Re:View – ‘Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn’
First, the obvious question; why didn’t they shoot it live action instead of going with dead-eyed rubbery motion capture in the style of the ghastly ‘Polar Express’? After the first twenty minutes an answer emerges – such is the feverish ADD pacing of the new Tintin film that no live action adventure would ever have been able to keep up. Furniture falls over, ships explode, planes crash, buildings collapse, cranes battle each other, there are the obligatory Spielberg chases and the camera swirls as if it’s trapped on a tilt-A-Whirl.
Oddly, it works – after the first few minutes you forget the rubberiness and start to revel in the glory of improved computer graphics that actually make ‘Avatar’ look bad (and ‘Green Lantern’ look rubbish). The reason for the frenetic speed is that there’s nothing much to the characters, and we need to keep zooming forward, for if the pace ever let up the entire edifice would collapse, and unanswerable questions would be asked.
The Tintin series has been around for eighty years, and no amount of clever writing can hide the fact that it’s a very old pulp comic. But that’s fine because this Tintin gets its cake and eats it too; the production team, largely English and New Zealand, has created a Euro-Neverland which looks French and sounds cockney (and uses GBP), with mythical lands sandwiched between real places, and the scenes play on two age levels, with props from all the other stories peppered throughout the film, just for the nerds.
The script covers two books, ‘Unicorn’ and ‘Red Rackham’s Treasure’, chucking in a lovely cameo from the hideous Bianca Castafiore. All the main characters are there except for Professor Calculus, who is presumably being held back for the sequel. Nestor is spot-on, the Thompson Twins are a bit of a misfire because they’re exactly like the books and have nothing to do but behave stupidly, and Snowy gets more screen-time than any human. But the best role goes to Captain Haddock, left with his whisky habit intact (quite how US church groups will cope with that will be interesting).
So a new Spielberg franchise – aimed at both tinies and those who have fond memories of the books from school, is in safe hands. My only quibble is that the pacing allows for no highs and lows, and for all its surface smartness the film is somehow unfunny. The 3D is subtle but the glasses make everything quite dark.