The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn Review

82 years after his initial inception in the pages of Le Petit Vingtième, Hergé’s seminal creation Tintin hits the big screen. With Steven Spielberg at the helm the boy reporter is thrust into a rip roaring adventure that is sure to satisfy anyone who loves the spectacle of cinema.

It’s a simple tale of hidden pirate treasure and ancient family rivalries with Tintin caught in the middle. Simple but effective as the audience is swept up in all the adventure, which is brought to life in stunning fashion. Apparently producer Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) was behind the decision to have the film utilise motion-capture (mo-cap) technology in favour of a live action adaptation. He believed that live action wouldn’t do the comic justice and in that regard he was right. The film really has breathed life into Hergé’s creation as the film has a startling similarity to the comics. It utilises Hergé’s actual drawing style (ligne claire), as the cartoony characters are framed in beautifully rendered real world environments. The effects are remarkable and create a great sense of believability in the world Tintin inhabits.

The characters themselves look fantastic and it would seem that Weta Digital have pulled out all the stops to create living breathing people. Their facial expressions are astonishing as they manage to convince you completely. Never do they look lifeless or head into the ‘uncanny valley’ territory of similar works. Backing the animation up is the voice work. Jamie Bell heads the cast as the title star and he is every bit the part. He brings a youthful determination to Tintin that seems necessary for the narrative. Although Tintin is the title character he is by no means the only star.

Much like the comics Tintin is only as strong as his supporting cast and thankfully each of them is as colourful as the next. Andy Serkis brings Captain Haddock to life in all his alcoholic glory. It is a fun portrayal and he is there for the older audience as much as he is for the plot, as he throws in some interesting comments about his crew. But his antics might test the patience of some viewers as his drunken portrayal is played out in a relentless fashion. In fact having such a character in a Spielberg family film is a bit risqué, but Haddock’s love of whisky is very much a part of the books. Daniel Craig animates Mr Sakharine with a great villainous turn. Predictably menacing but perfectly pitched. He stands out a mile from the rest of the voice talent. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost finish off the main cast as Thomson and Thompson, the bumbling buffoons who will get a big reaction from the kids in the audience with their slapstick comedic style.

However the all-out star of the film is Tintin’s trusty sidekick Snowy. Aided by CGI, Snowy is an action star dog and he steals most of the scenes he’s in. Snowy is sure to be a hit with adults and children alike with his comedy timing and death defying stunts. We predict a lot of soft toys being shifted come Christmas time.

The film’s plot may be simple but Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish throw in enough humour and wit to make the script bounce. It won’t win awards but it works well alongside the action. A few less Captain Haddock catchphrases would have been nice. It enjoys an exhilarating pace and at 107 minutes has just the right balance between action and storytelling to make sure no one really gets bored.

Talking about the action, there is no blockbuster in recent memory that has some of the ingenuity on display here. We are treated to a master class in action direction, as Spielberg does what he does best. The flashback scenes are jaw dropping as we watch the most amazingly choreographed fight scene involving pirates to grace the big screen. But the standout moment in the film is the chase around Morocco. With the freedom of the technology at his disposal, Spielberg crafts an intricate action set piece, which is as exhilarating as it is breath-taking.

The Adventures of Tintin is exactly what the big screen was meant for. It’s a rollercoaster ride full of danger, adventure and action. Add to the mix a light hearted tone and visual effects that seem like a new benchmark and you have a thrilling film. We here at TQS urge everyone to leave their cynicism at the door and let the film take you on an adventure.

Words by Daniel Cole

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