Friday, December 23, 2011

‘Tintin’ triumphant

(From the Dec.16-31 issue of The Fortnightly)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

One of the year’s most anticipated animated features is a visually lavish and thrilling interpretation of Belgian creator Herge’s beloved comic book series. There are reasons to get excited for “The Adventures of Tintin,” among them the involvement of master filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, the movie’s director and co-producer, respectively.

It’s not exactly the way one may remember the characters or stories, but “The Adventures of Tintin” easily captures the essence of the seminal series. Those unfamiliar with the comics need not worry; this particular adventure is still pretty accessible. The opening credits impressively encapsulate some of the intrepid titular hero’s exploits and backstory. Enough details are shared, keeping the uninitiated interested and curious, while fans of the books will immediately appreciate the familiar elements and recognize parts inspired by the classic stories.

Ditching the comics’ unique cartoony look and utilizing more realistic but stylized visuals, “Tintin” looks incredibly tangible, but still accentuated by more pleasantly “unreal” and exaggerated components. We still glimpse Tintin’s classic look briefly through a street artist’s caricaturish rendition, which amuses the friendly-looking CGI version as well.

We’re introduced to young reporter Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell), whose purchase of a model ship attracts unexpected trouble. The theft of the item and the ransacking of his place, followed by his discovery of an old scroll, are urgent mysteries to be solved; Tintin and his trusty fox terrier Snowy soon find themselves crossing paths with the wealthy and suspicious Sakharine (Daniel Craig).

After some skirmishes involving Sakharine’s henchmen, Tintin eventually meets the oft-inebriated Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis, in his nth fantastical portrayal), who may have important answers to some of the puzzles. Tintin and Haddock figure in more life-threatening conflicts, racing against time to unravel their adversary’s baffling agenda.

The film’s brisk pace still allows for ample characterization, introducing essential and tangential figures that make this particular world appealing. The bumbling detective twins Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) and their pickpocket-catching assignment are hilarious. Smarter than those two combined, Snowy is no regular pet, contributing greatly to Tintin’s missions as the resourceful and unwavering sidekick. Some minor characters may be focused on in later chapters, should sequels manifest.

Animation-wise, the motion-capture effect makes most of the characters expressive enough. The lifelike quality of the faces also impresses, as there are more subtle expressions. It mostly avoids the eerie, dead-eyed look of more realistic CGI characters from movies like “Polar Express.” The scenes brim with detail and are unceasingly vivid, but there are times when you’d wish for better-trimmed action scenarios.

“The Adventures of Tintin” is smart and extravagantly presented, regardless, proof that there’s more to comic books than superheroes. It should inspire new fans to look up and read the characters’ imaginative and entertaining classic adventures. 

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