Thursday, 17 November 2011

Tintin - my twopenneth

The day before yesterday Denise & I went to see the new Tintin film. We didn't see it in 3D, so I can't comment on that side of things (although I've heard the 3D work is good), but we did watch it in Digital, although I'm not quite sure what the difference is supposed to be in terms of experience.

When I first saw they were releasing a film that wasn't the old TV series I was rather concerned. I've seen movie adaptations of books I like before, and they're often just a little bit disappointing. The strength that the TV series had was that it used the same drawings as the original books - it was just an animated book - not much room to screw things up there.

However, having watched it my fears were quelled and then some. I've watched a few adaptations (looking at you Harry Potter) where you end up with the feeling that the filmmakers didn't really get the books or just weren't fans the way you were (I mean, seriously, how could you consider it even remotely acceptable to leave out winning the Quidditch Cup from Prisoner of Azkaban?? That was the best bit of the book.), but I felt watching Tintin that the creators cared enough to not just approximate the books but also reproduce them. One of the most enjoyable things was seeing that so many characters who appear once and are utterly insignificant were still renderings of the drawings used in the books (example, check out the market seller right at the beginning vs. the same character in Secret of the Unicorn, or the crew of the Karaboudjan). Now, I will say that they've changed story elements, the bad guy in the film wasn't the bad guy in those books, and they've blended The Crab with the Golden Claws with Secret of the Unicorn (which tbh, I expected them to do), but the fact remains that they've included a lot of the material from the books and they've done it in a way that is completely in keeping with the spirit of them, so for once I don't mind.

It's also one of the few adaptations I've seen where the characters are mostly like I imagined them - Jamie Bell is a perfect fit for the youthful sound of Tintin without sounding like a child, while Andy Serkis (of Gollum & King Kong fame) is excellent as Haddock (one day he'll land a major role in a major film where you get to see his face), and Bianca Castafiore is also spot on (I was impressed that they even managed to capture in sound the painful noise that Haddock experiences whilst letting you see why others consider her so good, a job I doubted they could pull off).

Full credit also for the adoption of the motion capture animation. People have said negative things about films like the Polar Express that use it, but the characters looked alive in this, whilst still fairly representing their cartoonish features. One frustration I've had with CGI people in films is that their movements don't quite look real - they're just a little to smooth (or sometimes to jerky) and don't quite feel like they interact with the environment properly - but motion capture gets round that to a fair extent because humans provide the movement and you can really see it in the excellent swashbuckling flashbacks and a few punch-ups (also congratulations to Spielberg for not cutting out the fights and guns of the books - like the books no one actually gets shot dead but it's good to see they've maintained that side of things - you don't have to cut it out for it to qualify as a family film).

So all in all I was thoroughly satisfied with the job they've done with it - it's so nice to watch a film where you know the makers cared as much about the little details as you do - it's clearly the work of someone who wanted to bring the books to life rather than just exploiting the license. Bring on the (highly probable) sequel.


  1. Completely agree Jon. The 3D was pretty cool, I especially loved the opening credits:)

  2. oh, relief! now i can go watch it with ease :)

  3. Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised. I hadn't realised how widely known Tintin was though, I thought it was something that didn't go far beyond western europe.