I never read "The Adventures of Tintin" comic books, which were created by the late Belgian writer and artist Hergé. The animated series, however, holds a special place in my heart as one of the finest nostalgic shows of the early '90s. Other than maybe Disney's "Ducktales," "The Adventures of Tintin" was probably the closest thing my generation got to an adventure serial. Now, director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson, a collaboration we've all been waiting for, join forces to bring Tintin's chronicles to the silver screen through motion capture effects. The end result is a hyper and dazzling voyage that earns comparison to, dare I say, "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
The film derives its story from three of Hergé's comic books, all of which were also adapted for the animated series. In this version, the title character is played by Jamie Bell of "Billy Elliot." Bell does a smashing job of incarnating the inquisitive audaciousness of young Tintin, who finds himself in a heap of trouble after purchasing a model ship. The dastardly Ivanovich Sakharine, played by Daniel Craig, desires to steal Tintin's ship, which may hold the secret to a lost treasure. Thompson and Thompson, two incompetent, identical police officers played by the duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, prove to be little help in solving the case. Thus, it's up to Tintin and his faithful dog, Snowy, to get the story.
Tintin's travels take him aboard a rustic ship where he meets the series' most beloved character, Capt. Haddock, played by Andy Serkis. After Gollum in "The Lord of The Rings," King Kong in Peter Jackson's 2005 update, and most recently Caesar in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," Serkis seems to have become the ideal performer to star in any motion capture movie. Here Serkis does some of his most inspired work as the disgruntled, drunken sea captain who can barely function without alcohol to fuel him.
People have always underestimated the dedication that can go into a voice over and motion capture performance. With two great credits under his belt just this year, I wonder if Serkis could become the first actor to receive an Oscar nomination for such a performance. At the very least Serkis deserves some sort of honorable award for his incredible body of motion capture work.
Admittedly, I was somewhat skeptic about the decision to make the film a motion capture feature. When the project was first announced, I was looking forward to a traditional, live-action take on the story. Now that I've seen the movie in its entirety, however, I stand corrected. "The Adventures of Tintin" is the most exhilarating motion capture animation since "The Polar Express." Spielberg uses the technology to its full advantage, utilizing inventive camera angles and realistic settings to create over-the-top action sequences that never slow down. "The Adventures of Tintin" demonstrates that with the right material motion capture can be a terrific tool, unlike in the dud "Mars Needs Moms" where the technology was wasted.
It's going to be impossible to view "The Adventures of Tintin" without being reminded of "Raiders of the Ark," given the film's numerous locations, variety of vehicles, and persistent thirst for adventure. Even Tintin himself holds a resemblance to a young Indian Jones from the short-lived television show. The question is whether or not "Tintin" is as spectacular as "Raiders." I don't think any film will ever quite be able to top "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in the adventure department. Nevertheless, I would go as far to say that "The Adventures of Tintin" is every bit as fun as "Temple of Doom" and "The Last Crusade," and certainly a step up from "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." This is Spielberg tapping into thrill-speaking younger self, who proves to still be a living presence within the director. In a year of brain-dead blockbusters like "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," this is the action picture our youth deserves.