The Adventures of Tintin finally opened at local cinemas this week, so I went out yesterday and watched it. As expected of a film directed by Steven Spielberg, it was an entertaining Hollywood remake of Hergé's beloved comic, well crafted and calculated to appeal to kids. But the key word here is "Hollywood". Fans of the original are going to be left disappointed about the changes that inevitably accompany any adaptation, especially one that anglicizes the original work.
Spielberg gets one thing right - the sense of adventure embodied by its young, globe-trotting hero. Tintin has the right combination of curiosity, intelligence, bravery, and resourcefulness. And given said anglicization, the voice actors do a fine job with what they have to work with. Spielberg steers clear of the darker political overtones of Hergé's books, which I suppose is understandable given the controversy surrounding some of the man's politics.
The most obvious stylistic change is the translation of Hergé's ligne claire style into CGI. Trying to replicate Hergé on the big screen would have been far more audacious, but would have been a bigger artistic embarrassment had it failed. It was probably wise for Spielberg to not make the attempt for the entire film. He does pay homage to the master with a nice opening montage, and by inserting Hergé as a street artist who draws a caricature of Tintin as a way to introduce the character. The characters themselves have that glossy sheen that might put some viewers into uncanny valley territory. Snowy in particular looks more like a cast member of Toy Story than Tintin's pet dog. There were times when the saturated color palette reminded me of the Harry Potter films of Chris Columbus. But the visuals of Tintin are still far, far better than past motion capture efforts like The Polar Express or Final Fantasy.
Of course, the film has its share of overly-fussy, confusing, physics-defying, action set pieces that no major Hollywood production can live without these days, but are worlds apart from the clarity and elegance of Hergé. When movies squeeze in more than one of these type of sequences, it can soon become boring to watch.
And the movie goes all sentimental in its treatment of Captain Haddock, grafting onto the character a redemptive tale of a drunken loser who becomes a hero and saves the day. At one point, he gives an inspirational speech about finding one's true self, which made the Tintin fan within me bristle. The same goes for the good vs. evil binary Spielberg sets ups by incorporating an unnecessary inter-generational conflict between the two sides. For me, the Haddock of Hergé was always a slightly unhinged individual who would learn to fight and drink hard, not someone seeking to overcome his alcoholism.
After my viewing, I stopped by the nearest bookstore to see what Tintin albums were available to read. Unfortunately, it didn't have copies of The Secret of the Unicorn and The Crab with the Golden Claws, the two works the film is based on. The store didn't appear to be aware that there was even a Tintin film currently screening in two theaters at the cineplex. What a shame.