upon a large ship (with Snowy sneaking on-board). Aboard the ship, Tintin meets Captain Haddock (voiced by Andy Serkis), a drunken sailor who feels that he's a loser. Tintin immediately realizes that Haddock is part of the mystery of the model ship and convinces the man that they must work together to stop Sakharine. This begins a globe-trotting adventure in which Tintin must find pieces of a puzzle which could lead to a fortune in treasure.

Tintin was created in 1929 by a Belgian artist/writer named Herge. From there, Tintin appeared in 23 books, spanning over 50 years. The character is incredibly popular in Europe, where there have been spin-off books and an animated series. But, Tintin remained relatively unknown. (I can remember running across a few books when I worked in comics, but they were scarce...and usually off to the side with the Asterix comics.) The feature film The Adventures of Tintin had a huge buzz in Europe and it opened there two months before in opened in the U.S. (and it did very well at the box office in other countries). So, it's obvious while watching The Adventures of Tintin that the two big brains behind the film, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, had to make the movie for two different territories. The story is off-and-running, giving no real introduction to Tintin. We learn that he's a reporter and that's about it. It's clear that the movie is made for those who are already familiar with the character. (Although, we learn in the special features that the books provide no backstory for Tintin.) The movie makes no bones about bringing in peripheral characters like Thomson and Thompson (voiced by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) and itís up to novice viewers to simply keep up. (Thereís a joke at the very beginning of the movie about the look of the Tintin character in this film which will mean nothing to those who arenít familiar with his comic book form.)

Going into The Adventures of Tintin I felt that I knew enough about the comics to have no genuine interest in the movie. Letís face it, an old Belgian comic about a guy who looks like Conan OíBrien doesnít sound like great source material. But, Spielberg and Jackson are obviously masters of their craft and they know a thing or two about making good movies. (Well, their best movies are long since passed, but you know what I mean.) And thus, I was surprised to find that The Adventures of Tintin is a pretty good action-adventure movie, and (no big surprise here), it's very reminiscent of the Indiana Jones films. The pacing is very good, and Spielberg and Jackson rarely let things settle down for long. If there is a true dialogue scene, it usually contains Tintin planning his next move. The action scenes are quite well done, most notably one which is a chase scene which is essentially one long take -- this really shows off the power of animation, as they never have to cut if they don't want to. I was also surprised by the tone of the movie. While this was pretty much marketed as a family film, there is a notable amount of violence here. No one dies, but there is much more gunplay than we see in the standard Disney movie. Also, the fact that Captain Haddock is an alcoholic is rather interesting. Tintin doesn't approve of this, but it doesn't stop the movie from showing us that Haddock is an addict. (There's a t-shirt for you.)

Given the fact that The Adventures of Tintin is based on a series of books, specifically two books, it's ironic that the story and the characters are the weak points in the movie. The story is presented as a mystery, but I didn't find it engaging at all. Tintin discovers that the model ships hold the key to a much larger puzzle, but this all leads to a rather pedestrian revelation. The story doesn't hold many plot twists, and there was only one key point which I considered to be truly clever. As for the characters, as noted above, the movie seems to assume that we know them, and thus there is very little character development. We follow Tintin through this long, epic adventure, and yet learn very little about who he is.

The most amazing aspect of The Adventures of Tintin is the animation. Motion capture animation has come a long way since The Polar Express. The characters still look somewhat like waxy mannequins, but the facial expressions and their eyes have certainly improved. (They no longer look like zombies!) The backgrounds look fantastic and the attention to detail is commendable.

So, The Adventures of Tintin is a mixed bag. I don't think Americans are ready to buy into this classic European character, but that shouldn't stop them from getting some enjoyment from this movie. If you overlook the luke-warm story, you will enjoy the action here and you'll yearn for the days when Spielberg made movies where were actually entertaining.

The Adventures of Tintin is the best movie based on a Belgian comic that I've ever seen on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc carries an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. I have to assume that this was a digital-to-digital transfer, as it looks nearly flawless. The colors look fantastic and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is impressive, even in this non-3D version and, as noted above, the picture is very detailed. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very active track, as the stereo effects are quite good, as they show nice separation and highlight sounds coming from off-screen. The surround sound effects are detailed as well, and we can pick out individual sounds. The subwoofer effects nicely accent the action scenes without being overwhelming.

The Adventures of Tintin Blu-ray Disc contains a feature-length (96 minutes) documentary which explores many facets of the film and which has been broken down into these individual chapters; "Toasting Tintin, Part 1", "The Journey to Tintin", "The World of Tintin", "The Who's Who of Tintin", "Tintin: Conceptual Design", "Tintin: In the Volume", "Snowy: From Beginning to End", "Animating Tintin", "Tintin: The Score", "Collecting Tintin", and "Toasting Tintin: Part 2". While Steven Spielberg doesn't do commentaries, he's not averse to interviews, and we get extensive comments from Spielberg and Peter Jackson here. We learn how Spielberg and Jackson teamed up to do the project. The piece extensively explores the story (with comments from the various writers), the characters (with comments from the actors), the character and production design. We get a very detailed look at how the motion capture technique is done. From there, the featurette examines the completion of the film, including placing the motion capture actors into an animated world and the creation of the film's music.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long