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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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Spielberg Gets Animated

  • Dec 22, 2011
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 or seventeen. Naturally, this does not stop him from getting into sticky situations, and it certainly doesn’t prevent us from getting into the spirit. It’s also a 3D animated feature (a first for Spielberg) brought to life via performance capture, a process I persist in believing allows for imaginative visuals. The animation was made possible thanks to producer Peter Jackson and his special effects company, Weta Workshop.
It’s adapted from a comic strip series that has been hugely popular in Europe since its inception in 1929. But it has remained largely unknown here in the United States, save for a small cult following. I confess, up until six months ago, I had never heard of the original comic or even of Belgian cartoonist Hergé, the series’ creator. I couldn’t help but wonder: Would that leave Americans ill prepared for this movie? If there’s one thing I can’t abide, it’s a film adaptation that has only those intimately familiar with its source in mind. Gratuitous pandering to a fan base with no regard for general audiences is, as far as I’m concerned, an inflated form of elitism. What I’m thankful for is that The Adventures of Tintin has been made accessible to people like me, who have absolutely no baggage and are just looking to have a good time at the movies.

It tells the story of Tintin (Jamie Bell), a plucky, scoop-hungry boy journalist whose neat blue sweater and nicely combed red hair gives him a wholesome boy-next-door appearance. At his side is his faithful dog, Snowy, a white fox terrier. He immediately finds himself in hot water when he purchases a scale model of a three-mast sailing ship at an outdoor market; he’s pursued by agents of the sinister Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig), who has a model ship identical to Tintin’s and is passionately in search of a third. The models themselves don’t matter. What does matter is that vital bits of information have been hidden within each of them, information Sakharine is looking for. Eager to be on the case, Tintin does some research and discovers that the models represent the Unicorn, a seventeenth-century treasure ship that was attacked by pirates.
Tintin gets into even more trouble after being kidnapped by Sakharine’s cronies. Now a hostage on a rusty steamboat, he joins forces with the ship’s captain, Haddock (Andy Serkis), who’s clueless, perpetually drunk, and maddeningly peculiar. How does he fit into Sakharine’s scheme? Tintin knows that the key to unlocking this mystery lies buried within Haddock’s mind, specifically in his memories – which have been repressed due to his years of drinking. In the meantime, a series of death-defying escapes leads them both to the fictional North African city of Bagghar, where the third model ship is located. Sakharine is, of course, hot on their trail, leading to yet another round of high-octane stunt sequences that are physically impossible but a great deal of fun to look at. I’ll give Tintin this much: His life is anything but boring.

Films like The Adventures of Tintin make a compelling case for animation as the ideal medium for action extravaganzas – which are, by default, offshoots of the fantasy genre. When you’re not bound by the limitations of reality, when entire worlds can be created with the click of a mouse and a few strokes of a keyboard, the possibilities are endless. Keep this in mind as you watch a spectacular chase sequence, during which Tintin and Haddock ride a motorcycle down narrow alleys, over rooptops, around tight corners, and eventually across a laundry line dangling above the streets. If the filmmakers have no need to fret over the laws of physics, then we have no need to question its plausibility. We can just let it happen.
The film is undoubtedly suitable for families, although the little ones are unlikely to make much of its quirky sense of humor, especially in relation to the character of Haddock. Adults and children alike may be a bit confused by a superfluous subplot involving a pickpocket (Toby Jones) and the detectives shadowing him, bumbling identical twins Thompson and Thomson. One is played by Simon Pegg while the other is played by Nick Frost, and honestly, I don’t have a clue which is which. Since they look exactly the same, and since their names are differentiated by the placement of just one letter, I guess it makes no difference. All that really matters is creating an atmosphere of fun, which is exactly what Spielberg has done. Of all the animated films I’ve seen this year, The Adventures of Tintin is certainly one of the better ones.


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December 29, 2011
I agree completely. I really liked this movie and I have never read the comic books either. I saw it in 3D on an Imax screen.
December 29, 2011
I'm glad you enjoyed the movie. I also saw it in 3D, although not in IMAX. I think you made the smarter decision, as I've found 3D looks best through the IMAX process. As for the film itself, it seems the fact that the comic is unknown here in the U.S. is having a negative effect; domestically, it has made just over $30 million since it's opening, which is a far cry from its estimated budget of $135 million. Fortunately, it's worldwide gross amounts to just over $200 million, so Spielberg need not worry that it's bombing in the States.
December 22, 2011
I really enjoyed this was fun, action-packed and clever, feels more like a traditional adventure. I also liked its wit and humor. Great writing! Your 3.5/4 matches my 4.5/5 here. We were a little different on Fincher's new film. Great job!
December 22, 2011
I was afraid I wouldn't respond to it, as it's based on material I had no prior knowledge of and still know nothing about. My fears were quickly put aside. I realized I didn't have to know anything about the comic strip; I simply had to enjoy the film. And enjoy it I did.
December 24, 2011
I've only read the comic strips when I was a kid, I never read the other graphic novels (maybe one) from which it was based on. But the film was so well-executed and rendered that I was really taken by surprise how much I really liked it. Happy Holidays, Chris!
December 22, 2011
Good write-up and great pictures too.
More The Adventures of Tintin (The ... reviews
review by . December 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Tintin is A Rip-Roaring, Globe-Trekking CGI-Animated High Adventure!
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) …
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 . 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, …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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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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