If you need any further proof of the directorial genius of Steven Spielberg, just look at some of the incredible set pieces/adventure sequences to be found in his first computer graphic movie The Adventures of Tintin.
That’s not, however, to say to that the film as a whole is a complete success. But let me backtrack just a little.
When I was very young, I was absolutely charmed by the works of Georges Remi, aka Herge, in the twenty three Tintin graphic novels he produced over his lifetime. I know there were previous animated and live action features based on the graphic novels, but Steven Spielberg’s film is the first time I would see Tintin and his world in something other than the original graphic novels.
When the film was originally released, I was curious how audiences in the United States would react. While Tintin is a beloved fictional character in Europe, Canada, and other parts of the world, Herge’s work never seemed to rise above cult status in the United States. Would audiences here give this film a look despite the lack of familiarity with the character and books?
As it turned out, the movie proved a mild success in the United States and a big hit oversees. The film was generally viewed positively by audiences here (Rottentomatoes.com has the film scoring a very good 74% among critics and 78% among audiences). I was eager to see the film in theaters, but the crunch of time proved too much and I simply couldn’t. Instead, I waited for the eventual video release and quickly got the movie into my BluRay player.
As I mentioned at the start, there are some scenes in The Adventures of Tintin that are simply astonishing. These scenes follow one after the other at roughly the middle of the movie to close to the end. First up is the escape from a freighter and subsequent airplane flight to the desert. These scenes are both hilarious and suspenseful. Soon after that, there is an incredible flashback sequence involving the Unicorn, a ship from the 1700’s whose fate is central to the story we’re presented. This flashback features some of the very best pirate action you’re likely to ever see in any film, live action or animated. Then there’s the sequence -all presented in one “take”- featuring a mad dash between the protagonists and the villains to gain control of three pieces of paper.
Each of these sequences are great and guaranteed to make your eyes pop.
Sometimes, too much of a good thing can be…too much. To me, some of the greatest works of fiction know how to balance out “quiet” scenes with “action” scenes. A few years back, while watching (of all things) Hellboy II: The Golden Army, I came to realize that when every sequence in the movie is presented as if it is a big set piece (action or otherwise) with all the bells and whistles (swelling music, frantic editing, solemn dialogue, etc. etc.), then after a while the “importance” of the sequence you’re watching becomes…less so. I had been so assaulted by one supposed big earth-shaking scene after the other that by the time Hellboy II reached its actual climax, it felt like just another sequence instead of what should have been a rousing conclusion.
So too, unfortunately, it is with that second half of The Adventures of Tintin. While the first half of the film -dare I say it- allows the story time to “breath”, when we’re finished with those wonderful sequences I noted above, we are unfortunately not quite at the film’s climax. We’re close, mind you, but because those sequences I pointed out are so damn good, when we actually do reach the movie’s climax and the villain and hero face off that one last time, it proved to be rather…dull. By that point I was mentally exhausted with the all that good stuff that came one after the other just before. Granted, Mr. Spielberg and company tried to fashion something great with that last confrontation between villain and hero, but it just didn’t live up to what came right before. Even worse, the sequence involving the chase for the three pieces of paper could easily have served as the movie’s climax…and it would have worked very well there. Had Mr. Spielberg done so, the film’s dénouement could have just as easily followed.
Regardless, I still admire what Mr. Spielberg and company did with The Adventures of Tintin. While I can’t say that the film was a complete success, particularly during that exhausting later half, I nonetheless was very impressed with what they did get right, from the incredible computer animation (some of the best I’ve ever seen) to those very successful action and humor sequences. Overall, I’d give this film a very solid three stars out of four. Recommended.