When The Adventures of Tintin came to America, there was a sense that it was almost an obligatory release. Even though it came from director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson – and from writers Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish – Herge’s Tintin has long been an international phenomenon that never made much of an impression on Americans. The film did okay in a busy season, but it feels like that should be way more celebrated. Tintin is Spielberg doing Indiana Jones in a way he never could before, and in doing so makes Crystal Skull look that much worse. This is Spielberg – one of the finest action directors in cinema history – unbridled. This is Spielberg not having to worry about cranes, or stuntman’s lives, or even editing. And for that The Adventures of Tintin is massively entertaining. Starring Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Tintin is one of 2011’s most undervalued movies, and our review of the Blu-ray follows after the jump.
After a fun opening sequence that shows Tintin’s prowess as a detective, the film starts with Tintin (Bell) being drawn by Serge. While at a flea market he and his sidekick dog Snowy see a miniature boat and Tintin buys it, only for others to immediate come for the boat and threaten him. He tells them it’s not for sale and takes it home, and with his curiosity piqued decides to investigate why it’s so valued. He then learns about the boat, the Unicorn, and its story. When he returns home his house is ransacked and an American shows up to warn him about the boat, but is gunned down. Tintin’s contacted by the Thompson twins (Frost, Pegg), but they’re more interested in a local pickpocket than the violence on Tintin’s doorstep. Tintin comes in contact with Sakharine (Craig), who is the other man after the boat, and who kidnapps Tintin and sends him out on the SS Karaboudjan, with only Snowy on his tail. There Tintin meets Captian Haddock (Serkis), who’s also a prisoner for unknown reasons.
The two escape, and Haddock reveals that his ancestor was the captain of the Unicorn, and he knows the secret of the Unicorn, only he’s spent so much time as a drunk he’s forgotten what he was told. It takes a while to remember, and the secret can only be found through having three parchments, which were hidden in the miniature Unicorns. Tintin has one, Sakharine another, and both know where the third one is, so it’s a race to get all three together.
Running a brisk 107 minutes, this is a sharp piece of work from everyone involved. Though some of the movement of the characters feels a little off (the motion capture sometimes gives characters a slightly weightless quality when they’re running), everything else is firing on all cylinders, and it’s a perfect kids adventure film. There’s violence and thrills, but nothing gory, while Tintin is meant to be an entertaining avatar for the audience. He’s got some fun lines here and there, but he’s if he’s a little less showy than Indiana Jones, that’s not a huge problem. It leaves more of the character work to Serkis’s Haddock, who’s a wonderfully entertaining blowhard, and to Snowy, Tintin’s amazing dog. There are great characters, on top of which Pegg and Frost are charming as the bumbling detectives.
But the star here is Steven Spielberg. Working with motion capture, and often operating the camera himself, we see him doing things that are unimaginable in live action. From crane shots off boats to perfect dissolves, to an uninterrupted action sequence that takes my breath away every time, this is just a film meant to be maximum fun once the ball starts rolling. And Spielberg hasn’t made one of his Toad’s Wild Ride films since Temple of Doom. This is kitchen sink filmmaking at its best, and Spielberg is happy to throw everything he’s ever wanted to do but couldn’t at the audience in the most appealing way possible. Just from a technical standpoint, this was one of the best and most interesting films of 2011, and I love having it on Blu.
Paramount’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 7.1 Surround. There’s a 3-D version out there as well, and both versions comes with a DVD and Digital copy. As a digital to digital transfer this is a stunner – there doesn’t seem to be a way for this to look better, and the soundtrack is booming and effective. There’s an eleven-part making of (96 min.) that walks through the film’s production, from the month-long shoot, to the film’s animation and scoring process. It talks to all the major players – including all three screenwriters, the stars, and the producer and director. That’s the only supplement, however, and if you’ve seen a documentary on a Spielberg film, it should play familiar, but it’s got some nice quotes from Spielberg in there, and it’s an enjoyable watch.