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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

TINTIN COMES ALIVE

"Billions of blistering blue barnacles!!!"
-Captain Haddock

Ever since my brother brought home Tintin books from his French class in high school, I've loved the comic (both it and Asterix comics).  The art was wonderful, the stories loads of fun, and the settings fantastic.  Tintin was like a junior James Bond, traveling the world and having amazing adventures.
Although technically a reporter, Tintin rarely showed any real evidence of his work, giving only the impression of being a globe-trotting adventurer.  He was never wealthy, but always had as much money as he needed.  His age was never clear, although he looked like a kid (and was called one) he was also treated as an adult and lived on his own, could drive, and so on.
Written and drawn by a Frenchman named Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name of HergĂ©, the Tintin comics spanned six decades, with the first being printed in 1929 (and it was the pulp era that the comic stayed in, all those years).  The comics have been translated into 60 languages and sold over 200,000,000 copies over the years. Although less instantly and broadly well known as Superman or Spider-Man, Tintin is a comic giant.
When Spielberg took up the idea of making a Tintin movie, I had mixed feelings.  The stories fit Spielberg's skills well, and they would translate well to cinema (all comics can).  However, movie translations often go horribly wrong, especially when not treated with respect and appreciation of the medium, such as the ghastly Electra and Catwoman movies.
I finally saw The Adventures of Tintin last night, on Netflix.  The company had just added the filmi and I had wanted to see it for quite a while.  Tintin is animated, but done with such lush, complex and true-to-life animation that it was sometimes easy to forget it was animated at all.  The characters were not quite true to life, and not quite cartoons, but were a functional and acceptable blend of the two that worked well in my opinion.  My only problem was that Captain Haddock's schnozz was a bit too pronounced.
The film blended several different comics together, sort of a best-of-Tintin blend of events and bits tied around elements of Red Rakham's Treasure and some other comics.  The overall effect is a fun, often slapstick, often tense adventure that I enjoyed greatly.  It isn't great cinema, but then most of what people call great cinema isn't either.  Tintin was a fun experience of watching his adventures come to life and was very entertaining in the process. I came into the movie thinking I'd have fun, and I did.
The storyline was simple but progressed well, without contradictory or nonsensical moments (there are absurd situations, but nothing that violates logic or consistency of behavior).  The animation was amazing, and although there were a few "Look, its 3D!" moments that were intrusive, the director and writers took very good advantage of animation to do and stage things that would be very difficult or impossible in real life.  Captain Haddock's unfortunate but comical experience with a plane propeller is one that springs to mind.  Another was a sequence of sword fighting cranes that has to be seen to even be comprehended.
The film didn't do terrifically well in the US, although overall it has earned more than $300 million worldwide.  The Aventures of Tintin cost about $150 million to make, and in Hollywood terms, doubling your money is not a huge return (don't get me started on hollywood accounting again).  Still it made enough that a sequel could be seen, and it certainly was set up to have a sequel at the end of the film.  I'd like to see one.
My only real problems with the film were the Captain's nose, the odd choice of giving the blatantly and famously French characters UK accents (??), and the slight notice given to Tintin's moral character.  He's a huge boy scout, a guy who always does the right thing, no matter what it costs him and stands tall because of it.  The Adventures of Tintin didn't have much evidence of that at all, instead he seemed to be driven by his job and curiosity more than anything else, and that's too bad.  Still, a very great movie that all ages can and should enjoy.  I recommend it, especially if you already know and love Tintin: 4 stars.

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