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The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Updated on December 28, 2012

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.


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    • Stevennix2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Escareno 

      2 years ago


    • Discordzrocks profile image

      Gavin Heinz 

      2 years ago from Austin TX

      When I was younger, this was my favorite movie, great hub.

    • Stevennix2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Escareno 

      6 years ago


    • Annemari profile image


      6 years ago from Tiny part of the World

      It's a nice one. I like it. I too write stories. Visit Annemari

    • Stevennix2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Escareno 

      7 years ago


      That's very interesting to know, as that would explain some of his recent films that he's chosen to direct. I'll definitely be sure to look through youtube sometime to see if I can find them too, since I'm on there almost as much as i am on hubpages. lol. Anyway, thanks for stopping by Vanessa, and your welcome. I do hope that you enjoy the film whenever you do get a chance to see it. :)


      Thanks Bruce. I'm glad you liked my Oscar Prediction hubs last year, and to answer your question, I still am. I haven't written anything for it yet, as I'm still waiting for the nominees to get announced before making my predictions. However, it should be interesting to see how it turns out. Anyway, thanks again for stopping by buddy, and I hope you like this movie whenever you see it. :)

    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      So in reading your review it does not sound like I should take my 5 year old to the movie. But I am glad to hear it compares favorable to Raiders and that the CGI is really good. I imagine I will wait until it arrives on Blu-Ray to check it out.

      So Steve are you preparing for some Oscar hubs? I remember you doing some impressive Oscar hubs last year, and I look forward to them again.

    • vmartinezwilson profile image

      Vanessa Martinez Wilson 

      7 years ago from Vancouver, WA

      Steven, there were a few interviews I saw of him and it sounded as if the movies he invested the most effort and got 'his heart' were ones that took him back to his youth. He produces a lot of films, but the ones that get most of his attention are the ones that are nostalgic for him. Not that that's entirely bad, since people produce better work doing something their heart is in, but I don't care much for his youth and it really does nothing for me. If I see any of those interviews I'll link them, but I'm not entirely sure where I found them.

      Thanks for the heads up about allowing kids to see the film. My daughter is 6 and wasn't quite ready to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark, though she tried. She does love the first 3 Star Wars movies, but thought the Dark Crystal was just too scary for her.


    • Stevennix2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Escareno 

      7 years ago

      That's cool. I'll definitely be sure to check out your review on this film then, as I'm curious to see what you thought of it. Anyway, thanks for stopping by again, and sharing your support earlier. I hope you have a great new year. :)

    • Robwrite profile image


      7 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Steve; Well-written review. I agree with you. This was an outstanding animated film and a great return to form for Spielberg. I gave it a good review, too. It was a lot of fun. I'm not familiar with Tintin so thanks for the videos. I'll have to watch them today.


    • Stevennix2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Escareno 

      7 years ago

      @wizard of whimsy

      That's cool. I'm glad you liked the hub. :)

      @carl the critic

      Thanks Carl. I liked reading your review also, as I think you brought up a lot of valid points too. Anyway, thanks for stopping by again Carl, and for the support earlier. :)

      @david legg

      Your welcome David, and thank you for stopping by to read my review on this film. I hope you enjoy the movie whenever you get a chance to see it. :)


      Hmm..I never really thought of that before, as that's a very interesting theory. What makes you think that he might be self indulging these days if you don't mind me asking?

      As far as what age that I'd probably recommend this film, it would really depend on how mature your child is. I don't know how mature your children are, as I know when I was a kid this film never would've bothered me. But then again, my father brought me up on "R-rated" films as I was growing up. Heck, at age 8, my father and I were already watching movies like "Terminator" and "Heavy Metal" together. Of course, this also lead to part of the reason why my parents argued a lot when I was a child, as she didn't really like the idea of me watching "r-rated" films at such a young age. But then again, not all kids were like me when I was a child. That's why I think it ultimately depends on what you like to censor your kids from, as there are reasons why this film isn't rated G.

      For me personally, I think the ideal age for this movie would probably be at least 12 and up. Granted, that's still young, but I think by that age that most kids would be old enough to understand the story better, and find it entertaining at the same time. But as I said earlier, it ultimately depends on how mature the kid is.

      Let me just put it to you this way. If you don't mind letting your kids watch something along the lines of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Dark Crystal", and they liked those movies, then they should be fine watching this one, as there's nothing really bad in it for them. However, if you feel "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Dark Crystal" are inappropriate for your kids, then I'd probably wait a few years before letting them see this one then. I don't know if that answers your question or not, but i hope it does.

      Anyway, thanks a lot for stopping by, and for your support in the last hub I wrote before this one. I do appreciate that a lot. :)

    • David Legg 7 profile image

      David Legg 7 

      7 years ago from Trout Paradise, Colorado

      Excellent hub! I have been trying to decide whether to go see Tintin soon, and now that I've read your hub, I'm sure I will. I remember the comic from years back, and I am glad to hear that the movie was well adapted.

      Thank you for sharing!


    • vmartinezwilson profile image

      Vanessa Martinez Wilson 

      7 years ago from Vancouver, WA

      Another wonderful hub. I was thinking this was going to be yet another one of Spielberg's flashbacks to his youth. He's been very nostalgic lately and I'm not so sure I care to relive his youthful fantasies. Now, I think I may give this one a shot.

      You mention that the movie may not be for kids, but what age do you suggest would be appropriate? This is another reason I think Spielberg may be indulging.

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image


      7 years ago

      Very good review I couldn't agree more, I found this to have great animation as well, but the story was very frustrating for me. But great Hub keep it up man, voted Up, Useful, Awesome, and Interesting :)

    • Wizard Of Whimsy profile image

      Wizard Of Whimsy 

      7 years ago from The Sapphire City

      Bravo and thanks for a most enjoyable hub, Steven!


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