Review: The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn

Without doubt one of the strongest directorial and screen-writing forces of all time have collaborated to produce the first successful translation from page to screen of this intrepid Belgian journalist and his out-of-this-world adventures to get to the bottom of a story.

As a lifelong Tintin fan I have been eagerly awaiting this film ever since I first heard of its conception; added to this, it is directed by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson who have been responsible for some of the most visually creative and exciting films of the last 40 years. Then the news that it was being written by a crack team of comedy writers from the UK – Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish – meant that I was champing at the bit to get to the cinema as soon as it came out.

But, a sense of dread fell over me when I found out that I could only see it in 3D at my local cinema as all the 2D showings were during the day. So it was with trepidation that I took my seat with my stupid-looking glasses on and got ready to have my eyes strained and suffer a headache halfway through making the rest of the film complete torture to sit through. I was pleasantly surprised.

This now sits up with ‘Avatar’ as one of the best 3D films I’ve seen; after the disappointment of ‘Toy Story 3’ and its needless 3D this film was a visual masterpiece. Though with Jackson as the second unit director what would you expect? The opening credits scene was a brilliant montage of Tintin’s adventures incorporating many iconic aspects from the original comics. The attention to detail is astounding with characters looking both very real and true to Hergé’s cartoons and the backgrounds could well be real locations they are so intricately rendered.

The story itself is quite confusing as there are strands from about three books interwoven into one film. One of which, the pickpocket strand, doesn’t really need to be there, though is quite amusing and predominantly features the bumbling detectives Thompson and Thomson. The main part of the plot involves Tintin being sucked into a mystery surrounding a model boat he buys which sees him travel from Europe to Morocco via the sea and desert by boat and sea plane. All the while he is either chasing or being chased by a shady character known as Sakharine who is less sweet than his name infers, for they are both after the same clues hidden inside these model boats to find a treasure hidden under the sea after a fierce pirate battle between Sakharine’s ancestor, Red Rackham, and the ancestor of a drunken sea-captain who accompanies Tintin, Captain Haddock. Along the way they are attacked by thugs, shot at by a sea plane, suffer from visions in the desert, take part in a chase through Morocco on a motorbike and then duel with dock cranes!

During the trek through the desert there is a brilliant flashback sequence of the battle between Red Rackham and Sir Francis Haddock where the latter’s treasure was lost. This battle is the best action sequence in the film and ten times better than any of the battle sequences in any of the ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ films.

As confusing as this all sounds it is pulled off with all the feeling of an animated ‘Indiana Jones’ film and never feels like it is moving too fast or dragging at any point. This is a testament to both the directors and the writers, but also to  the stunning voice cast comprising Jamie Bell as Tintin; Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the detectives, as well as absolutely stellar vocal performances from Andy Serkis as the drunken Scottish Captain Haddock and Daniel Craig who plays Sakharine with a brilliantly light, pantomime villainesque feel.

This is a triumph and must surely be one of the best films of the year so far as the 3D didn’t distract me at all from the visuals and the story line. My favourite moments were the interesting segues between scenes and one small reference to ‘Jaws’ as Tintin swims up to some thugs just under the water leaving only his trademark quiff sticking above the surface like Spielberg’s iconic shark. One criticism I do have is that because it is clearly an origin story which will be followed by at least one sequel; it ends with a cliffhanger where Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock hatch a plan to go after the treasure it seemed they had been searching for throughout this film. Which is a bit of an anti-climax…but at least there will be another one for me to wait a few more years for.

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