Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
Interstellar Review
The Making Of The West Wing
Get 12 Issues For Only £25 Today
The perfect gift this Christmas
London Film Festival 2014
Our round-up of the galas, films and interviews
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
PG
Cast
Thomas Sangster
Andy Serkis
Jamie Bell
Daniel Craig
Simon Pegg
Nick Frost
Toby Jones
Mackensie Crook
Gad Elmaleh.
Directors
Steven Spielberg.
Screenwriters
Steven Moffat.
Running Time
106 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Leviathan
5 Star Empire Rating
Citizenfour
4 Star Empire Rating
Skeleton Twins, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Overnighters, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Fury
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Leviathan
5 Star Empire Rating
Le Jour Se Lève
5 Star Empire Rating
Tony Benn: Will And Testament
5 Star Empire Rating
Nightcrawler
5 Star Empire Rating
Babadook, The
5 Star Empire Rating

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Blistering blockbusters!


submit to reddit


Plot
Uniting elements from Hergé volumes The Crab With The Golden Claws, The Secret Of The Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure, valiant Belgian reporter Tintin (Bell), along with brainy mutt Snowy, is on the trail of a lost family fortune, and a future best friend – rambunctious soak Captain Haddock (Serkis).


Review
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Browse more images »
High-minded types, usually French, sometimes Belgian, contend that all art is finally self-portrait. This being the case, maybe we can catch a reflection of the animated double-act that is Tintin – globetrotting journalist of indeterminate age but with last-ditch gumption in spades – and Captain Archibald Haddock – semi-functioning, disaster-prone alcoholic salt of (nearly) unfailing positivity – in the budding partnership of Steven Spielberg (our Tintin) and producer Peter Jackson (our Haddock).

Heaven forfend we suggest The Hobbit director conceals jars of whiskey about his person or that his liquor-fumed belches might kick-start the engine of a crash-landing aircraft, but the Kiwi producer has cajoled a joie de cinema from his American director, who appeared so bogged down upholding the legacy of The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Animated or not, depending on your stance of this whole performance-capture game, Spielberg has brought a boy’s heart, an artist’s guile, and a movie-lover’s wit to computer generating Hergé’s immortal hero. Where Jackson was the Tintin geek, following the ageless Belgique Morrissey on his dashing but non-superheroic escapades as a kid, Spielberg only got the bug when a French critic (them again) likened Raiders to Europe’s all-time favourite comic-book idol. In effect, Spielberg landed the goofball sidekick with whom to traverse the globe, without leaving the studio.

From the Nouvelle Vague flourish of the opening credits, featuring Tintin in silhouette dashing past giant typewriters and former foes, recalling the Saul Bass-themed curtain raiser of Catch Me If You Can, set off by John Williams’ fleet-fingered piano score, the mood is set. Here is a joyful play of opposites: the romance of old-school cinema, conjured by the slick synthesis of CG wizardry.

Vitally, as near as can be, here too is the ardent, moules-frites aroma of Hergé’s rainbow-lovely world of high adventure and colloquial antics. Spielberg’s first venture into animation (we’ll stick with that) expands the Belgian’s formal elegance into a wonderland of digital detail without ever losing sight of the bubbly charm of the books. Encompassing the shovel chins and bobbled noses of the Hergéian caricatures, Weta pursues a whimsical variation on photoreal. But it’s not just about the flour-fine textures of sand or gunpowder, the flicker of firelight across a blade or a breeze ruffling Tintin’s unbendable forelock. This is also an expansion of the Spielbergian dream (with a tincture of Jackson’s boldness). Like a boy set free from the schoolroom of reality, he lets fly.

In an exalted midsection, in which Haddock, stricken by sobriety, relays his family history, we flow with unceasing movement between his telling and a titanic sea battle of old. Here, finally, is what the medium offers a filmmaker. Spielberg reaches a delirium of creativity through match cuts and dissolves: reflections in blades, bubbles, the bottom of a whiskey bottle transformed into a telescope, and a desert morphing into a squalling ocean. Across the film’s sunburst of entertainment, the director applies the rain-slicked atmosphere of Jules Dassin’s noir, Indy’s self-mocking awareness of genre, and the catapult-momentum of the Keystone Kops. The 3D, neither fish nor fowl, is simply part of whole immersive effect: Hergé by Spielberg.

We open in what might be Paris, in what might be the ’30s – as with Hergé, it is a mythical, timeless world: cobbled streets, shuttered windows, old ladies walking decadent dogs, and for the eagle-eyed cineaste a homage to Robert Bresson’s 1959 Franco-classic Pickpocket. The introduction of Tintin is a gag so good we can’t possibly spoil it here. There has been an understandable fretting over how Tintin would be depicted on film, a tricky task given his Belgian creator effectively made him a blank slate on which we project our dreams. Spielberg, with his writing trio of Anglo-nerds – Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat, Scott Pilgrim’s Edgar Wright and Adam & Joe’s Joe Cornish – has bravely kept faith with the author.

Jamie Bell gives him a neutral English accent and a boyish gait, but he remains lightly sketched: depending on the age of the viewer, translatable to 15 or 30. His face is blankly handsome, cheeks lightly blushed, eyes expressive and bright as light bulbs (not a hint of the dead-eye that plagued Robert Zemeckis). It is the jutting crest of hair that cuts a shadow as iconic as the brim of Indiana Jones’ fedora.

As we know Indy as an easily diverted archaeologist, Tintin’s job description is cleared up – he is the roving reporter who never files his copy! Although, as Harry Thompson reported in his excellent biography Hergé & His Creation, the writer-artist was drawing upon the ’20s fashion for adventurer-reporters, who created their own news. And this boy certainly has a nose for a story: he barely strolls through a French market, before he’s up to his jodhpurs in a conspiracy surrounding the Haddocks’ absconded heritage and Sakharine (Daniel Craig) of the perfectly Mephistophelean beard.

While Tintin is coolly abstract, his co-stars are a gang of Dickensian cranks and kooks. The potential mishap of Snowy, his faithful wire fox terrier, is rendered as the smartest dog in town regularly tugging his master from the brink of disaster, but not some preternatural Scooby-Doo. Although more fool those who leave a sandwich untended. In short, the kids will adore him. For all that the film plays the nostalgia card for the devoted Tintinologist (their hearts warmed by soprano Bianca Castafiore’s glass-shattering assault on Haddock’s eardrums) Snowy offers the unabashed charm of the heroic pooch.

Even the most Hergé-phobic will know that Haddock is the funny man, Tintin the straight guy. Andy Serkis, in a broad Scots brogue, again surpasses the limitations of not being physically there. The jury is still out on whether performance-capture attains something greater than animation, but Serkis gives the movie its rich, flawed, bountiful heart. In another bravura set-piece that amplifies like a wondrous Rube Goldberg contraption, Tintin picks his way between the swaying bunks of a cabin full of snoring Quints, as Haddock unhelpfully regales him with their distinctive traits. Reporting on the tragic loss of one particularly shifty crewman’s “eyelids”, we glimpse a pair of yawning lifeless(!) eyeballs. “That was one hell of a card game!” sighs Serkis with perfect timing, a faraway look momentarily in Haddock’s piercing blue eyes. For all the flurry of detail, the victory here, like Pixar, is of creating recognisable humanity.

Away from Haddock the script struggles to be out-and-out funny. Interpol’s worst, Thomson and Thompson, in the plumbed double-act of Pegg and Frost, provide slapstick and idiocy with a fifty per cent hit rate. The much funnier Professor Calculus remains on the back burner for a Peter Jackson-directed sequel.

No room is found for Hergé’s political satire, or his more becalmed, intuitive moments, to gaze, incredulous, at the world – an iconography so ingrained in the artist’s style it might be untranslatable. And, with performance capture, there is still that gravitational pull toward endless chase sequences. The pace throughout is rat-a-tat-tat quick, the plot tripping along, and the exposition breathless. You have a job keeping up, but never at the expense of the sheer goodwill. While luxuriating in its pre-existing universe, here is a film imploring you to join in. It would take a hard heart to resist.


Verdict
Action-packed, gorgeous, and faithfully whimsical: Hergé thought Spielberg the only director capable of filming Tintin. He was onto something.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Empire Star Rating

Pure, undiluted Spielbergian joy

If, like myself, you are a Spielberg fan who was disappointed big-time by Indy 4, The Adventures Of Tintin is the perfect antidote; since I left the cinema with a huge grin on my face and with the same warm buzzing in the fingers I'd get from classic Indiana Jones, or just classic Spielberg. But aside from being a resounding and entertaining "Fuck you" to the cynical folks who doubted the big man still had it in him, Tintin stands on its own as an utterly thrilling family adventure mov... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 18:58, 14 April 2013 | Report This Post


A Good Film To Watch With The Family

i love this film its worth 5 stars there are some bit that were funny like all the bits with snowy i want that dog :) give it a watch :) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by newmovies0189 at 17:29, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


Watched yesterday: tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0983193/]The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret Of The Unicornaw it last year in cinema but I thought it was even better now. The story, even though it is a mix of three TinTin stories, works well and in a high pace and you don`t even really know that they are three different stories. The animations and transitions between them are beautiful. The picture quality of the blu-ray is off-the-hook!!! The detail is insane, as is the sharpness. Mouthwateri... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 14:56, 10 July 2012 | Report This Post


Great looking but ultimately hollow.....

As a purely technical exercise, I thought it was quite brilliant. All of the characters were well rendered and I recognised a few bits and pieces from the old books. And there was that brief nod at the beginning toward the original Herge artwork which was quite nicely executed. But there were quite a few negatives about the whole thing too when I think about it. Spielberg's name is plastered all over the posters (and the opening titles) but surely this is the most anonymous film he's ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BRAINDRAIN at 14:37, 13 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: :)

L: Dhomnick The fact that it is indeed pure Spielberg is what I liked less about the movie. Why couldn't he simply be faithful to the character, instead of trying to pervert it like an Indiana Jones rip-off. Good thing he did not do that with Jaws or Jurassic Park, at least. Oh... so is he just respectful of American authors?!?!? do you feel he wasn't faithful and perverted the material? ... More

Posted by Proudfoot at 14:26, 09 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: :)

The fact that it is indeed pure Spielberg is what I liked less about the movie. Why couldn't he simply be faithful to the character, instead of trying to pervert it like an Indiana Jones rip-off. Good thing he did not do that with Jaws or Jurassic Park, at least. Oh... so is he just respectful of American authors?!?!? ... More

Posted by Dhomnick at 21:51, 07 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: BINARY BLISS....

Finally got around to watching this on Blu-ray last night. Fantastic looking in places, quite bland in others. I felt it lacked pace and purpose, there was never any real sense of dange. The whole adventure just never really took off for me. I was genuinely blown away by some of the visuals but not when it came to the characters themselves. Ultimately the whole thing felt completely soulless. ... More

Posted by mackey at 14:53, 06 April 2012 | Report This Post


BINARY BLISS....

Spielberg's most anonymous film IMO. Anyone could have directed this...Jackson, Cameron, Zemeckis.....as long as they understood the technology....and that's the whole point. The technology is the real star of this film - the story, the characters and the director are all beside the point. And I thought Tintin was supposed to French or Belgian or something.......sounds like an effeminate wuss in this film. For lovers of binary code and computer games every where......TWO STARS!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 14:54, 05 April 2012 | Report This Post


BINARY BLISS....

Spielberg's most anonymous film IMO. Anyone could have directed this...Jackson, Cameron, Zemeckis.....as long as they understood the technology....and that's the whole point. The technology is the real star of this film - the story, the characters and the director are all beside the point. And I thought Tintin was supposed to French or Belgian or something.......sounds like an effeminate wuss in this film. For lovers of binary code and computer games every where......TWO STARS!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 14:54, 05 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Directed by Spielberg, produced by Jackson and with the writing talents of Edgar Wright this animated film has some pretty good input and the final product does show it. The look of this film is extremely well presented with amazing computer animation mixed with motion capture to give all the characters a very realistic feel along with a clear fantasy element. This is by far the best example of a motion capture/cgi film (as you might expect) and includes some lovely imagery from scenery to... More

Posted by Phubbs at 07:58, 04 April 2012 | Report This Post


Can't say much else apart from the fact that this was a huge disappointment. Haven't been so disappointed at a film for quite some time. The two saving graces about this film were Snowy and the overall animation. The plot was, however, predictable and dull. The characters, snowy apart, were plain and too much of an annoyance. Sadly as much as I love the books, I shall not be watching anymore of the Tintin franchise if it continues. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by alexsimon at 21:10, 29 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

I really enjoyed this Spielberg is in his element here ,and Andy Serkis steals the film as Captain Haddock ... More

Posted by filmburner30 at 11:55, 29 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Great film, and looks great on blu-ray 3d ... More

Posted by tonethestone at 14:29, 22 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Great film, and looks great on blu-ray 3d ... More

Posted by tonethestone at 14:27, 22 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

They should make films (like this) more believable. As Tintin himself says, "I'm a realist" I don't usually feel like cartoons are specifically for kids but that's the impression I got watching this. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were wasted, like the captain - the old detectives were super annoying. Only the dog and the animation saved the day. Tintin 2 - pass. From looking at the customer reviews on Amazon, it would seem like it's fifty fifty between those that liked it, and those that... More

Posted by S. C. Lee at 13:53, 22 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

L: S. C. Lee What about the captain setting the boat on fire? hat was wrong with that? The captain was delusional and set the boat on fire. Within the context of the film I don't think thats particularly unbelievable. L: S. C. Lee And then the plane missing them with a machine gun! For a start... 'm fairly sure that every single film that has ever featured its protagonists being shot at by a machine gun atop a plane has had the same sort of outcome tho. Indiana Jones i... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 11:36, 22 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

I loved Tintin. 4 or 5 star film for me. ... More

Posted by shool at 10:58, 22 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

L: demoncleaner Just back from it.  I honestly thought it was an absolute joy and couldn't pick a fault substantial enough to give it less than five stars. hat about the captain setting the boat on fire? And then the plane missing them with a machine gun! For a start... ... More

Posted by S. C. Lee at 23:50, 21 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

I’m probably in the minority here but I thought Tintin was quite poor. The animation was amazing, the dog was great but the story was weak. I wouldn't watch it again, thank God for LoveFilm. ... More

Posted by S. C. Lee at 19:29, 21 March 2012 | Report This Post


The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn Review

To summarise this film, although it doesn’t meet all expectations, it is still very much a Tintin movie. We get the enjoyable relationship of the two protagonists (and snowy), as well as the slapstick, comedic breaks of Thompson and Thomson, and the villainous Sakharine. The film feels like a children’s Indiana Jones movie, as one would expect and it is only let down by an unfulfilling soundtrack and a slightly predictable plot. All in all The Adventures of ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DaleLawson at 14:09, 11 March 2012 | Report This Post


The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn Review

Drawing deep from the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark playbook, Steven Spielberg has crafted another spirited, thrilling adventure in the form of Tintin. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 18:48, 20 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Most of the pre-release complaints have been about the Motion-Capture performances. When you finish watching this movie, you cannot think of another way they could’ve filmed this in. It completly captures the use of colour and set pieces that Herge used in his comics. Speaking of set-pieces, I think you cannot find a set piece more exciting than “The pursuit of the Falcon”. It is all one continuous shot that is used brilliantly, and I got tingles. Performances all round ar... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by threshold at 05:25, 05 December 2011 | Report This Post


Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Brilliant film! Herge' knew that the only way his books could be portrayed within a motion picture would be through the vision of Steven Speilberg! Loved the CGI and the film as a whole...but I did think the film ended too soon! Looking forward to the next installment though! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by P3RCY at 13:55, 28 November 2011 | Report This Post


Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Brilliant film! Herge' knew that the only way his books could be portrayed within a motion picture would be through the vision of Steven Speilberg! Loved the CGI and the film as a whole...but I did think the film ended too soon! Looking forward to the next installment though! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by P3RCY at 13:55, 28 November 2011 | Report This Post


Just a Wonderful Movie !

I Love this Movie, Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig . Are very good. Also i love THE music in this movie by John Williams & seeing this movie. In 3 D was good as well one of best movie of 2011 . ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by soulfood at 21:55, 18 November 2011 | Report This Post


More user comments

SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS

SAVE UP TO 48% GET 12 ISSUES FOR ONLY £25
Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Empire Meets Mike Leigh
On Mr. Turner, 007 and liver in lager

World War II Movies That Win At History
Seen Fury? Here’s what to watch next...

The 25 Shatneriest William Shatner Moments Of All Time
Prepare. For. Many. One. Word. Sentences.

Marvel Announces Phase Three Film Slate Up To 2019
Photos from the event and have a look at all the new movie logos

Lists Of Our Lifetime: Empire's 25 Greatest Scares
Monsters, ghosts, horrible old ladies: the scenes that have kept us hiding behind the sofa for the last 25 years. Warning: contains spoilers.

Empire's Interstellar Review
Read our official verdict on Christopher Nolan's science-fiction epic

The 40 Most Fearsome One-Man Armies In Cinema
When you absolutely, positively have to kill every last mutha in the room...

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)