The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

Was I the only one who was excited when this movie was announced? Sometimes I really feel like I was. I guess, in a lot of ways, it makes sense. In the US, this movie actually had a lot going against it.

1) it is based on a comic that is insanely popular…. In Europe.

2) it was motion capture, which, I do admit, looks a bit creepy (they look like people but not? Why not just CGI it!) and

3) I actually feel like the name probably kept a lot of people away from it in the US (the secret of the unicorn? What boy is going to want to go to that?).** The only thing in the US this movie had going for it? Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson were attached. Seriously. That’s it. 

 This movie, as expected, did insanely well overseas. Here in America, not so much, for the reasons listed above. I’m just happy it did well enough that it’s going to get a sequel. Because it’s good. It’s like indiana jones for kids. It’s still wonderful for adults. 

 So I’m going to assume most people reading this haven’t seen this movie, and they have also no idea what Tintin is or its influence on Europe. Let’s start with a little history lesson, shall we?

 The Adventures of Tintin or Les Adventures de Tintin was a series of comic albums drawn and written by a belgian cartoonist named Hergé, and star a belgian reporter named Tintin as he works to solve mysteries. When Tintin was created, Hergé worked for a relatively fascist, right-wing catholic Journal called Le XXe Siecle, in which he was put in charge of the children’s component, Le Petit Vingtieme. He invented Tintin, which started as a way to push propaganda to the Soviet children. In his early years there were some very questionable subjects (including the now deemed racist Tintin in the Congo). 

 During World War II, Hergé could not return to his previous job and found one at Belgium’s most popular newspaper, Le Soir. At this time it was run by German troops and so Tintin became less political and focused more on Tintin as an explorer. After the war, he was invited to write and publish Tintin adventures under his own magazine, Le Journal de Tintin. Here Tintin stayed, and Hergé produced Tintin comics up until his death in 1983.

 Tintin has been translated into 70 different languages and his adventures have sold more than 200 million copies. It is simply one of the most popular comics in Europe for the 20th century. 

 There we go. There’s history. So how in the world do I know about Tintin? You can blame my freshman year french teacher in high school. He was actually from france, and he had us read the comics in french. In fact, that’s pretty much all we read. So yes. That is how I know Tintin. And that is why I was excited when the movie came out.

 So what’s the movie about? It really is a good introduction to the characters, and is actually a mix between a few of the Tintin comics: The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941), The Secret of the Unicorn (1943), and Red Rackham’s Treasure (1944). 

 The movie starts with Tintin buying a model of a ship, the Unicorn, from a dealer on the street. After a man named Ivan Sakharine tries to buy it off of him, and another man telling him he doesn’t want to buy the ship, that only bad things will happen, he returns home, curious as to why someone would say that. His dog, Snowy, gets in a fight with a cat and breaks the ship’s mast, causing a small vial to fall out and roll behind a dresser. Snowy sees, but Tintin doesn’t. Anyway, a few more things happen, and Tintin comes back to his flat to see the ship was stolen. He then finds the vial and opens it, revealing a small old piece of paper with part of a message written on it. He visits Sakharine, where he finds another ship just like his, although this mast isn’t broken. Apparently there are 3 of these ships floating around.


Eventually Tintin gets captured and brought on board a cargo ship, where he breaks out and meets the ship’s captain, Captain Haddock, who has been locked in his quarters. He’s a drunkard and keeps shouting “mutiny,” but eventually he and Tintin break free and find where the ship is headed and who is behind the mutiny (hint: It’s Sakharine!). They escape and in a few random turns of events, find their way to Morocco where Haddock sobers up enough to remember about his ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock, the captain of the Unicorn. He was a pirate who lost the ship in a fight to another pirate named Red Rackham. It sank, along with all his treasure. Finally, we know what Sakharine is after and what the notes on the vials mean: it’s a way to the treasure of the Unicorn.

 The third and final piece of the puzzle is where Sakharine was headed. The third ship is owned by a Moroccan, and through a pretty amazing scene, he manages to get the third vial. Tintin, Haddock, and he fight to get the three scrolls. However Sakharine gets all three, and Tintin wants to give up until Haddock persuades him to continue. 

 I’m not going to give away the last scene, because it has a few twists that are worth watching. Let’s just say that it’s a kids movie, so you can guess how things end. But I must admit it’s pretty intense.

 Ok. So let’s talk about the good things. For a first movie, this was really well put together. Although it is an amalgamation of three different adventures, you’d never know it unless you looked it up or were a fan of the comics (or the short lived tv series in 91-92 for that matter). It’s well done, and it honestly doesn’t feel like there’s too much going on that you can’t follow.

 Tintin and Snowy are also great. Jamie Bell (the kid from Billy Elliot) provides a good voice for our hero. It’s an upbeat, excited voice for an upbeat, excited character. Tintin himself is a great character. There’s a reason he was so popular. Take Indiana Jones and make him younger and make him a reporter instead of an archeologist, and you have Tintin. He’s excited about what he does, can’t wait to get to the next story. He’s insanely smart and resourceful, but not overly serious. He’s also not a clown. He’s super nice. Then there’s his dog, Snowy. He’s some type of white terrier, and snowy is awesome. He’s like a lot of other sidekicks in these types of situations who never talks: he knows what’s going on sometimes before the other characters. He’s super loyal and willing to get into anything to save his person. He’s brave and smart. Snowy’s just awesome.

 Captain Haddock is a bit entertaining. I’ll be honest, as a fan of the comics, I forgot he started off as this insanely blubbering drunk. Throughout the comics, he changes into a competent friend of Tintin. But this is the beginning, and I must say, he IS entertaining, but it’s almost hard to watch. They portrayed him being a drunkard so well. Maybe it’s just because I know what he becomes, but he wasn’t my favorite character. He’s well done, and he does have a few funny lines and scenes, but mostly he was a bumbling idiot that Tintin could have done without.

 I didn’t mention them in the synopsis, but we are introduced to Thompson and Thomson, two detectives who often work with Tintin. They are insanely incompetent and look like twins, although they are not, and their names are spelled differently (in french it’s Dupont et Dupond.) They offer more legitimate laughs than Haddock does in my opinion, just because they are so scatterbrained. It’s a good intro to them, and I’m excited to see how they’re going to be involved in the next adventure.

 The last character I’m going to talk about is the Villain, Sakharine. As villains go he’s… ok. His evilness definitely ramps up as the movie goes along, and I believe this was done on purpose. In the end he becomes the villain I almost wanted to see during the whole movie: insane, maniacal, completely irrational. I wanted more of that. Because it was awesome.

 The only problems I really had with this movie was that it ran a bit slow, and the Motion Capture took a little while to get used to. If you have young kids, they probably wouldn’t sit through some parts of this movie. While it does have a ton of action and humor, there are some dramatic moments that are a bit dragging. Again, that may actually be the difference between European movies and American ones. I find that a lot of british movies move more slowly. It takes some getting used to. It’s not boom boom boom. At the same time, that’s refreshing. Just be forewarned.

 About the MoCap. It does look a bit strange at the beginning, and you have to get used to it. I’ve seen the movie now probably 4 or 5 times, and it still takes me a while to get used to it. It’s so different from regular CGI, but it does look cool. They did do a good job on the character designs (they honestly look exactly how Tintin et al would look if they were real) but that’s what I wonder about. Should they have just gone full CGI and made it look like a cartoon? Part of me thinks yes, instead of going hyper-realistic. I don’t know. It’s not a distraction, but it does take a bit of time to get used to.

 A few more notes that don’t warrant a full paragraph:

  • I said that this is a good intro. It is, but I would suggest that you should go watch some of the tv show (it’s on netflix!) or read the comics to full appreciate these characters. Tintin, Snowy, and the Twins are already well established.
  • The opening credits are really fun. It reminded me of Catch me if you Can, another great Spielberg movie.
  • I know this was shown in 3D, but I refuse to see any movie in 3D. That being said, the camera movement in this movie is INCREDIBLE. Seriously. It probably would have been twice as good in 3D, but as it is it’s amazing.
  • This is Nickelodeon’s highest grossing picture. I didn’t know they still made movies.

 One more thing. I noticed this when I watched the opening credits and I pretty much screamed. MOFFAT!!!! You must forgive me. As I mentioned in the Coraline review, I am a MAJOR Whovian. If you don’t know what Doctor Who is, just skip this paragraph. Because I’m going to go majorly off topic. Steven Moffat, the head writer of the immensely popular British TV show Doctor Who, was a writer for this movie. He actually LEFT this movie because he got the head writer job in 2010. I know he can be splitting, but I adore him and I’m glad he did. Ok I’m done.

 To wrap up, I would suggest Tintin for anyone who enjoys movies like Indiana Jones or other family friendly detective/adventure movies. There’s a reason this guy is immensely popular in Europe, and I’m sad this only got 77M in the U.S. It deserves more. It is perfect? No, not by a long shot. But it’s good. It’s fun, and it’s worth watching just once.

 I give The Adventures of Tintin (2011) 3.25 out of 5.

 Next up: Antz (1998). That’s right folks, we’re in Dreamworks country!


 ** edit: apparently it actually is only called “The Adventures of Tintin.” I could swear it was called “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.” Maybe it was in development or something. This was a good change, seeing as anything with the mention of a Unicorn would keep boys away like the plague


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