Director: Steven Spielberg
Synopsis: In Steven Spielberg’s motion capture CGI-animated film The Adventures of Tintin (2011), an adventurous young journalist named Tintin (along with his faithful dog Snowy) finds himself embroiled in a hunt for sunken treasure after he unwittingly purchases a model ship that contains one of several clues for which the nefarious treasure-seeking Sakharine is hunting. After Sakharine’s men steal the ship from Tintin’s home, Tintin pursues the thieves until they capture him and stow him aboard their freighter, upon which he meets Captain Haddock, whose ancestor captained the original ship upon which the model ship was based. Tintin and Haddock’s escape from the freighter leads them on a globe-trotting race to find the sunken wreck of Haddock’s ancestor’s ship ahead of Sakharine and his men.
Review: Tintin benefits from a straightforward story with good direction and production value to support it. Director Spielberg uses camera placement to focus attention on visual clues and events important to the story’s progression, from an object fallen behind a desk to the silent action of Snowy and his heroics – both of which are important to the mystery and adventure elements of the film. Action is continuous throughout, with camera movement working to enhance the suspense – moving underneath a character as he leaps from a window, or whatnot. The atmospheric but understated musical score by John Williams, bearing traces of Williams’s previous collaborative Spielberg projects from recent years such as Indiana Jones or (particularly during the opening credits) Catch Me If You Can, likewise serves the on-screen action but does little to enhance either it or the characters, relying more on atmospherics than on themes (sadly unlike the composer’s earlier glory days).
The striking computer-generated animation in which Tintin is completely presented is both the best and worst part of the film. The rendered material looks near-flawlessly realistic, especially inanimate objects and scenery; physical character movement is also impressive, though the facial expressions and mouth movement for dialogue are less refined. The advantage of this realistic-looking animation is the allowance of more daring physical action than would otherwise be possible with real actors being filmed in live action – and therein also lies a weakness. Many of the film’s action sequences – most notably during the last quarter of the film, including the race through Bagghar and the showdown on the dock – are so daring and outlandish that they become almost comical due to the implausibility of the characters actually surviving the events. Recalling that this over-the-top action plagued another of Spielberg’s more recent films, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) – with sequences of treetop vine-swinging and a fire ant stampede – one can see Spielberg as having moved along an inevitable trajectory after witnessing the audience’s response to that film: the abandonment of live action altogether and a complete reliance on CGI, hopefully to mask elements that would otherwise strain credulity when presented alongside live action footage. This way everything is more readily fast-paced, well-shot, and exciting – but upon reflection, it’s ultimately quite stupid.