Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, The (2011)

Director:  Steven Spielberg
Cast:  Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig
Plot:  Tintin and Captain Haddock set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship commanded by Haddock's ancestor. But someone else is in search of the ship.

Genre:  Animation / Action / Adventure
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Original Score.
Runtime:  107min
Rating:  PG for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking.

The master of entertainment is back with not one, but two films this year.  The highly-anticipated War Horse, a drama set in the context of World War I, is earmarked for release around Christmas.  But for now, film enthusiasts will be satisfied by Steven Spielberg’s cinematic take on the beloved comics by Belgian artist Georges Remi.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn arrives at our screens with as much anticipation as Spielberg spectacularly presents the film in animation, shot using motion capture technology that has advanced considerably since The Polar Express (2004).

The Adventures of Tintin pushes the envelope on the wondrous possibilities of animation, and for once, the folks at Pixar Animation are faced and challenged with an animated film that is more realistic than anything they have ever created.

Spielberg, who is almost always on top of his game, exorcises the ghosts of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), a failed attempt at reviving Indy fever, with another action-adventure that will certainly please children and adults alike. The master director goes back to his roots as an entertainer and delivers what is essentially 'Indiana Jones' meets 'Pirates of the Caribbean' packaged in a fun outing for the family.

The story is simple: Tintin (Jamie Bell) is compelled to investigate the mystery of a sunken ship when a model replica that he bought is stolen. He sets off on an adventure and is acquainted with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), a drunken seafarer who is forced to face his family history.

Although the execution of the story may lack the emotional depth that Pixar Animation so consistently convey in their films, The Adventures of Tintin redeems itself with thrill-a-minute action sequences that build up in situational complexity in which two or more action threads simultaneously unfold in humorous Spielbergian fashion.

There are homages to many films including Spielberg’s own Jaws (1975), and James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Aliens (1986) in the climatic sequence. If there is a flaw in The Adventures of Tintin, it would be the pacing. There is an extended flashback sequence as Haddock hallucinates in the desert that almost slows the story down to a stop.

There are more flashback sequences later that disrupt the flow of the main narrative. While they provide some back story that helps to develop Haddock’s motivations, they ultimately prove to be more distracting than useful. Still, there are some great visuals in those flashbacks.

The star performer here is Serkis, who is surely deserving of at least an Oscar nomination one day. He captures the drunken and foolhardy nature of Haddock with aplomb, becoming a hilarious counterpoint to the frenzy action that whirlwinds around him.

The Adventures of Tintin is one of the best animated features of the year and is likely to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. With Cars 2 (2011) fizzling out, Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) decent but not unique, and the jury still out regarding Happy Feet 2 (2011) and Puss in Boots (2011), it seems like the only strong challenger is Rango (2011).

And Rango it surpasses for sheer entertainment. Also gone are the soulless eyes that Zemeckis tried but failed to remedy in his films over the years.

Verdict:  Spielberg's first animated feature is 'Indiana Jones' meets 'Pirates of the Caribbean' in one of the year's most entertaining movies.


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