This is a fairly new movie release directed by Steven Spielberg. I went to see the 3D ‘motion capture’ version and rather enjoyed it. It is suitable for all ages, however the plot is mature and complex enough not to be followed by younger children. It is not quite animated. I’m not sure of the mechanism behind the development of the physical film, but the characters are somewhat caricatures obviously computer generated, yet quite realistic. The detail in the artwork is impressive. It is not a ‘cartoon’ which will entertain children in the manner of ‘cartoons’. However, it is full of action and a bit of slapstick which will probably keep the attention of grade school kids at least.
Tintin is a Belgian ‘journalist’, as he calls himself. (The original stories were published in the French language, so I presume Tintin spoke French at home.) This allows him to seek out adventures and get into trouble. The story line begins with – in the fashion of older adventure or detective fiction – an innocent enough incident. Tintin finds and purchases a very detailed model of a 17th Century sailing ship, the Unicorn. In under two minutes, Tintin is approached by not one, but two individuals attempting to purchase the model from him at extraordinary prices. Then, in a rather blatant but convincing plot twist, the model is stolen from his apartment.
This of course raises Tintin’s ire and curiosity. Following closely on this, one of the men who wanted to purchase Tintin’s model boat is machine-gunned to death on his doorstep and Tintin is kidnapped by thugs. The balance of the movie follows naturally with Tintin escaping, determining what is actually behind all the events in his life and delivering the evil doers to justice. I trust I give nothing away by announcing here the good guys win.
I liked this movie for a number of reasons. One is the computer graphics are simply marvelous. Some of the characters look like real actors. Some are cartoon caricatures with exaggerated noses and such, but they don’t break the feeling or rhythm of the movie. The model ship is seen in close up and is marvelously detailed. The back grounds are detailed and support the story, as does the architecture of the buildings.
It has violence and a death or two without being disgustingly graphic. For instance, there is a sequence wherein one of the villains orders the death of the ship’s crew. The crew is thrown overboard and the viewer sees some sharks. It is obvious what happens, but the viewer is not subjected to twenty minutes of anatomically correct, detailed close ups of humans being devoured alive by sharks, complete with looks of horror, blood and screaming. Nor is the viewer exposed to the sick horror of men drowning helplessly. But the point is made.
I mentioned a character is killed by machine gun fire. Also in this scene, the actual shooting is off-stage. The viewer knows full well what is happening, but the scene does not dwell on the violence and physical damage that occurs.
The emphasis is on the story telling, not the cheap shock value of special effects hideousness. That, I like.
The artifacts appear genuine. For instance, the automobiles and aircraft look like real automobiles and aircraft. The ships (two figure in the story line) look like real ships. To my personal delight, the firearms were even accurately depicted; Tintin produces in one scene a very recognizable Walther PPK pistol. Other weapons are well done representations of a Browning High-Power and a German MP-38 or MP-40 submachinegun. (I’m not sure the German submachineguns were available to other than the German military at that time, but are used by the villain’s henchmen. Villains and henchmen always seem to have access to weaponry. For that matter, the weapons in the movie may not have appeared in the original comic book story.) The aircraft seen in the movie is a high wing, tandem seat, monoplane seaplane. I didn’t recognize it, but it is most likely a real aircraft of the era. The automobiles and trucks – one prominently marked ‘Citroen’ – are very much the autos and trucks of the past.
Aside: This does bring up the question of ‘when’ the story takes place. From the vehicles and firearms, and the lack of war in the background, one gets the impression this happens probably in the late 1940s; possibly the early 1950s. This movie was originally one of Hergé’s (Georges Remi 1907-1983) comic book stories, published in 1943. In 1943, Belgium was under the domination and rule of NAZI controlled Germany. Hergé was anti-fascist, but kept a low profile in order to stay out of Gestapo custody. For this reason, I’m assuming Hergé wrote the story as if the war didn’t exist.
I liked the story line. There really is a plot and a mystery to be solved. It isn’t the most twisted plot I’ve ever watched (or read), but it is a real story. One gets hints and clues about what is to happen, and sees how the story line develops. Within the confines of adventure fiction, the story line is reasonably believable. At least, one is disposed to suspend disbelief.
This is a movie for pretty much all ages. It is enjoyable for those as young as can follow a bed time story read to them, or as old as can still imagine and desire to be part of the world at large. It is well crafted in terms of movie making as well as the characters and story line. My only regret is I didn’t read Tintin as a kid. Perhaps I shall have to correct that error now.