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David Poland

By David Poland

Mini-Review: Tintin

I don’t really know how to do film criticism on The Adventures of Tintin.

It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen on a screen. It’s beautiful. It’s a bravura piece of action imagination by Steven Spielberg, suddenly freed from all the constrictions of live-action filmmaking while mining many of the benefits of live-action filmmaking. And even though I am very curious to see the film in 2D, sensing that the textures might be more engaging without the glasses, it’s as good a piece of 3D filmmaking as exists. I can absolutely see a value to the format, while on a movie like Hugo really doesn’t need it.

So… how’s the movie?

I didn’t really, really engage with the story until the third act, when things calmed down a little and the motivations and spirit of Haddock finally became clear. I’m not a Tintin reader. So the fact that in the film, Tintin is not a boy, but a small, wiry adult with youthful features, was a bit of a surprise. And Haddock, all of whose footage I had seen involved him being a drunk, evolves into a really great character. And I really enjoyed Daniel Craig’s not-very-Daniel-Craig performance as the villain… as well as his design, which gave is a bit of him, but mostly not. (For me, Jamie Bell and Andy Serkis were not recognizable in their characters.)

I don’t know how Tintin fans will feel about it. There are a bunch of inside Tintin jokes in the film that I noticed, but wasn’t moved by the way I might be moved by a joke about a character I already loved. Besides that, I was a little overwhelmed by the relentlessness at times. I have a strong feeling that I will have a better time on this ride the second time around. Spielberg’s action is so complex and relentless in this film that film lovers will be deconstructing his work for years to come.

I had a good time, but it’s not deep love. At least, not yet. Oddly, it seems to me like my 2-year-old may consume it happily (though not in 3D). I look forward to going back again.

I can imagine a whole series of films based on comics being brought to life this way. And I’m almost as excited to see what Peter Jackson does with his turn on Tintin as I am to see Spielberg’s again. It’s like the birth of a new kind of filmmaking that is not a replacement for great films that are, but that can deliver films that we have never seen before.

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5 Responses to “Mini-Review: Tintin”

  1. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Did the 107m race by? I only ask because I heard the sequel could be 140m. Is that correct?

    Also you wrote “I’m not a Tin Tin reader” which makes me wonder how you would know insider gags then.

  2. David Poland says:

    The movie races by. And the running time on a movie that’s not yet in production is a silly conversation, in my opinion.

    Some of the gags are obvious to a non-reader, but clearly meant to tickle a lover of the series in a special way. A for instance… and not a spoiler, but a moment that some may care to savor for themselves without knowing…


    At one point, something in the water looks like a shark… but it’s only Tintin’s hair twist.


    Kinda like, Kirk chasing alien women works without familiarity with Trek. But if you know Kirk’s history, it’s a much bigger laugh.

  3. Tirithon says:

    The movie didn’t work as well for me. I saw it a week or so ago at a Paramount screening, also in 3D, and I wasn’t invested in the characters or the story.

    I agree with David about Spielberg feeling released from the constrictions of live action filming. There are some good things that come out of it, but a lot of it goes over the top and stays there.

    I don’t know the Tintin comics that well, so I went in as what I thought would be the best possible audience. The opening is cute and has a nice nod of going from the 2D comic world to the 3D film world. The credit sequence and John Williams’ score during this are great — but then about 15-20 minutes into it, the film lost me.

    It seemed to become more about set pieces than characters. Every possible plot point becomes an action set piece. I didn’t care about Tintin, what he wanted or who was after him. The original comics the movie is based on were written in the mid-1940s, so the film’s storytelling conventions and jokes seemed of that time period — very Abbott and Costello to me.

    But for the most part, the audience around me was into it. They were laughing at things and generally into the film. I didn’t get it at all.

    I will say it is the best motion capture tech out there. The dead-eye issue wasn’t even there. Weta does something that Zemeckis’ group was never able to accomplish (though Christmas Carol was much better than Beowulf and Polar Express). Everything about the movie is amazing technically… but I wanted to be emotionally connected to Tintin and his story the way I was with Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I never got there.

  4. I’m pretty much with Tirithon. The first 25 minutes or so are pretty strong, as it introduces the plot and the two main characters. But once the ‘adventure’ begins, the film falls into a bland lull for the middle 50 minutes. The action (save for a flashback sequence) isn’t all-that inventive or impressive until the big third act set piece, and the characters are as thin as can be. I wasn’t expecting profundity on the level of Munich or even Minority Report, but I was expecting a richer stew from Spielberg and Jackson. Either richer characters, better action, real tension/suspense, and/or even some of that passionate old-school filmmaking gusto that makes King Kong such a kick… all are generally lacking It’s not an evil or lazy film, and I will not begrudge anyone who enjoys it more than I. It’s just all style and no substance, lacking the wide-eyed wonder of The Polar Express or the intensely powerful mythmaking of Beowulf. Alas…

  5. ThriceDamned says:

    TinTin is about 10x the film Polar Express and Beowulf were and I say that being far from the biggest Spielberg fan in the world.

    On the other hand, I grew up reading the comics so that may play a part. I loved the film and so did all of my friends and colleagues. As expected, the film is doing great business in my European country, so I’m just curious how it’ll do stateside.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
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“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon