Steven Spielberg’s ambitious film adaptation of the classic – and quite stylish - Hergé comic book looks good, and may well save the motion capture industry from itself. Its Spielberg’s first animated outing and his first comic book adaptation, he’s given it everything he’s got plus lots of love and the results are there.
But more interesting, Spielberg’s been grooming the story of Tin Tin since the early 80’s, a passion project that’s finally in theatres and strangely competing for box office bucks against his World War 1 love action drama The War Horse.
The Belgian cartoon character of Tin Tin solves mysteries and travels the world, with his bouncy little dog Snowy. He is the perfect little boy. He’s not the exciting type although Jamie Bell has infused him with energy but he’s beloved for being who and what he is, a smart, if bloodless, innocent adventurer.
Enter Captain Haddock, played by Andy Serkis, the sea captain who hooks up with Tin Tin on this adventure. He balances TinTin’s milquetoast qualities with a hair trigger temper, a ship captain’s knowledge of the world and a great sense of humor.
It all starts in the market where Tin Tin spies a model ship he wants. He buys it and is immediately targeted by a certain Mr. Sakharine who kidnaps and imprisons him. He’s spirited off to Morocco on a ship captained by Mr. Haddock when the crew mutinies and Haddock and Tin Tin are left to fend for themselves. Intrigued by why Sakharine wanted the model ship so badly, they set off after it and discover a long dark and dangerous history.
This is an exotic road trip / buddy movie as Tin Tin and Captain Haddock join forces to reach their goals. It reminds me of the Bob Hope/ Bing Crosby road trips more than anything. Haddock’s funny and Tin Tin’s earnestness is well, cute as a button and everything plays out in wonderful unfamiliar territories. Oh, it’s a fish out of water story too! Haddock! [I go too far].
Spielberg lays the magical atmosphere on thick and displays the period sensibility that holds the story within its all important historical tradition. It’s long ago and far away and Tin Tin is like no other young hero. The film’s refreshing and entertaining to the very last drop and is set apart by its refusal to be ordinary, a real treat.
Regarding the motion capture triumph of Tin Tin, Spielberg has put the life into the characters eyes and given it a light touch. Together with Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, the motion capture forecast has improved. If Tin Tin and Hugo films are possible with the loathed technology, the one that was used to create the horrific dead look of Polar Express, then it’s a new technological era.
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35mm animated adventure
Written by Steve Moffatt, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, based on Hergé comic book
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Opens: Dec 21
Runtime: 107 minutes
Country: USA/New Zealand