Friday, 11 November 2011

A Celebration of Tintin

I wanted to open with an apologetic confession about my ignorance of Computer Generated Imagery; a quick internet investigation made it clear that my confession and so my apology will have to stretch a little wider and bear a deeper regret, because it was revealed that I am not entirely sure what exactly does the evasive umbrella of CGI cover.

Since in confession we deal, I should probably also mention that Tintin was not my childhood hero. I was aware of his existence, after all I am half Belgian, and I may have even read a book or so as a kid, but my strongest memory of Tintin is that I called him Tuntun and disapproved all other pronunciations. Neither Tintin, nor Tuntun, were a huge part of my life. I was more of a Garfield kind of gal. Phew, that’s a weight off my shoulders.
Tintin himself is not clear about the definition of CGI

When The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn ended I had no doubt in my mind that I will watch it again and at the same time I felt a strong urge to revisit the books with better attention this time. The love and respect the film has for its original was infectious and I got carried away with it, wanting to say hello to Tintin and see what he's been up to since we last met. It was the film’s visual richness and Spielbergism that made me want to go back and watch it again.

Though I can and have been impressed by CGI and animation effects in the past, I can’t say I ever went to any film with extreme CGI/animation/SFX anticipations. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn was no different. My expectation were primarily Spielbergians in nature, but after seeing Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright’s names in the opening credits, a combination that surprised me as I read nothing about the film prior to watching, and confused me because it would have never occurred to me to match those two together, I was ready to spontaneously combust. A MoffWrightian symphony, which Spielberg would fabulously conduct in perfect harmony, was the form my expectations took. With the greatest respect to Joe Cornish, whose radio career I still prefer to his cinematic d├ębut, for me it was all about the two Steves and the Edgar, and boy what a delicious combination that was.

I have read and heard quite a few complaints that claim the script was weak. I think the complainers and I must have watched different films. In the Tintin film I watched there was action, a thrilling adventure that took the characters and the viewers all over the world, which I think is an essential part of a basic Tintin story, a friendship was formed, there was great humour, great characters and the most amazing dog, and I'm actually a cat person. 

More expressive than a real dog!

Some accusers of bad script, thought that Tintin talking to himself, describing his actions, was silly and annoying. I would like to point out that technically he talks mostly to his dog, Snowy, and only occasionally to himself. You could argue that Tintin's dog is another aspect of his personality and therefore dog or not he is essentially talking to himself, but that's a whole new cat in a sack. I utterly loved Tintin's narration of his life, whether to Snowy or himself. This simple device served two purposes: it helps the film transfer the feel of a comic book and it uncovered another sadder side to Tintin's character.

No other comic book based films I watched, good or not so good, managed to capture a comic book experience. They may be cinematically brilliant, tell a great story and have wonderful meanings and insights, whatever they do they would remain film experiences, independent from the comic reading experience.There was something about Tintin talking to himself/his dog that captured, in my view, something of the comic book feel, like the artificial extra dimension a comic book creates when writing BANG or my old favourite KARRANG. Tintin's external/internal monologues portrayed that better than Edgar Wright's attempt in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, in which he added the noise effects words to the film. In addition Tintin’s conversations with self and dog shines a gloomy light on his character: with all the adventures he’s been through and all his popularity, at the end of the day Tintin is lonely and has no one to talk to. When friendship with Haddock happens the self and dog chatter disappear. It reminded me of this brilliant website called Garfield minus Garfield that does exactly what its title says. Jim Davis himself was, pleasantly I should say, surprised at how dark, manic and depressing Jon Arbuckle becomes when his beloved cat was taken out of the comics. I did say I was a Garfield fan and a cat person. Ho... if only it was Spielberg that made the Garfield films... 

They say it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, but in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn the combined forces of Wright, Moffat, Spielberg and even Joe Cornish produced a gorgeous outburst of fun and joy.

The wow effect of Tintin, however, has to be visual perfectionism of it. It wasn’t the technology, though it is an impressive one, and it wasn’t the special effects, though they too are quite impressive, for me it was the unbelievable and accurate attention to details, the beautiful framing and the camera, or whatever the parallel to camera that was used, movement and fluidity. Indeed it was an overwhelming technology that made it happen, but it was its result that took my breath away, and it did it without pulling focus (an industry pun intended) from the film. Unlike other films (cough, Avatar, cough), the spectacle was not there to cover up for a bad story, lack of it or anything interesting to say. The visuallity, so beautiful I had to invent a word, of the film joins everything else in the film to create a celebration of Tintin.
I won’t mention the opening credits and the following opening scene, I believe every person that wrote spoke of or simply mumbled Tintin to themselves or their dogs, has referred to that fantastic opening, but the opening, as openings often are, is only the beginning. From a brilliantly expressive Snowy, whose expressions were so precise and comprehensive, I could hardly take my eyes of him, to the obsessively detailed edge of frame and background action, which as I understand was done in the comic books’ spirit, and were so eventful and dynamic they could be made into Pixar shorts, watching The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn was like looking at a picture of Van Gogh. All one can do at the sight of such art is bow with awe (rhyme was not intended but I'm going to pretend it was). That was all I could do.


  1. Nick "Nathan Drake" Smith11 November 2011 at 22:14

    Yes the attention to detail in this movie is off the scale and I was actually surprised with what I saw on screen, which is actually quite a hard thing to do these days as cinema is just not as good as it used to be but then Spielberg comes out with TinTin and shows us all that he still has it. In a world where special effects just dominate the screen and sadly leaves the story no where to be seen, Spielberg uses the cgi effects masterfully to tell a tale of wonder, adventure and action. Tintin scored high in my book and is probably the most impressive film this year. I think I may watch Jaws now to show my appreciation.

  2. Great post. Great director. Great movie. Great britain

  3. Thank you kindly you guys. You make me blush :)