Rediscovering Tintin

The advantage to keeping large piles of crap in your loft is that when someone decides to remake, re-appropriate, relaunch or redevelop part of your childhood, you can head up there to get all misty-eyed over the original material. So it was that I ventured upstairs, into a space filled with soft toys, board games, books and other paraphernalia, in search of a few distant memories that might remain, hidden in amongst the dust. Armed only with a blue jumper, torch and questionable quiff I battled the cobwebs and copies of Dracula: The Board Game and emerged carrying untold riches...

Sadly there wasn't a copy of The Crab with the Golden Claws (which I don't even remember being a Tintin book), The Secret of the Unicorn or Red Rackham's Treasure - the books which have been pooled together to create Steven Speilberg's The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, due to hit UK cinemas at the end of October - but IMDb reports that there's also elements of The Shooting Star in the script, so finding that must be counted as some form of success.

Rediscovering old favourites is always a bit of a risk. There's the obvious chance that films and books you loved as a youngster don't hold up to the standards you apply to similar material now and the more-than-likely chance that your own misty-eyed nostalgia has led you to think them better than they ever were. There's also the chance that you've simply forgotten stuff. None of us are getting any younger you know.

As a case in point, I don't remember ever being able to see Snowy's thoughts. That's right. In the comics, the dog basically talks. I'm sure I could illustrate this point by scouring the web for a good-quality scan of a cell featuring Snowy talking but why would I want to do that when I can make your eyes hurt through the sheer excellence of blurry home-made photography...

Over recent years, Tintin's major feature in the media has been due to accusations of racism against some of the content contained in Hergé's books. The main culprit has always been fingered as Tintin in The Congo and the evidence presented here is pretty damning, although the validity of returning to something first published in 1931 to re-appropriate and reinterpret the content must also be questioned.

What is certainly true of Hergé is that he does write in stereotypes. Captain Haddock is a salty sea-dog who speaks mainly in alliterative insults. Professor Calculus looks bookish, with a small beard and circular glasses. In Flight 714, the deceptive English assistant to the millionaire Laszlo Carreidas couldn't look more like a deceptive English assistant if he tried...

The over-whelming feeling you get when looking back at Tintin though is an appreciation of just why these books were so able to capture the imagination. They all involve voyages of discovery of one kind or another, more often than not to places most people - even in this age of cheap flights and package holidays - will never have been. Even in Tintin in America, the America in question is prohibition Chicago, run by Al Capone and his gangster chums. It's laced with a romanticism for individual eras and for the joy of discovering something new.

The Shooting Star relies heavily on this. The voyage is in search of the titular star. It involves a yellow plane and a boat trip and a race against time and a cast of stereotypical characters laid out in such a way by Hergé to apparently invite you to guess at which one of them might be the evil guy...

It's a rollicking good adventure and one which (especially given the look of the extra-blurry cells below) Spielberg's film seems to have drawn on for elements of its visual appearance if nothing else. If the film lives up to it I'll be the happiest, most misty-eyed, ticket-holder in the cinema.


  1. Blistering barnacles!

    I have to admit that while I have fond memories of Tintin I don't have as many books as I thought I did (just the one, Destination to the Moon which has been ripped and has food stains on it!).

    I watched the cartoon religiously and 'm looking forward to adaptation but I am worried about how low key the marketing has been. Very few people seem to be aware of the film.

  2. I've got less than I remember too. Must be some still hiding at the back of the loft somewhere.

    The animated series have just come out on DVD/Blu-ray. Very tempted to indulge in a purchase.

  3. I must admit to liking Tintin. I saw a trailer for the film several weeks ago and it looked pretty damn good!!! I hope it turns out to be because Tintin is a cool character and deserves a decent film adaptation.
    The low key approach is very much in keeping with how Peter Jackson operates. It really is how he keeps leaks and what have you under control. It is his studio that is produincg the film so it is understandable how low key things appear. I'm sure once the film hits theatres all will be well considering the popularity of the Tintin comics.

  4. Good point concerning Jackson. It's interesting to note the complete difference between how much we're seeing from THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and how much we've seen from this. That said, I'm sure if Nolan had his way, we'd see far less and I suppose Jackson has benefited from the fact that much of the mo-cap must have been shot on set. Like desertofreel says, there's a risk in terms of getting people excited for it but I for one have seen just enough to whet my appetite.

  5. I think the name Tintin alone is enough to sell the film. I'm sure all the true Tintin fans will pile into cinemas worldwide and if it is any good word will get around pretty quickly.
    Jackson is a master at keeping things underwraps. I know on LOTR anyone working on the film in any size, shape or form had to sign a confidentality agreement. If anyone leaked a thing the penalties were quite harsh.
    Even it being a NZ made film we saw nothing pre-release, which was good because it annoys me at the length of some trailers. They all but play the whole film before it is actually released. The Tintin trailer was just long enough to be a taste...and that was all, a taste.

  6. @Brent

    That non-disclosure contract is a fairly common thing in film production. I think that the marketing for Lotr was from a different age where studios hadn't exploited marketing as much as they do now. That isn't to say nothing made it out from that production, there was an uproar when Liv Tyler's Arwen was spotted at the Siege of Helm's Deep. It helped that the film was shot in NZ.

    And I think The Dark Knight Rises is a different kettle of fish, Nolan likes shooting on location and it doesn't seem to matter well they close the set, people seem intent on taking pictures (you can add Man of Steel to that list). Tintin was shot in a mo-cap volume and even if they wanted to start the marketing campaign a year ago they couldn't, there was barely any finished footage to show.

  7. Thanks for that but I live in NZ!!!! My sister lives about 5 mins drive from the quarry where Helm's Deep was filmed.
    But believe me EVERYTHING to do with LOTR's was kept very very quiet which isn't easy in a country of only 4 million.