By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Tintin is herehere. Finally. Of course, just how grateful each of us is about the arrival of The Adventures of Tintin will vary wildly.
The Belgian boy/man (we’re never sure which) reporter, popular and well known in Europe ever since Brussels cartoonist Herge (real name: Georges Remi) created him in 1929, arrives on our shores and screens compliments of Steven Spielberg, a longtime Tintin fan who takes his first directorial dip in the ever-expanding pool of computer-generated animation.
The Adventures of Tintin, PG-rated and available in 3D, is an animated adventure in the breathless, derring-do-celebrating style of Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was shot in the state-of-the-art motion capture process, which exists somewhere on the spectrum between animation and live action, and is accomplished by having live actors, wired with reflectors and filmed by digital cameras, act out their roles as stand-ins for their characters, who are then animated against preset backgrounds.
Jamie Bell provides the voice and model of plucky hero and globe-trotting mystery and riddle solver Tintin, always accompanied by his fox terrier, Snowy; Andy Serkis — the accomplished avatar of motion-capture performances (Gollum in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes) — gives voice to Tintin’s tipsy sidekick, Captain Haddock; and Daniel Craig cashes in a bond as the menacing villain, Sakharine.
Buried treasure is what they are all pursuing.
Despite the admirable and undeniable artistry on display throughout TAOT, the film pays a price for its photorealistic look, breakneck pacing, and unflagging energy: it ends up being far more exhausting than it is exhilarating, inspiring, or satisfying. The nagging questions that pop up occasionally in the early reels settle in for good in the late going. To wit: why is this adventure movie animated in the first place? Wouldn’t live action suit the subject matter more snugly? Is it over yet?
Spielberg — working with his co-producer and second unit director, Peter Jackson, who apparently pushed for Spielberg to employ the motion-capture format on this project — gets plenty of visual flash and technical verve on the screen, but little in the way of dramatic tension or legitimate suspense. We’re attentive and impressed, certainly, but we’re barely captured and not really enraptured.
In other words, it’s so busy, we feel dizzy. There is such a thing as too much narrative momentum, and the more-is-less TAOT is a textbook definition of just that. “Slow down, will ya,” is what we find ourselves thinking if not actually muttering.
The script by Joe Cornish, Steven Moffat, and Edgar Wright — based on the comic books that have sold hundreds of millions of copies and been translated into nearly one-hundred languages — cobbles together elements of three entries in the French-language series: The Secret of the Unicorn, The Crab with the Goldern Claws, and Red Rackham’s Treasure.
Tintin functions as almost a miniature version of Indiana Jones, curious and intrepid and resourceful swashbuckler that he is, as he bounds from one exotic location to another in search of something or other. Boys somewhere around the age of ten who identify with Tintin as much as Spielberg apparently did will have the most vicarious fun with this one.
So we’ll tint 2-1/2 stars out of 4 for the eye-popping and non-stopping The Adventures of Tintin. The motion capture is fine; it’s emotion capture that’s lacking.