Never heard of Tintin before I saw the trailers for this movie. Now I realize that millions upon millions of people in the wide world, especially Europe, followed the comic for many years, but I grew to adulthood in the remote jungles and river towns of Central Pennsylvania. There, we knew there was a place called "Europe," but at the end of World War Two, our fathers didn't want to remember it, and when they did remember it, they remembered guns and fear, bravery and hard-won victory, not comics.
Having been introduced to Tintin, I can understand why the character and the comic were so popular. Tintin, a reporter, is unfailingly optimistic, brave, eager, studious, moral. He's clean. He loves his dog, and his dog loves him. Tintin does not age, or fall prey to greed or lust. He doesn't even have to shave. He is the Peter Pan of the 1930s and 40s, clever and young, and magically knowledgeable about pistols and planes and subterfuge and foreign lands, unscarred by shadows of war or the presence of genocide.
As to this animated movie, when the credits at the end began to roll, I thought to myself, "What the hell am I going to say about this movie?" After all, the only reaction reverberating back and forth in the braincase was "WOW."
Seriously, for hours afterwards, I was in a daze, overwhelmed by the beauty of the film, the incredible technical expertise, the charm of the characters, the skillful story-telling.
We didn't go see the film in 3D -- I really don't want to pay to see a movie and then puke all over the unsuspecting movie-goers in front of me, as movie 3D makes me VERY motion-sick, but I can see how, for those of less wussy substance, 3D could make the movie even more fun. For my sensibility, there was nothing missing at all in the 2D screening.
It could be criticized that I only see movies that I'm going to like, and give a good review, but that would be untrue, as I've been suckered into seeing a number of movies that stank like rancid open-pit latrines. On my own, I would not have gone to see The Adventures of Tintin, thinking it would be saccharine and too precious for words. In this case, I owe Bernie a huge movie debt -- he was the one who felt that we ought to check it out.
Thanks, Bernie. I loved it, but now you'll have to buy me the DVD.
I'm trying to remember the last time in the United States that there was a reasonable amount of agreement about anything. My guess was that it was World War II. Having had our Pacific fleet sunk in the waters of Pearl Harbor caught our attention. If anybody disagreed with going to war, they pretty much kept it to themselves. However, since then every subject that I can think of has been hotly debated. Certainly there is no one that grew up in and around the 1960s that is not to some degree shaped by the violent (both literally and figuratively) national debates over Civil Rights and the Vietnam War. We can't agree on anything. Indeed, in my lifetime cynicism and contrariety have become de rigueur.
I mention this because I was a little startled by the response to this past weekend's opening of Steven Spielberg's holiday offering The Adventures of Tintin. I don't believe we all have to like the same things, but still, I had to scratch my head at some of the harshness of the criticism. The action grows wearisome as it grinds on, one critic says. A frenetic bonbon with an empty center, and a movie made without any perceivable audience, another says. Personally I was left completely unaffected by it, says another. The audience winds up feeling exhausted by the one-dimensional story and disengaged from the thinly drawn characters, says one more critic.
Bear in mind that most critics thought this was a good movie: 74 % of them according to rottentomatoes.com. But people stayed away from this movie in droves. The movie brought in less than $9 million this weekend, an anemic showing especially considering its pedigree (and its estimated $130 million budget).
Since I get many letters from all over the world saying, Bernie, we hang on your every review, you are like the Bob Dylan of movie reviewers of our generation. and even if you haven't begun to look like Salvador Dali with curly hair the way Bob Dylan has, we still wait to hear your wisdom. So, okay, here is my reviihheewww:
Tintin is everything you would expect a Spielberg movie to be. It is fun, it is fresh, it provides you with a movie experience that you have never really had before. In some ways it is familiar ground -- Tintin, the main character, is not so different from Indiana Jones. Tintin is an investigative reporter, not an archeologist, but this is simply the device that allows him to become involved in all sorts of outlandish mysteries. A model ship is the trigger this time: a model that Tintin buys for next to nothing from a street vendor soon becomes a highly sought after commodity, and the seekers are an unsavory lot. With his professional curiosity piqued, Tintin begins to look into the model ship's history, only to find himself kidnapped and on a cargo ship bound for Morocco. There are exotic locations, nefarious villains, plot twists, and yes, hidden treasure. There is never any doubt that Tintin will succeed, of course, just as there never was any doubt that Indy would succeed in any of his quests. The fun is in watching how they do it.
Of course in my mind, there is never any doubt that Spielberg is going to make a good movie, it just a matter of how he is going to do it. In this, his first animated movie, Spielberg deftly blends CGI, motion capture (like Gollum in LOTR and the characters in Avatar), and traditional animation to present an absolutely stunning visual feast. Just as Sand said, there were a half dozen times during the movie where I simply had to say "wow." It is a beautiful film, and from what I have seen of Hergé's original art, this is a fitting adaptation, although I can just about guarantee that there is some fromage-for-brains Frenchman spitting on the floor and calling me an addle-pated lump of anthracite over that statement.
This movie has it all: a great story, stunning art, fast paced action and comedy. Good for the kids? You bet -- the good guys win, the bad guys lose, and success comes from the characters taking responsibility for their actions and working hard against the odds. Good for adults? Once again, you bet.
We didn't see this in 3D, but I intend to. Much of the second half of the film looks like it might be really interesting in 3D, and once again I trust that Spielberg can use the technology correctly.
If you get a chance, go see this movie. It is absolutely delightful.