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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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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

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The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
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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
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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

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Your Reviews

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

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

Saw this yesterday, really enjoyed it, the animation was amazing and the humour was top notch ... More

Posted by white mage at 21:38, 16 November 2011 | Report This Post


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

The animation I thought was insanely good, no dead eyes here. Good story on the whole, but did feel a bit slow in places. 7/10 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Paul2j at 05:18, 16 November 2011 | Report This Post


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

L: Herr Schnitzel Do you really think "photo-realism" is what animation is all about ? There are a billion design opportunities with animation and then to recreate characters that look and move like actors strikes me as thoroughly pointless. The "photo-reral" animation as you call it isn't actually animation. It's performance capture which I regard as the lazy approach, by cutting out the skills the animators bring to animation films. Instead you have Andy Serkis overacting like mad to lo... More

Posted by FoximusPrime at 17:02, 14 November 2011 | Report This Post


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

L: FoximusPrime I realised towards the end that I'd spent the whole film grinning like an idiot - it's just so much fun. And, while some part of me still isn't sure photo-realism was the right choice for Tintin, that part of me is clearly wrong. It was bloody impressive and the best "photo-real" animation I've seen yet, with Spielberg's imaginative use of the medium (in terms of both art style and performance capture) showing it to be a technique that just needs the right people and ... More

Posted by Herr Schnitzel at 16:31, 14 November 2011 | Report This Post


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

I realised towards the end that I'd spent the whole film grinning like an idiot - it's just so much fun. And, while some part of me still isn't sure photo-realism was the right choice for Tintin, that part of me is clearly wrong. It was bloody impressive and the best "photo-real" animation I've seen yet, with Spielberg's imaginative use of the medium (in terms of both art style and performance capture) showing it to be a technique that just needs the right people and vision to guide it to ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by FoximusPrime at 15:37, 14 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Saw this yesterday and thought it was pure class. Old school adventure all the way. Loved it. 5/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shool at 14:23, 14 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE:

I have seen it at a IMAX 3D cinema with my son and thought it was pretty enjoyable. I liked it and am looking forward to seeing the next advanture of tintin. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by m_er at 15:04, 12 November 2011 | Report This Post


Finally saw yesterday: tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0983193/]The Adventures Of TinTin - The Secret Of The Unicornt did take a "while" but here it finally is: the very long expected TinTin film. Luckily it was well worth the wait. From the brilliant Hitchcock/Saul Bass-style opening titles up until the very comicy-endin: 106 minutes long it is enjoyment with mouth wide open. It looks absolutely stunning, the cut-away`s are superb and (in my opinion the biggest win of the film) finall... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 20:42, 11 November 2011 | Report This Post


Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

I don't know what people were watching below, but it obviously wasn't Tintin because they don't know what they are talking about. People saying it took too long to get going. WHAT?! I was literally catapulted into action from the word go! Comfortably hopped along and the action kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. As I born in the 90's when Tintin had disappeared from the screens. I missed out on the adventures and I hadn't heard of the books, too young to know! What I wonderful start... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Thefifthmusketeer at 14:32, 10 November 2011 | Report This Post


One star, one more than it deserves

The movie is pathetic, despire laughable attempts by insidious marketing creeps to polish a turd. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 22:54, 09 November 2011 | Report This Post


Furthermore...

I've decided to give this movie another set of 5 stars back to back, so to appease the tragic short sightedness of the streams of negative reviews below. I mainly decided to do this so that I could retort to a particular comment about John Williams' score being dull! I'm sorry whoever you are, but this couldn't be further from the truth. It was energetic, intriguing and really captured the spirit of Tintin's adventure, making it the perfect accompaniment to the film. I mean 'dull', come on. It's... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by maclemens1 at 13:31, 08 November 2011 | Report This Post


The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

Absolutely loved it! Entirely expected to be disappointed but this movie is a masterpiece, and having lost a certain amount of respect for Spielberg in previous efforts, Tintin has gone a long way to restoring my faith in him as a director. Was thoroughly entertained throughout and didn't once look at my watch. Believe me, this is very rare indeed. Well done everyone involved, a truly outstanding achievement. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by maclemens1 at 13:13, 08 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Shite But Beautiful

I am sorry to report but this is sadly another attempt by my hero Spielberg to reclaim former glories and the sad fact is that he still hasn't made a true classic movie since the double whammy of Jurassic Park and Schindler's List. The Spielberg of the 70s and 80s would have made Tin Tin into a proper rival for Indiana Jones. Instead we are left with a mess. It was exciting in places, and Andy Serkis stole the movie even if his Scottish accent was particularly poor... it was like someone d... More

Posted by Private Hudson at 21:41, 06 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Shite But Beautiful

L: The Hooded Man Why does Belgian reporter Tintin speak with an English accent? ld he speak English with a Belgian accent? ... More

Posted by Proudfoot at 00:54, 05 November 2011 | Report This Post


Disappointing

I loved Tintin as a kid and the Secret of the Unicorn is probably one of my favourites so I was kind of excited when it came to the local multiplex the other week as I thought it wasn't going to be released until Christmas. But half an hour into the film I found myself still waiting for it get going. Even if you ignore the inordinately long intro sequence and rather dull John Williams score the film jumps about from scene to scene, a trick which the Harry Potter movies did no end, without ev... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fish that roared at 10:07, 03 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Shite But Beautiful

Why does Belgian reporter Tintin speak with an English accent? ... More

Posted by The Hooded Man at 16:40, 02 November 2011 | Report This Post


Shite But Beautiful

As it says in the title .....pure Shite but visually stunning to look at. The detail is amazing even little background things you would never take notice of. Pity that when you leave this movie that is all you take with you. It's still worth a glance on Blu-Ray though just for the scenery!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bulitt at 23:00, 01 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: A big let down.

This is a harmless movie. Fun, entertaining and vidually impressive, but you never really feel like Tintin is in any kind of real danger. The hero himself is also a bit of a bore.   3 stars ... More

Posted by Jasper_29 at 21:34, 31 October 2011 | Report This Post


A big let down.

Expected much more from this film, it looks fantastic and Andy Serkis is brilliant as usual but thats about it, boring story and Jamie Bell was the wrong choice for Tintin. Went to see it in 3D even though im not the biggest fan but it was nice on the eyes. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ultramattness at 18:28, 31 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn

L: jobloffski If it's any help, have only seen the trailers online, so on small screen in 2d, bits of it look fucking jaw dropping, and cos certain aspects of the image aren't being forced into a fake 3d perspective the eye is totally free to wander around the frame and look at every little detail,so 2D is the way to go as far as I'm concerned hanks, was thinking this as well Also Im going to be taking my parents and sister to see it when it opens, and 3D tickets are almost double the... More

Posted by Drew_231 at 08:37, 31 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn

L: Drew_231 So it sounds like 2D is the way to go (for those of us who have to wait till December)? My biggest concern with the 3D is that it distracts from the images on screen, and based on the comments here that seems to be the case? If it's any help, have only seen the trailers online, so on small screen in 2d, bits of it look fucking jaw dropping, and cos certain aspects of the image aren't being forced into a fake 3d perspective the eye is totally free to wander aroun... More

Posted by jobloffski at 08:19, 31 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The Adventures of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn

So it sounds like 2D is the way to go (for those of us who have to wait till December)? My biggest concern with the 3D is that it distracts from the images on screen, and based on the comments here that seems to be the case? ... More

Posted by Drew_231 at 07:04, 31 October 2011 | Report This Post


The Adventures of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn

I hadn't been too excited about it during the run-up to its release, but after having finally seen it (after a cancelled screening) I can confidently say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tintin mixes comedy, mystery and adventure in perfect sync, while all the time maintaining a charm that's very reminicant of Indy. And the whole Indy feel is made even stronger with the addition of John Williams' latest, but already classic-sounding, score. I think it would've been fine without the 3D, but... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Whistler at 22:50, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

Just got back from seeing this. It's absolutely fantastic. A proper old school adventure movie that brings to mind the family action films of the 80's (not least the Indiana Jones movies). The action set pieces are terrific, and when combined with a rollicking good story, a really funny sense of humour and characters that you genuinely care about, it's one of the most exciting family films of recent years. The motion capture, for once, works really well at bringing Herges's characters to life, ... More

Posted by bobatim at 20:05, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

I had no idea Gingers could articulate so well. ... More

Posted by Spaldron at 17:30, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


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