Reel Talk

The Pulpy Fun of the Adventures of Tintin


I’m really intrigued by Tintin. Created by Belgian cartoonist Herge in 1929, Tintin is an intrepid reporter who gets to jet set around the world, having wacky adventures with a colorful cast of allies and antagonists. He’s like Indiana Jones, but with less of a legitimate reason why he’s risking his life to find secret treasures. I guess people like his journalistic pieces about evil conspiracies and historical artifacts. I haven’t read many of the comics he’s appeared in, although I have several of them waiting for me, so most of my knowledge of the characters came from the early 90’s animated series, since that was pretty much the best time for animated series of all time. Even though there are only apparently 39 episodes of that show, I feel like I saw it replayed constantly on cable growing up, and I really enjoyed it. But after growing up, Tintin kind of faded from my memory, and I pretty much forgot about him and his adventures. And then I heard that there was going to be a CGI animated movie directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by Spielberg and Peter Jackson, and written by Edgar Wright and Steven Moffatt, all creators who have made some of my favorite things, pretty much ever. And yet, I didn’t really give a crap about it when it came out. I was getting ready to finish college, and was pretty broke, so I just let this one slip by me for financial and time reasons, but there was also the fact that the movie looked kind of weird to me. For the most part it didn’t have a lot of recognizable voice actors (at the time for me) plus it was made with that creepy motion captured CGI like that terrible Polar Express movie, or that incredibly forgettable Beowulf movie, where the animated characters hit right in the uncanny valley and feel like creepy corpses. Then, about two years ago a friend of mine told me that I was missing out on the Adventures of Tintin, so I gave it a shot, and now my wife and I watch it every couple months. It’s a blast.

The movie serves as an amalgamation of three classic Tintin stories, The Crab with the Golden Claws, the Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s Treasure, while also introducing us to Tintin and Snowy, Thomson and Thompson, as well as all the characters meeting Captain Haddock. And the movie became a fun, noirish, pulpy flick that’s full of adventure, humor, and heart. It’s great. It really triggers flashbacks to the animated series, while also being a shockingly “grown-up” version of the story. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the animated series, but I don’t seem to recall Tintin using guns, or letting Haddock’s alcoholism be quite so apparent. It’s kind of shocking that this movie was made by Nickelodeon, although I one hundred per cent see how it was made by Steven Spielberg. I love Indian Jones with a crazy passion, and boy do I hate that last movie. Crystal Skull is so bad, but I don’t really feel like beating that dead horse, so I just want to leave it by saying that this Tintin movie feels way more like an Indiana Jones movie than that pile of crap. Tintin, Snowy, and Haddock zip around the world visiting exotic locals while having fun banter and crazy set pieces, just like Indiana Jones should.

Tintin plane

We then get to one of the best scenes of the movie, where Tintin and Haddock are trying to steal the other two scrolls from Sakharine after a crazy plan that involved an opera singer breaking glass and a trained hawk, and then the two groups have in insane chase through the streets of Bagghar, that was all one shot. Obviously in an animated movie having one unbroken shot is less impressive, but it’s still crazy to think how well designed this chase is. But in the end, Sakharine get’s all the scrolls, and heads off the victory. But our heroes beat him to his destination, and after a crazy fight involving cranes in a dock, they beat Sakharine and get all the scrolls, which turn out to show the location of the treasure of the Unicorn when all paired up. They head off to the location that’s mentioned on the scroll, and it turns out to be the house that Sakharine was in earlier, the ancestral home of Captain Haddock. They end up finding a secret room in the basement that has a safe shaped like a globe that’s full of treasure and more clues. The duo decide that they work well together, and head off for more adventures.

Tintin motocycle

Adventures that we’re still waiting on. The idea was that Peter Jackson would direct the next one, and then both he and Spielberg would finish the trilogy, but nothing has happened thus far, which is a shame. We didn’t need Hobbit movies, we needed Tintin movies dammit! Oh well, hopefully it’ll happen someday. This movie is so fun. It’s full of great, perfectly designed action set-pieces, while still making time for silly slapstick to keep the movie from being too intense, and more like the source material. The movie is fun and exciting, just like an adventure movie should be. And I was surprised that the animation didn’t really bug me as much as I thought it would. It kind of looks creepy every now and then, but for the most part they didn’t try to make the character designs look realistic, they kept more in line with the Herge designs, which helps a lot. It’s wonderfully animated, exceedingly well written, and perfectly directed. It’s a hell of a movie, and for the love of God give us more!

Tintin portrait

The Adventures of Tintin was written by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish and was directed by Steven Spielberg.

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