The Adventures of Tintin (2011) Review (PG)

The Adventures with Tintin is an incredible film based on the European comic strip of the same name by the late Georges Remi. This is the way that I wish Will Eisner’s “The Spirit” had been handled, but then that one didn’t have Stephen Spielberg in the director’s chair. I really hope this and “Warhorse” are a sign that he’s going to get back to directing movies on a regular basis.  This is a the first time he’s directed an animated film that uses motion capture. It’s not surprising that this may be the best motion capture film I’ve seen (at least off the top of my head).


This film is spectacular to look at. I’m NOT one of those that HAS to see a film in 3D if that’s an option. I’m one of those that sees 3D mostly as a money generating gimmick. There are times when I’ve seen a film in 3D and was impressed by it. This is one of those times. It didn’t hurt that I didn’t develop a headache midway through the film (which has occurred frequently). I especially enjoyed the scenes in the city the most and the Haddock mansion reminded me of Scooby Doo cartoons for some reason (for me that’s a good thing.. original series, of course).


The film  follows the title character Tintin (Jamie Bell), a globetrotting reporter and his faithful dog Snowy, as they become involved in a very involved mystery stemming from a model of a sailing ship that he purchases in what amounts to a flea market. The model is a replica of a famous ship that sunk in the 17th century called the Unicorn (and captained by a man named Haddock). As soon as he buys it an American and a sinister looking man named Sakharine (Daniel Craig), both try to purchase it for many times its value. Tintin refuses and takes it home with him.

Tintin soon discovers that the model has hidden secrets and the game is afoot (sorry, wrong movie). Anyway, he is visited by two agents of INTERPOL, Thomson and Thompson, who are searching for a pickpocket (who snatches Tintin’s wallet before escaping the two lawmen. To be honest, I have no clue what the pickpocket had to do with anything, but maybe his importance will occur in sequels. There are quite a few deviations during the story, but I’ll get to that later.

Tintin’s investigations lead him to Marlinspike Manor, where he recognizes the Haddock symbol in the architecture. After another deviation (again, more later…), Tintin is confronted by the mansion’s caretaker and by Sakharine. Tintin discovers that there is another replica of the Unicorn in the manor and the mystery thickens. I don’t really want to give anything more away than that. In this film, one clue begets another and there is trouble for Tintin and Snowy at every turn (almost quite literally).

Tintin soon finds himself at odds with the mysterious Sakharine in trying to solve the discovered mystery. Sakharine has a few advantages. He knows Tintin has in his possession something that he needs to find what he wants to find. Once he gets that, he knows where he has to go for the next big clue to reveal itself about what he’s searching for. Sakharine also has a number of henchman at his disposal.

Tinitin does manage to find an ally in the last of the Haddocks, a sea captain (Andy Serkis) that has been kidnapped by Sakharine. This Haddock steals the spotlight from Tintin for quite a bit of the film. Most of the gags stemming from his perpetual inebriation.

It is the stuff of high adventure and I, like at least one other big name critic, was reminded of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones series. It’s set in about the same era, spans the globe (taking Tintin to Morocco, and is loaded with many complicated chase sequences.

There’s a lot of action. In fact, there may be too much. A friend of mine, we’ll call him Mr. Assertive, took his family to see this. His family liked it, but in his words: “There was just too much”. After seeing it, I understood what he meant. Tintin was incapable of doing anything without instigating an action sequence.

The sequences were generally there to progress the story, though. For instance, the discovery of something hidden in the Unicorn replica was caused by a cat that gets into Tintin’s home only to be chased by Snowy. After an extended sequence, the two knock over the Unicorn replica, damaging it…. So it was necessary… But, I can see where someone could think that it’s getting a little old. Anytime Tintin even tried to cross the street he was greeted by an onslaught of crisscrossing traffic.

It felt nonstop, but I didn’t have as much a problem with it as he did, I think. It was minor. The action sequences were reminiscent of those earlier Spielberg films. The locales and era had a lot to do with that, too, though.

Another little quibble I had was the humor. Maybe it was the audience I was with, but a lot of the humor, especially early on, fell extremely flat. I think people warmed up to the slapstick style, especially once Haddock made his first appearance. He livened up the film,  for sure. The film really didn’t need too much, though, as I said the visuals were top notch. The detailing could almost be described as excessive at times. Combine the beautifully rendered visuals with the action and it was complete eye candy, but with substance. It wasn’t  mindless flash, the action did move things along.

This film should have near universal appeal. Only the truly stupid won’t appreciate the artistic merit. It’s not ‘edgy’, but it’s just very well done. It’s a good example of how blockbuster kids’ films should be made.

4.5 of 5


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