Cinematic Flashback: The Adventures of Tintin (2011) Review

Failed. There are plenty of others willing to call you a failure. A fool. A loser. A hopeless souse. Don’t you ever say it of yourself. You send out the wrong signal, that is what people pick up. Don’t you understand? You care about something, you fight for it. You hit a wall, you push through it. There’s something you need to know about failure, Tintin. You can never let if defeat you….as Jason’s Movie Blog presents the “cinematic flashback” review for 2011’s The Adventures of Tintin.


“This year, discover how far adventure will take you”

Director: Stephen Spielberg

Writer: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish

Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg

Run Time: 107 Minutes

Release Date: December 21st, 2011

Rating: PG


Having bought a model ship, the Unicorn, at a local market stall, Tintin (Jamie Bell), a young investigative reporter, is soon confronted by a mysterious name, Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig), who is eager to buy it for him. After declining the offer, Tintin (accompanied by his dog Snowy) is soon kidnapped on Sakharine’s orders; whisked away to sail to Morocco on an old cargo ship, with the crew (being paid by Sakharine) to revolt against the ship’s master, Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), a washed up and drunken man. Escaping from captivity, Tintin and Captain Haddock learn more of the model ship, with Haddock explaining that three hundred years earlier his ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock, was forced to scuttle the original Unicorn when attacked by a piratical forebear of Sakharine, but he managed to save his treasure and provide clues to its location in three separate scrolls, all of which were secreted in models of the Unicorn. From there, Tintin, Snowy, Haddock, with aid from the bumbling Interpol agents, the Thompson Twins (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), our boy hero, his dog, and the captain must prevent Sakharine from obtaining all three scrolls to fulfil the prophesy that only the last Haddocks can discover the treasure’s whereabouts.


To be honest, my first introduction to Tintin was in the animated TV series of the same name (1991-1992). While I initially didn’t see it when it first aired on HBO, I actually remember seeing it when it aired on Nickelodeon; watching a few of the episodes here and there when I was on summer break during elementary school (and when I stayed home sick). From what I remember, it was still quite fun and I did like the whole adventurous take that Tintin goes on through each episode. It wasn’t until later on (when I worked at a bookstore) that noticed that The Adventures of Tintin was originally a graphic novel comic series (created by George Remi under the pen name of Hergé). I’ve skimmed through a few issues (part of collections novel formats) and enjoy them. Love the character designs and (like the TV series) love the adventure aspect. Flash forward to 2011 and The Adventures Tintin was released. Have to admit that I really liked it (though I missed it in theaters). So, here is what I thought of the movie……

Directed by Stephen Spielberg, The Adventures of Tintin (or also titled as The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn) definitely seems to remain close to its source material. Not so much on the actual events of the story being told (loosely based three Tintin stories: The Secret of the Unicorn, The Crab with the Golden Claws, and Red Rackham’s Treasure), but in the way of how it makes the feature’s narrative progression / presentation unfold; feeling very much like a kid-esque Indiana Jones type of adventure. There’s plenty of mystery, intrigue, and thrills to keep a viewer invested, with plethora danger and excitement to be contended with. Plus, I was quite intrigued by the story and loved how the movie play out (again…. the whole Indiana Jones concept playing out), with Spielberg’s past experience aiding in making the film enjoyable and appealing.

There’s also the movie’s presentation of utilizing the motion capture technology in creating the body movement of the animated characters. The result is something that definitely works. Even though the film is almost nine years (from the time I’m writing this review), the CGI animation used for The Adventures of Tintin is quite breathtaking. It’s clean and creatively detailed (something akin to The Polar Express animation style…. but much more intricately detailed). Plus, the way that Spielberg utilizes the camera working in the movie is quite ingenious and definitely almost feels like a live-action feature. Plus, I do like how Spielberg updates Hergé’s character designs for the 3D rendering of the characters, but still is able to retain the overall fundamental looks about them from the comics. Even the film’s score, (done by John Williams) evokes a sense of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones, with flourishes of adventurous style music playing throughout.

There are some parts where the movie does lag a little bit. For the most part, the second act of the movie could’ve been trimmed down a little. This section of the movie helps explains the overall narrative plot (Haddock’s backstory as well as Sakharine plan), but it takes awhile to get to the point. Plus, I kind of wanted to see another episodic sequence for Tintin and Snowy to undertake during this part, but the film seems too much in love with its own story. In truth, there’s just too much dialogue driven moments and not enough substance in this part. In addition, the third act climatic point of the movie seems a bit hokey and lackluster. Visually, its cool, but not exactly what I was expecting it to be (kind of wanted it to go in a bit of different direction). Plus, the ending is a bit ambiguous; left dangling for a possible sequel rather than a proper conclusion with a hint of a next chapter (kind of like a part 1 out of 2).

The voice talents in the movie are actually really good in the movie and certainly bring the various character’s to life in a very fun and lively. Jamie Bell is perfect as the youthful and adventurous nature of Tintin; imbuing the character with a sense of quizzical persona that’s always looking for the underlining secret and mystery. It’s a fun character with Bell giving Tintin a rather likeable quality. The same can be said with Andy Serkis’s gruff and heavy accented voice for Captain Archibald Haddock is rather memorable in the movie as he carries the most dynamic vocal range of the cast; making the character endearing and loveable right from the get-go. Likewise, Daniel Craig is quite effective as the feature’s main villain, Ivan Sakharine, with Craig using the right amount of somewhat nasally gravitas (in a somewhat upper-class English snooty tone) for the character. Plus, the vocal works of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost compliment each other as the comic relief characters of Interpol agents Thompson and Thompson (I always remember them from the cartoon TV series).

In the end, The Adventures of Tintin is a solid animated movie that definitely has plenty to offer as a kid’s style of Indiana Jones-esque of adventure and mystery. While the feature struggles in its middle section as well as a few minor nitpicks about the climatic third act sequence, the rest of the movie works and works well. With a beautiful style realistic animation, solid voice talents, and sense of invoking the spirt of adventure, The Adventures of Tintin is a fun, lively caper, and welcomed addition to animated motion pictures. Let’s hope that one day Tintin and Snowy (and the rest of the gang) return for another adventure for a cinematic sequel installment.

Cinematic Flashback Score: 3.9 Out of 5

Fun Fact: the film was disqualified for a Best Animated Feature award at the Oscars due to the usage of motion-capture performance. This rule was due to a fundamental misunderstanding of the technology. While MoCap can humanize movements to make them more physically plausible and less demanding on the animation team, assets to render into the scene still need to be constructed. Assets such as character designs, backgrounds, objects, textures, (hair / fabric / paper) simulations, lighting, etc. all have to be filled in, sometimes painstakingly by hand. Certain movements and clipping often need to be enhanced or corrected with keyframe animation.


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