Throwback Thursday – The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)

films, reviews, TBT

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_secret_of_the_unicorn5_star_rating_system_3_stars I wasn’t sure whether to include this film in my new TBT series of revisiting old reviews. It’s one of the few films I’ve rewatched recently so it isn’t exactly a reintroduction to it. It was around the time that Baby Driver had been released when I was on a massive Edgar Wright high. Such is my obsessive love for him, I’d been watching interviews he’d given and, because that’s what you do on YouTube, I got stuck in an endless stream of videos. During this late night binge, I came across an interview he’d given with Steven Moffat and Joe Cornish whilst promoting The Adventures of Tintin in 2011. This interview left me even less keen on Steven Moffat than I was and reminded me of Wright’s involvement with the film. To be honest, I’d kind of forgotten about it since the first time I’d watched it. Well, I always spoke very highly of it cause I remembered enjoying it. But I’d never really had the urge to go back. But I did. And I was fairly disappointed. So, the question remained, how would it fair a third time?

The Adventures of Tintin was the 2011 motion capture adventure film directed by Stephen Spielberg. It was intended to bring to life the hero of Hergé’s much-loved cartoon in a blockbuster adventure that mashed together three different stories. Jamie Bell performed as the titular boy/man journalist who is accompanied by his faithful hound Snowy. Bell was joined by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost at the Thompson twins, Andy Serkis as the drunkard Captain Haddock, and Daniel Craig as the villainous Sakharine. It’s an amazing cast of actors but, as I said the first time, I’m not convinced any of them do that well. Firstly, I still think Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are distracting and a little over-the-top. It just feels weird to me and completely playing towards their fans. As for the rest, Serkis aside, the cast seem a little wary of the motion capture process and never quite give enough of a performance. It makes everyone seem a little flat, which considering the rest of the film, is a little jarring.

Because this is a film that attempts to make up for its flaws by throwing more and more action at the screen. It’s insane. There are some fabulous sequences that see the journalist dodging gun fire, wrestling hawks, and bring buildings crashing down. It’s all quite impressive to watch the animation but, on my third viewing, I found it all a bit superficial. It just didn’t do anything for me and didn’t add anything to story. This film is all style and no substance. And it comes down to the story. There just isn’t enough here to really fit the running time, which is why we end up with meaningless subplots and massive distractions. And it’s not as if we can say that the visual saves it. If this were a traditional animation then it would contain a certain innate charm but this all feels lifeless and cold.

After, Tintin randomly picks up a model ship at a market and finds himself on an adventure trying to find hidden treasure. He meets up with the alcoholic Captain Haddock who may prove to be the one person who can properly help him uncover the mystery. But both find themselves held captive by the evil Sakharine who has taken over Haddock’s ship and intends to dispose of them once he has his hands on the treasure. Can Tintin and Haddock escape and get their hands on the clues first? Do we even care? Do the writers even care? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if any of the 3 writers here were that bothered about what they were writing. The first script was written by Moffat himself but Cornish and Wright were drafted in once Moffat realised he’s not as everyone thought he was (or is that just my personal feelings coming out?). So, there is every chance that Wright and Cornish were left with an impossible task to save the narrative but, whatever the behind the scenes tales were, this film is a mess.

Yes, there are some stunning sequences and some very funny lines. There is still enough quality here to make it fairly enjoyable but every time I watch it my enjoyment decreases. I got bored so quickly on this viewing. It manages to be both a really quick film and very dragged out. I wanted it to be over but, at the same time, was super surprised when it did actually end. Mostly because it ends abruptly in a manner that suggests everyone was super confident that a sequel was coming. Something that annoyed me the first time around but is more than a little awkward 8 years later. I guess I can’t really say why I don’t like this film so much. Everything is in place: my love of both Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, my love of Tintin, my love of action and wanton destruction… it’s all there. Yet, this just feels unrestrained. As if Spielberg and co. were just given free rein and turned a much-loved classic into a loud, brash blockbuster. As if nobody really cared about what they were doing. And, as a result, I don’t really care either.

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