Fans of Jedward might quibble, but everyone’s favourite bequiffed wonderboy makes his long-awaited bow this week in Steven Spielberg’s mo-cap blockbuster, The Adventures Of Tintin. It’s been a long time coming but if critics’ raves are anything to go by, the Belgian reporter/adventurer/Brylcreem-posterboy is a dead cert to captivate moviegoers, much like a certain other Spielberg hero did 30 years ago.
The plan is to make a trilogy of Hergé adaptations, with a script for a second film – working title ‘The Adventures Of Tintin: Prisoners Of The Sun’ – already on its way and Peter Jackson firming up his plans to direct. At least, as soon as he’s finished in Middle Earth shooting The Hobbit. Of course all this is conditional on minor details like box-office takings and the like, but we’ve cast an eye over the story to investigate what Spielberg and Jackson might have in store...
While The Adventures Of Tintin combines The Secret Of The Unicorn and The Crab With The Golden Claws into one storyline, it’s definitely heavier on the former than the latter. This leaves plenty of scope to kick a sequel off in media res - a fancy way of saying that Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson could opt for a Raiders-style intro - perhaps with Tintin and Haddock closing in on Red Rackham’s Treasure, or Professor Calculus helping Haddock buy back his ancestral seat, Marlinspike Hall, by selling his shark-submarine patent to Grail-questing Nazis (hmm, maybe a bit close to Raiders, that).
What we can say for sure is that The Adventures Of Tintin: Prisoners Of The Sun will merge ‘The Seven Crystal Balls’ and ‘Prisoners Of The Sun’ into a single adventure, introducing absent-minded professor Cuthbert Calculus, a host of sinister South Americans and a memorable MacGuffin - a gold crown belonging to an ancient Inca king - in the process. The first story opens with a dark prophecy during a night of Music Hall and leads into the discovery of seven scientists, fresh from an expedition to darkest Peru, coma-stricken with mysterious shards of glass nearby, before Calculus is kidnapped and the adventure begins.
If ‘The Seven Crystal Balls’ owes a debt to John Buchan, Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie, ‘Prisoners Of The Sun’ is straight-up Spielberg and Jackson. The action moves to South America and throws in out-of-control locomotives, thunderous avalanches, mummies, fraying rope bridges, perilous waterfalls, thick jungle, and birds big enough to carry a Ring-Wraith and still have room for luggage. Sublime action beats galore, in other words. For Jackson, freshly emerged from beneath the Lonely Mountain, there’s more subterranean capers in store too.
Expect old favourites to return – Simon Pegg and Nick Frost should be clearing their diaries to steer Thomson and Thompson through more mo-cap misadventures - but Cuthbert Calculus, the Heath Robinson of Hergé’s world, is the biggest casting call for a sequel. Hergé introduces him in Red Rackham’s Treasure but he won’t make his big-screen bow until the second film, where his hearing problems, testy relationship with Haddock, pendulum swinging and mind-bending inventions will add to the cannon of eccentric movie scientists. But who to play him? We put that question to the writers of The Secret Of The Unicorn (clip to the left).
As Edgar Wright points out, John Hurt’s character in The Crystal Skull was a conscious sketch of Calculus, so the Hurt household might a good place to start. We know Joe Cornish has his tongue firmly in check here but the Doctor Who fan in us still hopes Sylvester McCoy gets a look-in too, not least because he’s well clever and damn handy with a brolly. Then again, with mo-cap rendering physical appearance less significant, the ability to grow a pointy beard and look dashing in green probably won’t feature on too many application forms. Keep an open mind, basically.
Calculus aside, 'The Seven Crystal Balls' and 'Prisoner Of The Sun' don’t introduce too many major new characters, keeping it suitably light and limber as sequel material, but there are plenty of cameo roles for Hollywood’s Tintin fans to vie over. Chief amongst them is swarthy ex-Latin dictator Alcazar, last seen in The Broken Ear, now doing a European cabaret act, like a cross between General Pinochet and Louis Walsh. His political career may have hit the skids but he’s handy with a knife and has a chin like an Easter Island statue - which surely brings Jason Statham into play.
Then there’s his sinister assistant Chiquito, an implacable Peruvian nursing a dark grudge that’ll prove central to the plot. We’re saying Edgar Ramirez for that one, although mostly because we’d like to see Chev Chelios chucking knives at Carlos the Jackal. Also playing a small but pivotal role is hypnotised seer Madame Yamilah who, mid-trance, spooks our young hero with the promise of a curse from the “Sun God”, as well as those seven coma-stricken scientists and young Peruvian Zorrino, the boy no-one’s calling ‘the Andean Short Round’. Expect a bigger comic role for Haddock’s butler Nestor too.
No-one loves nature like Hergé – except perhaps David Attenborough and Terry Nutkins – and the Belgian peppered Tintin’s adventures with a rich array of animal cameos; some menacing, some adorable, and some featuring sharks getting pissed and taking a snooze. Captain Haddock and Snowy, in particular, are constantly bedevilled by tricksy wildlife determined to put them in their place. If you’ve seen Peter Jackson’s King Kong or any of the Indiana Jones films lately you’ll know that giant insects, flesh-eating ants, snakes and assorted creepy-crawlers are all in a day’s work for the characters in Jackson and Steven Spielberg’s adventures, but there is a question of tone to consider.
Prisoners Of The Sun’s menagerie provide comic relief as well as menace for Tintin and co., throwing in Haddock-baiting parrots and llamas, sly lizards, soaring condors, anteaters, Boa constrictors and crocodiles into the mix. We’ll doubt they’ll all make it to the screen – that anteater would have come in more handy in The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull – but Weta Digital should still have their hands full digitalising the Peruvian Amazon. And Snowy's encounters with a hostile cat and cowed guard dog in the first film outing suggest that the pair understand the right comic tone to take.
The creative cabal of Brits who worked on The Adventures Of Tintin – Steven Moffat, Edgar Writer and Joe Cornish – have passed screenwriting duties to Anthony Horowitz, a less well-known name perhaps, but a big noise in British TV. Horowitz’s website describes him as “the most prolific and successful writer in the UK” (J.K. Rowling might argue with the second part) and if you’re a fan of Midsomer Murders or Foyle’s War, you’ll know why: he created them both. The Seven Crystal Balls’ Marlinspike Hall scenes, set in leafy countryside and replete with shady figures, creaky corridors and clues galore should therefore be right in his hitting zone, although he’ll have to downgrade the sharp instincts of Foyle for the bumbling of Thomson and Thompson. Same goes for David Suchet’s Poirot, a character Horowitz helped adapt from the pages of Agatha Christie.
Somehow, though, we doubt the Londoner got the gig solely due to his experience working with mustachioed detectives. We’d cry thundering typhoons if Spielberg and Jackson didn’t cast at least a cursory glance at Horowitz’s nine Alex Rider books, charting the globe-trotting adventures of a fresh-faced young agent and his snowy-white dog (okay, we lied about the dog). Rider’s movie debut, Stormbreaker, with Alex Pettyfer as the eponymous hero, may not have catapulted Horowitz’s hero to Harry Potter-like fame and fortune, but the books are considerably more fun than that film and suggest that Horowitz can write an action sequence with the best of 'em.