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The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicor

A 2011 computer animated film directed by Steven Spielberg based on the comics by Hergé.

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Great Snakes!! Tintin is A Rip-Roaring, Globe-Trekking CGI-Animated High Adventure!

  • Dec 22, 2011
Seems like director Steven Spielberg has been real busy this 2011 holiday season. He has two movies being released this Christmas weekend; “War Horse” and “The Adventures of Tintin”. Since the latter has been released a bit earlier, and I am somewhat familiar with the beloved comic character, I figured I’d go see it first. I remember the stories to be absolutely delightful when I was a kid, reading them from comic strips in Asia (but my memory of it would not be vivid) taking TinTin and his faithful dog Snowy all around the corners of the globe. Spielberg has given the material new life, as he adapts the graphic novels “The Secret of the Unicorn”, "The Crab with the Golden Claws" and “Red Rackham’s Treasure” for the big screen. This film was originally called "The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn" in the United Kingdom.

The film begins in an ala-“Pink Panther” style opening sequence as Tintin (Jaime Bell) is a young man who in a small market stumbles upon a fabulous model of the Unicorn ship. Oddly, as soon as he buys the model, he gets two other offers to purchase it from his hands and one of them is a fellow known as Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (voiced by Daniel Craig) and seems to be hell bent in acquiring the ship model by any means necessary. There begins an adventure to uncover the secrets of the unicorn that takes Tintin and his dog Snowy out to sea; together with the assistance of a drunken Capt. Haddock (Andy Serkis), they must stop Sakharine’s schemes and discover the secret of the lost ship called the Unicorn….

                   A scene from ``The Adventures of Tintin.''

                  Thompson, Tintin, Thomson, Snowy and Captain Haddock in ``The Adventures of Tintin.''

Based off three of Herge’s comics, the script by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) made a rip-roaring adventure that never loses a beat and is paced at an extremely delightful style. There is so much going on with “Tintin” but Spielberg and company competently lays about its groundwork as the viewer is taken for a thrill ride. The screenplay is filled with comic book sensibilities and ingenuity as Spielberg maneuvers everything in an almost “Indiana Jones”-like style. There is an old-fashioned look about the animation layouts here, and the charming ‘busy’ screenplay is intentionally convoluted to generate viewer interest. This is the type of film that the less you know about the plot the better (readers of the graphic novel would be at home though), as its enjoyment stems from the adventure itself. The comic bits may seem slapstick at times, but it comes naturally, as the direction keeps up its breathless pace.

                    Snowy in ``The Adventures of Tintin.''

                   Tintin and Captain Haddock in ``The Adventures of Tintin.''

                   Captain Haddock and Tintin in ``The Adventures of Tintin.''

                   Sakharine in ``The Adventures of Tintin.''

Spielberg has been known to creatively skilled with shots that have a lot of tracking camera work, eccentric constitutions, and mind boggling narrative transitions that would be a chore to pull off in a live action film. He maximizes what he has in animated form, as he elegantly stages each scene to further the impact of the following scene. I had a lot of fun watching “Tintin”, as Spielberg kept me at a breathless pace in a ride that encompasses land or sea. It was surely a well-endowed motion picture, as its excitement is complemented by humor, and its humor complemented by clever dialogue. The film is fantastically action-packed, and it is more or less a chase film as Tintin, Haddock and Snowy are pursued and they in turn are racing with their pursuers.

The motion capture animation is stellar this time around. Everyone who followed my reviews knows that I am not too fond of the Robert Zemeckis style of animation; while I believe the technology was good but needed improving in “The Polar Express”, this was improved in “The Christmas Carol” but the skin details still looked a little ‘waxy’ and too smooth in those films. Zemeckis seemed to have perfected the 3D animation as the skin tones looked very detailed complete with freckles and texture. I have to say that the animation was excellent, as the movements were smooth and fluid, there is a “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World‘s End”-like scene that was just gorgeous and the action scene complete with swordplay and swashbuckling style almost made me drop my jaw. I saw some mild synching issues with the voice and the performance capture animation on some scenes, but they were barely noticeable.

                      A scene from "The Adventures of Tintin."

                     Tintin and Captain Haddock in ``The Adventures of Tintin.''

                    Tintin in ``The Adventures of Tintin.''

Another thing that really stood out was the way Snowy was animated. He is a triumph in motion capture as I was very impressed with the amount of simple detail given to this charming character. He was just so perfectly animated and attuned to the surroundings that I could almost feel him breath. The rest of the supporting cast were good, they added a lot of personality to the story. It also helps that when there is no action in the screen, the story is helped along with charming scenes of drunkenness and banter between Tintin and Haddock while inspectors Thompson and Thomson (played by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) are in the hunt for a certain pickpocket (Toby Jones).

It really is hard for me to find a bad note about “The Adventures of Tintin”, maybe there is but I was so busy being entertained that my brain probably shut it off. I wasn’t too impressed with some of the promos and with expectations so-so, I was pleasantly surprised how much I loved the film. I wished that I could’ve seen this in 3D, since the scene with the motorcycle and the cranes would have rocked; oh boy, I’d hate to think what I would’ve missed in that pirate ship battle. The only flaw I can really find is its predictability on some scenes, but they were too small to really pick at. Great Snakes!..I am so IN for its sequel!!

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "The Adventure of Tintin." Poster art for "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn."

Tintin is A Rip-Roaring, Globe-Trekking CGI-Animated High Adventure! Tintin is A Rip-Roaring, Globe-Trekking CGI-Animated High Adventure! Tintin is A Rip-Roaring, Globe-Trekking CGI-Animated High Adventure!

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December 27, 2011
I have never read the comics, but really like this movie very very much. Great write up.
December 28, 2011
Thanks! My memory of the strips and the animated series are really fuzzy and I don't think I've read those three graphic novels, but the film just made me fall in love with the material.
December 24, 2011
I read one Tintin comic. It was Tintin in America. I loved it, and I've been curious about others ever since.

I guess it was only a matter of time before Steven Spielberg tried animation. I'm glad he finally got around to it.
December 28, 2011
I am glad to see him do animation as well. This had some familiar shots that gave it an Indiana Jones feel, one I really enjoyed! I really do recommend this was very delightful and imho, the best American animated film this year!
December 23, 2011
Very nice review. I've been following this one's production for some time since I'm a mega Tintin fan and I've been hoping that some of Spielberg's seemingly misplaced genius will again shine through. I think he may be taking a note from Scorsese who as in recent years been working outside of his usual genre. In this case, Spielberg is returning to the adventure genre but in the new medium of digital animation, which is very new for him. Were you a fan of the Nelvana animated series "The Adventures of Tintin"? It used to be on Nickelodeon back in the '90s. Great series. I may need to pick it up sometime.
December 23, 2011
Thanks! I loved this one. I saw some episodes of the series but it has been awhile. I liked Tintin, so I need to pick up the other graphic novels. I do hope that Spielberg does go back to what he does best, I have yet to see "Hugo" but I doubt I'll get a chance now. I do hope Spielberg does another good one with "War Horse"....
December 23, 2011
Yeah, Spielberg likes to pair up his serious films with adventure stuff like this (in '93 it was "Jurassic Park" and "Schindler's List" and in '97 "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" and "Amistad"). This might be the first time that the adventure film is better than the drama. LOL!
December 23, 2011
I may try to see "War Horse" but not so sure. I am rather more curious for something different this coming weekend. This was real good, I am going to be getting the bluray for sure.
December 23, 2011
I changed the title and definition again. That better?
December 23, 2011
add "aka." and it'll be perfect! LOL!
December 23, 2011
I tried it, but it looked like it was part of the title and I wasn't about to make it even longer with an a.k.a. and quotation marks. LOL!
December 29, 2011
the adventures of boogah boogah LOL!
December 30, 2011
See, someone already changed it back again. Ugghhh. Why should I bother to create topics that accurately reflect their subject matter when people change them regardless of specifications?
December 30, 2011
I am guessing one of the staff fixed it since the movie is simply called "adventures". People would stick to the final title anyway and not what it was called a month before. I wouldn't worry about it since the info is in the wiki area anyway, which I added.
December 30, 2011
there you go....fixed!
December 22, 2011
Nice review, William. Glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did. :) There were some nice 3D moments, but I don't think it was that vital to the viewing experience. I thought after I'd seen it that it would work just as well in 2D, so I don't think you missed out too much (and you probably saved yourself a few dollars!).
December 23, 2011
Thanks for the read, Simon, This was a great film and imho, maybe the best animated film this year. Good to know that the 3D may not have been necessary, I would kick myself if I missed something. I re-read your review and it seems like in U.K. the movie was titled "Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn" while in America, it was simply called "The Adventures of Tintin". I guess it was because "Red Rackman's Revenge" was also adapted in the screenplay. It is really curious how all this works out.
December 23, 2011
There's been some confusion about the title. The full title is "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn", but in the U.S. this title was shortened due to a decision made by studio execs at Columbia who felt that title was too long. In all likelihood, the full title will be restored for the home video release so as to establish that this will be the first in a series of "Adventures of Tintin" films. The foreign marketing of Indiana Jones and James Bond films have been given similar title changes. By the way, there is no "Red Rackham's Revenge". It's "Red Rackham's Treasure".
December 23, 2011
Orlok, I just added that bit about the title in the review itself. So, let's say someone comes along and reviews this movie and thinks that there is no topic, and thus, creates another one, and another creates another one? I think those details need to be under the wiki. Or this topic should be called "The Adventures of Tintin (aka. Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn)" Topic names need to be easy and direct. Btw, who ever does stick with an original working title anyway? "This film will now and forever be called simply "The adventures of Tintin" since it is under that title the movie is being released worldwide.

I got that "Red Rackham's Revenge" in a wiki and a blog, I will make the changes; not surprising since I haven't read the recent graphic novels. Wiki's do have mistakes, since they are oftentimes edited by too many cooks in the kitchen.
December 23, 2011
I hear ya. Want me to change it to "The Adventures of Tintin (aka. Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn)"?
December 23, 2011
I think "aka." and "UK title" may be better for everyone...(know what I mean)
December 23, 2011
I didn't realise the film had been released in the US without the "Secret of the Unicorn" sub-title. I suspect the studio was worried about confusing American audiences. After all, the Tintin books aren't as popular or as well known there as they are here in Europe. It'll be interesting to see how the film performs at the US box office.
December 23, 2011
I think it is doing quite well so far. It had a good crowd when I went to see it and a bunch of co-workers are excited to see it! Yes, the studios like things simplified, so me and Orlok fixed the wiki and the topic name to compensate.

Simon, are you going to see "War Horse"?
December 24, 2011
I'm undecided about whether to see "War Horse" or not. I am interested to see how the WWI sequences are handled, but I fear the story may be a bit mawkish.
December 24, 2011
I have the same feelings, I mean Spielberg is awesome when shooting war scenes but the story is based on a children's book that inspired a play where the horse talks. I hope Spielberg can pull off a more serious film out of that.
December 22, 2011
Awww this one sounds delightful - another one my daughter seemed interested in. This will be on my "to see" list too and thank you Will - if it impressed you that much I know I'd be delighted LOL - !!!!
December 22, 2011
I tel yah, I was keeping my expectations tempered since Spielberg has been a miss his past few films, but this was great! It was fitting for the mature viewer as well as kids. I bet you'll like it!
December 22, 2011
I'm sure I'll love it - if you say it was great, then I know it is...
December 22, 2011
Glad to hear this is good
December 22, 2011
Yeah, man, I think you will love this one. Could be the best animated film this year.
More The Adventures of Tintin (The ... reviews
review by . October 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Before his death, Tintin creator, Georges "Hergé" Remi, remarked that Steven Spielberg was, in his opinion, the only director who could ever do the character justice on the big screen. Indeed, Hergé as realised by Spielberg sounds like a tantalising prospect; a match made in heaven. After all, the adventures of a certain whip wielding archaeologist clearly have a great deal in common with Hergé's globetrotting, bequiffed reporter. After seeing The Adventures of …
review by . December 29, 2011
I have never read the comic but I loved the movie - The Adventure of Tintin
I have never read the Tintin comics or the graphic novels, so I was not sure what to expect when I went to see the new movie.  I knew Steven Spielberg was behind the movie, so my expectations were high.  After seeing the movie I now want to check out the comics the movie was based on.  Speilberg has created a very special and well done animated feature.  The CGI effects works perfectly.  The story moves along at a rockets pace.  And I was completely captivated with …
review by . December 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Now that is an adventure!
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN Written by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish Directed by Steven Spielberg Starring Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis and Daniel Craig   Tintin: How’s your thirst for adventure, Captain? Captain Haddock: Unquenchable, Tintin.   When I was a kid, I abhorred the series of Tintin book. I found them to be tedious and terribly dull. And so when it was announced that the Belgian books would be adapted into a film, I was less than …
review by . December 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Like his Indiana Jones films, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin is a rip-roaring action adventure that takes many cues from the Saturday matinee serials of yesteryear – equal parts detective story, travelogue, chase film, treasure-hunt fable, buddy comedy, and stunt spectacular. The key difference is that it’s of the junior division. The age of its hero is never given, and yet he looks and sounds no older than sixteen …
review by . March 14, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Very entertaining film
Tintin is a young European journalist who also solves crimes. After buying a model ship, he becomes involved in a mystery about a pirate treasure and finds his life is in danger.      I loved this movie. The motion capture technique is fascinating and so well done. Some characters look cartoonish while others look very real; the scenery is strikingly beautiful. The action-packed story is part pirate swashbuckler and part Indiana Jones adventure; the combination makes for a spectacular …
review by . December 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
So what do you get when you take the director of The Lord of the Rings movies, the director of the Indiana Jones movies, and the writer/producer for the current series of Doctor Who and give them $135 million to play around with? Turns out you get the best action film I've seen in ages and what will likely be the Best Animated Film winner at the next Oscar ceremony.    The Adventures of Tintin is based on a Belgian comic book that, despite having three years of French in high …
Quick Tip by . May 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
You know, I've said it before and I'll say it again... I'm so sick of slick, shiny, technologically advanced yet soulless 3D animated films. However, despite this begrudging sentiment, I'm really beginning to get excited about this new Tintin film. Right off the bat, you've got Steven Spielberg directing and Peter Jackson producing. Yeah, sure their last few films have been major disappointments (For Spielberg, his past ten or so films have been terribly disappointing. For Jackson, …
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About this movie


Originally titled: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, (the U.K. release still has the original title), the film's title was shortened to make it more direct and easy to remember in the worldwide release. The film adapts three of the graphic novels about Tintin and his canine sidekick Snowy.

The Adventures of Tintinfollows the exciting exploits of a young reporter, his dog, a sea captain with a drinking problem, and a couple of bumbling Interpol detectives as they travel from Europe to the Sahara and Morocco in pursuit of a pickpocket, model-ship collectors, and long-lost treasure. Steven Spielberg's and Peter Jackson's long-awaited full-length film, based on the original "Tintin" comics by Hergé, combines the stories "The Secret of the Unicorn," "Red Rackham's Treasure," and "The Crab with the Golden Claws" into a generally fast-paced adventure that feels just a tad too long. The individual stories and the characters Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock, and Thompson and Thomson are all quite faithfully represented. The motion-capture animation is similar to that ofPolar Expressand is both fascinating and a bit odd at times. As in the comics themselves, the characters are highly stylized and instantly recognizable, but Tintin's facial expression is eerily stoic and there's a hint of strangeness that's hard to put a finger on. Snowy is delightfully funny to watch, though he is a bit ...
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Director: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy, Mystery
Release Date: December 21, 2011 (U.S.)
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Edgar Wright, Steven Moffat
Runtime: 107 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, The Kennedy/Marshall Company, Nickelodeon Movies
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