Trailer Breakdown: The Adventures Of Tintin

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Steven Spielberg. Peter Jackson. Edgar Wright. Joe Cornish. Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Jamie Bell, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Cary Elwes, Steven Moffat and John Williams. If the cast and crew of the new Tintin movie don’t get you a little bit hot under the collar, you may be living in the Antarctic. And if you’re a fan of the books, you’re already thrilled at the prospect of a big-screen outing for the boy reporter. So for those who are already fans, and those who don’t know a Tintin from a can-can (i.e. Americans), here’s a breakdown of what we can see in the new trailer

Here we get our first glimpse of Tintin (Jamie Bell), the reporter / detective / adventurer (since you never actually saw him work as such) at the centre of our tales, and his stalwart companion Snowy (or, if you’re Francophone, Milou). Tintin’s intrepid and intelligent but not above the odd prat-fall or comedy double-take in the comics; that said, this trailer is rather more adventuresome than comedic. Snowy is also brave and often takes risks to get his master out of danger – chewing through ropes or attacking would-be attackers – but is often also a source of comic relief. He has a passion for digging up old bones, and for a weakness for a tipple, which often leads to drunken dog hilarity. WARNING: do not give your own dog alcohol. In real life, it’s less funny. And will get you arrested.

Herge, the creator of Tintin, tried to avoid being too explicit about his nationality, but we all know he’s Belgian really. And we know he lives somewhere on Labrador Street, from the newspaper report in The Secret Of The Unicorn that follows a shooting outside Tintin’s home. So this should, by extension, be his street. The green-and-yellow colour scheme even matches one glimpsed in The Crab With The Golden Claws, when Thompson and Thomson (of whom more later) wave at Tintin from a café across the street soon after he leaves his house. Meanwhile, we’re not sure if that chap with the newspaper is up to no good or not, but it’s a fair bet in this series. This film, by the by, is based on elements from The Crab With The Golden Claws, The Secret Of The Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure.

Here’s a scene that doesn’t appear, at least as it looks here, in the three books on which this film is based. But this shows us Tintin discovering one of the three models of the Unicorn. That’s a ship once commanded by Sir Francis Haddock in 1676, a British ship of Charles II that had left Barbados and was headed for home when it was attacked by pirates. We won’t say too much about it, but it looks a bit like the shadow on that case, but bigger.

And here’s another of the mini-Unicorns, for sale in the Old Street flea market near Tintin’s home (at least in the books). You can see Tintin and Snowy reflected in the glass, and lots of detail on the ship, including that unicorn figurehead at its prow. In the comics, Tintin wanted to buy this model as a present for his friend Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and caused something of a bidding war when two other ship enthusiasts tried to buy it off him. Both will later become important to the story, so maybe pay attention to this bit, eh?

Here we see those masters of disguise, those detectives without peer: Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost respectively). Known for their bowler hats, moustaches, walking sticks and inability to detect their way out of a paper bag, the pair are much loved characters. They have a habit, especially in the early books, of each following the other’s statement with, “To be precise…” and then a repeat of exactly the same statement. They’re easily confused (in every sense) but according to screenwriter Joe Cornish the secret is to look at how their moustaches curl to tell Thompson with a P from Thomson without.

Here’s a bit of a glimpse at Captain Haddock himself, Tintin’s more aggressive, more drunken partner in not-crime, aboard what looks to be his ship, Karaboudjan. Haddock can’t help loving whisky, brandy, rum and any other sort of alcohol going, although he does occasionally try for the wagon. Said Spielberg to Empire of his character, “I think audiences today are mindful enough to know that Captain Haddock is not anyone’s example of how to walk a straight line. His affair with the bottle never embraces alcoholism as a comic tool, but it was certainly a 19th century and 20th century value to tell stories about the town drunk. In this case, it ends up with the town drunk finally coming to his senses.” Huh? “I’m not sure he’ll stay sensible after this film," he finished. Ah. That makes more sense.

A running joke / plot point in The Secret Of The Unicorn is that people keep having their wallets stolen. A man with a vital clue to the culprit is Aristides Silk (Toby Jones), the gentleman getting quite literally collared here. You’ve got to love the way this film has stayed faithful in matters of enormous noses and luxuriant facial hair. Said Toby Jones recently of the process of performance capture used to make the film, "You kind of upload everything you possibly can of your face and body. It was incredibly detailed."

A look at the comics suggests that this is a change of plot, slightly. That man on the left looks suspiciously like the comic’s Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine of 21, Eucalyptus Avenue, a collector of model ships who owns one of the Unicorn models and is keen to get his hands on another. The guy on the right appears to be the First Mate of the Karaboudjan, who is less than fanatically loyal on the page. In the comics, however, this pair never meet: Sakharine is intemperate but not mixed up with any funny business, while Mate’s a bad’un. It looks, from this, like Sakharine might not be quite so likeable onscreen.

So here’s what we think is happening here: Tintin’s been kidnapped and taken aboard the Karaboudjan, where he’s managed to escape his bonds with Snowy’s help, and reach a radio set to call for help. But this ne’er-do-well sailor, who’s working with the treacherous Mister Mate against Captain Haddock and his new friend Tintin, searches out the fugitive. No problem though: Snowy’s there to save the day. Dogs really are man’s best friend. If you’re wondering how Snowy was developed, well, for his very first screentest he acted alongside Peter Jackson. “Peter had put on Captain Haddock’s costume and a big beard and performed with the digital Snowy in the test,” says Spielberg. “Peter’s a good actor – I love that he does stints in his own movies. I don’t have the courage to do that. I would just humiliate myself and my fellow cast-mates.”

In the comic, Tintin and Haddock are forced to flee the treachery-riddled Karaboudjan, and one way or another land themselves a sea plane. Only problem is that Captain Haddock, having downed a bottle of whisky in flight, decides that taking the controls looks like fun. When Tintin demurs, Haddock coshes him with a bottle and, well, the plane crashes. This is a pretty spectacular tumble here, but it’s OK kids: our heroes walk away unscathed. The moral of the story is that there might be something in those pesky rules against flying drunk after all.

Right, we’re combining knowledge of the comics, this trailer scene and a picture that first appeared in Empire’s December issue here, but we think we know what’s happened. In the comics, a man called Barnaby (Joe Starr) approaches Tintin just after the latter buys the Unicorn model in the market and attempts to buy it off him. Tintin refuses to sell, but Barnaby later comes to his door to talk to him – only to be gunned down in the doorway. The picture we published last year showed Barnaby in the doorway on a misty night just like this, Tintin meeting him with drawn gun. We’re guessing that this clip takes place right after that. Here you even see a blue car speeding away – just like the one that belonged to the shooter.

Here is one of a number of shots that seems to have been lifted pretty faithfully from The Crab With The Golden Claws. Following that plane crash we’ve already seen, Tintin, Haddock and Snowy have to make their way across the Sahara desert to food, water and (in Haddock’s case) alcohol. Golden Claws, incidentally, is a sort of origin story for Tintin and Haddock, explaining how they met in the first place. The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure are a matched pair, covering the same story, but the jigs that we're spotting in this trailer suggest that the Macguffin in Claws (opium smuggling) might have been dropped in favour of a plot that's all about Rackham's Treasure. But that's pure guesswork at this stage.

Don’t be silly: it’s the Unicorn itself, coming over the dunes on a flood. We’re guessing this is either a heat-fuelled hallucination as Haddock and Tintin cross the desert, or a visual representation of Haddock relating the story of his ancestor’s adventures aboard as he and Tintin travel, rather than a literal tidal wave across the Sahara. Although that’d be cool too. Whichever way you look at it, this gets a spot in the Top 10 Most Gorgeous Images In Movies Of 2011.

After the posters yesterday, and Empire’s December cover, teased us with shadowy portraits of Tintin, here’s the man (or boy) himself at last in all his carrot-topped glory (echoes of a similar shot in Jurassic Park?). It’s hard to tell from an almost-still, or the short flash we see in this trailer, but he doesn’t appear to suffer from dead-eye syndrome. As the credits roll and this teaser finishes, let’s also take a moment to salute the music here, eh? If it does come from John Williams' score, we can't wait to hear the full thing.