The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn - Cinema Review

'it's action all the way and, more often that not, what brilliantly well-conceived action it is'

Motion-capturing a hugely well-regarded comic is a brave move but perhaps it says something about where the technique is at now that the smooth faces and occasional lazy eyes are the least of The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn's problems. At only one point (a late cameo by a character who has more to do in another of Hergé's Tintin adventures) does the effect get distracting and for the most part fans of the source material should rest assured that Tintin looks slick, fast and perfectly at the apex between human and cartoon, something which the medium has struggled with in the past.

Speed, in fact, seems to be of the essence here. At one-hundred and seven minutes, director Steven Spielberg doesn't give himself a huge amount of time to begin with and sets about racing through the narrative at breakneck pace. The introduction is non-existent and, although we occasionally stop for Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) to explain what's going on, everything else is pretty much action all the way. And, more often that not, what brilliantly well-conceived action it is. The Morocco chase is the obvious highlight but the ship traverse is also exceptional and the little moments of well conceived camera work - in particular a segment where Tintin (Jamie Bell), trapped in the middle of a busy road, has the camera pirouetting around him and the cars - are consistently delightful.

Considering what would have happened if these moments hadn't have been there is as redundant as considering what would have happened if Darth wasn't Luke's father but the film does rely on its action set pieces and, in particular, the humour Spielberg imbibes them with. The script, from an all-star team of Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, should have been both smoother and funnier and too often delivers goods that are under-wrought and over-sold. Too often punchlines destined to appear on-screen seem to float away from the team and there's an over-reliance on the type of 'look Snowy... a clue' style dialogue that Hergé had to use in what was still, despite the artwork, a medium reliant on the written word. Worse than this the natural comic-relief of Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) is largely wasted and, as bonkers as it may seem, someone appears to have thought it a good idea to include a joke about bestiality.

The end is fluffed slightly in an anti-climactic battle that both seems to have been inspired by Transformers and forgets the 'less is more' rule, Spielberg then further ruining the pace by including an elongated epilogue which seems uncertain whether to wrap things up quickly or stay around for another twenty-minutes. That said, it is probably the director's only miss-step, most of the film's failings lying firmly with the scripting. Spielberg, unconcerned with minor problems like that, wrestles the thing back up to high levels of fun and the discernibly grandiose ideas of adventure that shot through the Indiana Jones series. It's not the only thing the films have in common. Indy's comedy punch noises make a welcome return and feel very much at home here in a film that, like those films, does best when it's not taking itself quite so seriously.

Look further...

'it will sell on Spielberg’s name, and hopefully it will sell based on the fact that it’s really very good indeed, a rollicking adventure that contains several moments of unrivalled cinematic exhilaration' - Alone In The Dark, 4/5


  1. I was just watching an interview with Jackson and Spielberg on telly several hours go! It sounds as if the speed element is very American and one I suspected Spielberg would do. I'm afraid it feels as if it is aimed at winning the US market over and pandering to its tastes.
    Bugger. I was hoping for a lot more. The animation does look damn good though from what I've seen so far. But none the less I will be seeing this as I do like Tintin and wonder if this is successful whether we'll see Asterisk under go the same treatment. Of the two I like Asterisk more.

  2. I always class those two together! Used to sit side-by-side on my bookshelf when I was younger. I would be very up for seeing Asterix in this incarnation... just with a better script.