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Blu-ray Review: The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

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I regularly enjoy myself when I’m watching a movie in the theater or on DVD, I wouldn’t spend so much time doing it if I didn’t.  It is only on rare occasions though when I actually find myself truly amazed by what it is I’m watching.  Steven Spielberg’s 2011 animated featured, produced by Peter Jackson, The Adventures of Tintin gave me one of those “wow” experiences.

A motion capture animated feature, The Adventures of Tintin brings the classic Hergé comic series to brilliant, wonderful, wondrous light.    It is not only visually stunning—although it certainly is that—it is a perfect Indiana Jones-esque serialized-style adventure.  In the bonus features on the new Blu-ray, Spielberg talks about how when Raiders initially came out, some French critics compared it to Hergé’s Tintin stories, although Spielberg was unaware of the character at the time.  Watching the movie, and before hearing that moment in the bonus features, the similarities to the Indiana Jones movies immediately struck me and will to any fans of the now classic Harrison Ford films. 

Tintin stars Jamie Bell as the famed young journalist, Tintin, and Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock, a drunk sea captain who unknowingly may hold the key to a great mystery.  The film opens with Tintin purchasing a model of a ship, the Unicorn, at a market and quickly realizing that there are several other interested, nefarious, parties who will stop at nothing to get the model.  As it turns out, the ship is but one of three and may hold information about the location of a hidden treasure.

Yes, it is one of those movies with sunken ships and secret treasures and evil doers, but it is a great example of the genre.  The big bad in the film is Sakharine, portrayed by Daniel Craig.  And, just as with Serkis’ Haddock, Craig’s Sakharine is an over-the-top near-caricature of an individual.  Okay, Haddock has some serious moments, but his buffoonery far outweighs the serious aspects of the character.

On the whole, the film is less interested in drawing complicated pictures of individuals than taking the viewer on a thrilling rollercoaster ride.  Don’t get me wrong, the characters are unquestionably interesting, but save for the occasional moments with Haddock, the film isn’t interested in much of what’s going on inside them.

What Tintin is concerned with is creating an exciting, inventive, visually stimulating movie, and there it succeeds in spades.  Not only does the motion capture animation look absolutely gorgeous, but the action sequences are grandiose and sweeping.  There is, throughout virtually the entire film, a palpable tension present, and while it ebbs and flows depending on the scene, it never really disappears.

Many scenes in the film, particularly the action sequences, feature a shifting, swooping, ever-changing camera.  More than once the shot appears to be one that no true camera could ever have created, but rather than pulling one of the world of Tintin, it only adds to the stylized look and feel of the movie. 

In short, while Tintin may be similar to a film like Raiders of the Lost Ark, it never fails to have an identity all its own.  From the action to the fast-paced story to the brilliant portrayals and beautiful animation, The Adventures of Tintin is a film which proves that there is a way to create a spectacular animated adventure film for the family.  It will be too much for the youngest members of the audience, but everyone else will find it a truly wonderful experience.

As I have stated, the film looks absolutely incredible on Blu-ray.  The level of detail present is outstanding and the colors are saturated and gorgeous to look at.  Whether in shadow or in the light, whether at sea or on land, every frame of Tintin is full of things to look at and they are all rendered in fantastic detail.  The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is equally superb.  This is a film where attention has been paid to every last detail, including the soundtrack.  In city scenes, the sound field is full of the noises one would expect in such a locale and the same is true of deserts and the sea.  Things move around from left to right, front to back, etc., and provide an immersive audio experience.

In terms of bonus features, The Adventures of Tintin comes with a digital copy (UltraViolet and iTunes), a DVD, and several shorter behind-the-scenes pieces which combine to give one a full look at both the history of the character and his world as well as what went into making the film.  Together they amount to roughly 90 minutes of material.  Some of these featurettes are less interesting than others (like details on movie tie-in collectibles), but even those manage to provide a glimpse into the love, care, and dedication that went into making the film.

In the end, what The Adventures of Tintin offers is a great film made by people who truly cared about the character and world they were bringing to life.  It is a movie that is not only a great thrill ride, but offers so much to see and be astounded by that you will want to return to it again and again.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.