Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Luckily, Snowy is paying close attention.
Shouldn't it actually be titled SomeAdventures of Tintin (2011)?  That lies somewhat at the heart of the one problem Steven Spielberg's motion capture action adventure.  Namely, Tintin does not seem to have any animating principle in the story (wordplay only subconciously intentional).  Indy has to stop those Nazis from opening the Ark.  Marty McFly has to stop himself from disappearing.  Luke has to save the Princess.  But Tintin doesn't have anything he has to do.  Sure,  Captain Haddock has a big interest in the results of the adventure -- it's his legacy and his family honor. 

Not having been a fan of the comic books (I only encountered them in French language classrooms along with the Asterix books), I only caught that Tintin was some kind of a reporter about halfway through the movie.  He's a reporter without an editor, or, indeed any superior or any family.  He is the Pippi Longstocking of detectives -- a juvenile who neither has to worry about human ties nor the burden of earning money to live.  He can fail, I suppose, but he doesn't have anything to lose.  No stakes, no story.

Evidently this doesn't trouble his millions and millions of fans, and more power to them.  But for this viewer, it left the film with an empty core.  This should have made the film fast-moving and entertaining at the outset but dull and flagging as the story went on.  Such is Spielberg's skill  that it became more and more engrossing as complications and obstacles piled on top of each other in a Spielbergian way.  Moreover, Haddock assumed Tintin's place at the emotional center of the film as did, Snowy to a lesser degree.  (OK, I just like terriers.) But as the series continues (and it will) and Haddock becomes merely Tintin's companion and not the object of the story, who will take that emotional space?  A different character for each film?  Will that sustain over time?  The books have, for their audience, but I wonder if film works the same way.

The most interesting aspect of the design of the film stemming from the motion capture (which seems to have advanced substantially since Avatar) is the ability to stage a complete action scene -- I am thinking of a long chase late in the second act which, thanks to the animation technique is followed in a single, very long, preternaturally smooth shot.  The effect is comic, as Tintin strives to keep track of the thing he is pursuing, almost without regard to the vehicle he is riding, object he is swinging from, climbing over, etc., etc.  Such a thing could be done in live action, stringing separately shot pieces together digitally, but the resulting un-naturalness could be disturbing in a way that it is not in a clearly animated film, such as Tintin.

Thus, more interesting than the film itself, which is a reasonably enjoyable time-passer, is the question as to whether and how the series can sustain over a prolonged period of time, especially as Mr. Spielberg and producer/2nd unit director Peter Jackson withdraw from active participation.

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