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The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
The Adventures of Tintin
Director: Stephen Spielberg
Writers: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Herge
Voice Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Daniel Mays, Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones, Enn Reitel, Joe Starr, Cary Elwes
Synopsis: Having bought a model ship, the Unicorn, for a pound off a market stall Tintin is initially puzzled that the sinister Mr. Sakharine should be so eager to buy it from him, resorting to murder and kidnapping Tintin - accompanied by his marvellous dog Snowy - to join him and his gang as they sail to Morocco on an old cargo ship. Sakharine has bribed the crew to revolt against the ship's master, drunken Captain Haddock, but Tintin, Snowy and Haddock escape, arriving in Morocco at the court of a sheikh, who also has a model of the Unicorn. Haddock tells Tintin that over three hundred years earlier his ancestor Sir Francis Haddock was forced to scuttle the original Unicorn when attacked by a piratical forebear of Sakharine but he managed to save his treasure and provide clues to its location in three separate scrolls, all of which were secreted in models of the Unicorn. Tintin and Sakharine...
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking
Origins of Tintin
Sometimes You Just Can't Keep A Good Cartoon Down
When I first heard about this movie last year, I told everyone that I knew that this film would end up being one of the best animated features of 2011. After seeing it, do I still feel that way? Absolutely. Not only is "The Adventures of Tintin" one of the most visually impressive animated films ever conceived, but it has a deeply engaging story to boot. A rare combination in any animated movie. The film is essentially based off the popular iconic character created by Herge. According to the story line, Tintin is essentially a journalist, who gets himself involved in all sorts of international adventures across the world; many of these adventures often range from catching criminals, finding lost treasures, to even exploring the moon itself. Indeed, to call Tintin's life exciting, it would be a tragic understatement to say the least.
Although the true origins of this character is shrouded in mystery, even among some of the cartoon's most die hard fanatics, as some speculate that Tintin may not even be his real name. No, some fans speculate that it's actually a code name to conceal his true identity from his enemies. Whatever the case may be, Tintin has always been arguably one of the most fascinating characters in literature, and definitely one of the most under rated cartoon characters ever conceived. However, does this new film give the character any justice? I would have to say it does quite well.
The CGI animation is simply breathtaking, as it combines the surrealistic style of the cartoon series, while meshing in as much realism to the characters as possible without comprising it. What we get as an end result is arguably one of the most visually impressive animated films ever conceived. Not only are the character designs faithful to Herge's original body of work, but there are some moments throughout the film where it looks too realistic to be animation. Indeed, next to "Rango", I think it's safe to say that "The Adventures of Tintin" is definitely one of the most visually stunning animated films of the year, but how does the rest of it hold up? Well, lets get into that now, as I explain the story a bit first.
The film is loosely based on stories of "The Secret of the Unicorn" and "Red Rackham's Treasure", from the original "Adventures of Tintin" story arc. In the film, we're introduced to a young reporter named Tintin (Jamie Bell), who wanders around a European marketplace until he comes upon a unique model ship that resembles the legendary Unicorn vessel. Impressed by it's authenticity, and rarity, Tintin buys this model ship for a fairly low price. However, upon buying the ship, two men by the name of Barnaby (Joe Starr) and Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig) try to buy the ship from him. However, Tintin shrugs them both off by continuously saying that the ship isn't for sale. In the original story, Tintin bought the ship as gift for his friend, Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), but for plot convenience of this film, Tintin hasn't met him yet; thus he buys the ship mainly out of curiosity and prestigious purposes more so than anything else.
Anyway, Tintin carefully examines the ship, as he can't help but ponder why those two men were willing to offer up so much for it in the first place. Unfortunately, due to a series of events, the ship's mainmast is broken, and then the model Unicorn is stolen a little while afterwards. However, the story doesn't end there. Upon further inspection of his apartment, Tintin discovers that when the mainmast was broken, as it was knocked off the shelf in his apartment, it released a tiny scroll containing a message. On the scroll, it possesses a riddle that only a Haddock heir could comprehend. But what could all this mean? Well as it turns out, there are only three model Unicorn ships in existence, as each were given to the three alleged surviving members of the Haddock family, at the time. Each ship had it's own scroll hidden inside the mainmast, as they give off distinct clues to the lost treasure of the great sailor, Sir Francis Haddock (Andy Serkis).
Unfortunately, once Tintin makes this discovery, he's immediately kidnapped by some of Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine's men, where they make plans to dispose of him quietly. From here, we finally meet Captain Haddock, who's become sort of a prisoner in his own ship, as all of his men now swear their allegiances to Sakharine. Fortunately, Tintin's resourcefulness comes in handy, as he's able to find a way to escape along with Captain Haddock. As the rest of the film plays out, it takes our two protagonists on a long journey that spans across the globe; encountering a good amount of adventure, mystery, suspense, thrills and action along the way reminiscent of an old "Indiana Jones" movie.
In fact, you could almost tell, from watching this movie, that Stephen Spielberg took influences from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to incorporate it into the film; featuring an engagingly grounded deep story shrouded in mystery, while showing over the top action sequences that'll keep audiences hooked from beginning to end. If you can see this masterpiece in 3-D, then I'd highly recommend it, as the 3-D imagery is simply amazing. However, if you can't afford it, or prefer the standard 2-D format, then it's still an equally entertaining movie all the same. Having said all this, that's not to say that I would recommend this movie to everyone.
To be honest, I wouldn't advise this film for kids, as it's clearly obvious that both Stephen Spielberg and Peter Jackson intended this movie to be geared more towards adults if anything else. The reason I say this is because some of the themes this movie explores is a bit more adult oriented like Captain Haddock's alcoholic problems, and story may be too complex for most younger viewers; hence I wouldn't advise anyone to think of this movie as a mere family film just because it happens to be a cartoon. No, this is an adult film in terms of it's story content, and characterization.
Plus, the film does tend to suffer from various pacing issues, as many scenes tend to drag out longer than one would expect that slows down the rest of the movie. Two notable scenes that come to mind would be the flying scene, and pickpocket sequence, where both scenes are beautifully done. However, the scenes are overly drawn out to for no other reason than just to show audiences how beautifully done the CGI was during those sequences. Granted, it doesn't ruin the movie by any means, but it does make the movie drag on longer than it should have been.
Overall, I think old school fans of the franchise will be pleased with this adaptation, as it does stick fairly close to the original story; while still remaining sensible enough to appeal to potential new audiences as well. Like I said before, this isn't a cartoon that I would advise anyone taking their kids to, but it's a perfect movie for any adult that enjoys adventure stories in ilk of the early "Indiana Jones" films. Definitely worth seeing at a rating of three and a half out of four.