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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
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Good 3 Stars
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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
Blistering blockbusters!


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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: not great

I like soup. Oxtail and cream of chicken and mushroom. And also sweetcorn. ... More

Posted by gazpop at 13:03, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: Scruffybobby L: Pigeon Army Now, aside from the fact that there seems to be no link between the statement and the 'reason' it's incisive, this 'telling anecdote' basically screams from the page, "I agree with this child." This isn't the Tintin he grew up with. This isn't the Tintin he studied. But it's going to be the Tintin so many others grew up with and that's's not a bad review, but an unhelpful review. Because his reaction is, moreso than usual, reaction.ote] Becaus... More

Posted by Pigeon Army at 12:26, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: Pigeon Army Now, aside from the fact that there seems to be no link between the statement and the 'reason' it's incisive, this 'telling anecdote' basically screams from the page, "I agree with this child." This isn't the Tintin he grew up with. This isn't the Tintin he studied. But it's going to be the Tintin so many others grew up with and that's's not a bad review, but an unhelpful review. Because his reaction is, moreso than usual, reaction.ote] Because it isn't ve? ... More

Posted by Scruffybobby at 12:13, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

I'm not going to add anything intellectual or even barely intelligent to this topic, I'm just going to add... looking forward to seeing Tintin immensely (doesn't open here until Boxing Day )WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA Oh look at you. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 11:37, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

Also I'll just note that there's some kind of irony in a scholar praising the Tintin comic books for "immersader in an inauthentic universe, a world whose veneers are constantly being peeled back to reveal inner emptiness," both in form and in substance, and then turning right around and decrying a cap film about Tintining too authentic. It's actually kind of intellectually bankrupt to sing the praises of Herge's use of comic-book form in order to depict sequences "not grounded in any credible ... More

Posted by Pigeon Army at 10:28, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: Herr Schnitzel L: Spaldron If you really want to attack someone's stuck up opinion of Tintin then ky. Finally a review of the worst film I've seen all year that I can agree with. Thanks ! I don't think it's stuck up, I genuinely believe that anybody who likes the Spielberg film doesn't actually get the Tintin comic books and what's really great about them. t reads like an obsessed academic (which, make no mistake, y isg to get his head around the idea of nessadaptation o... More

Posted by Pigeon Army at 10:17, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: demoncleaner You know, watching a film with glasses does draw a thin veil of colour-bleach over it.  And I blame 3-D for not being able to take in all of the action and the anarchic knock-on consequences of kinetic impact (I thought the film was really good in ingcal effects like the queasy see-saw of moving bunk-beds and conjoined twin ballet of two burning ships mid-squall) . But....do you know what? Not taking it all in the first time added ... More

Posted by Deviation at 09:40, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: Spaldron L: Herr Schnitzel L: Spaldron If you really want to attack someone's stuck up opinion of Tintin then ky. Finally a review of the worst film I've seen all year that I can agree with. Thanks ! I don't think it's stuck up, I genuinely believe that anybody who likes the Spielberg film doesn't actually get the Tintin comic books and what's really great about them. o its an incredibly pompous and pretentious non-review of a great film. Bollocks to the supposed intr... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 02:49, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: Herr Schnitzel L: Spaldron If you really want to attack someone's stuck up opinion of Tintin then ky. Finally a review of the worst film I've seen all year that I can agree with. Thanks ! I don't think it's stuck up, I genuinely believe that anybody who likes the Spielberg film doesn't actually get the Tintin comic books and what's really great about them. I ignored you up board, but you really are purposefully going out of your way to be a contrary prick aren'... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 02:47, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: Herr Schnitzel L: Spaldron If you really want to attack someone's stuck up opinion of Tintin then ky. Finally a review of the worst film I've seen all year that I can agree with. Thanks ! I don't think it's stuck up, I genuinely believe that anybody who likes the Spielberg film doesn't actually get the Tintin comic books and what's really great about them. o its an incredibly pompous and pretentious non-review of a great film. Bollocks to the supposed intricacies of the ... More

Posted by Spaldron at 02:39, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: Spaldron If you really want to attack someone's stuck up opinion of Tintin then ky. Finally a review of the worst film I've seen all year that I can agree with. Thanks ! I don't think it's stuck up, I genuinely believe that anybody who likes the Spielberg film doesn't actually get the Tintin comic books and what's really great about them. ... More

Posted by Herr Schnitzel at 02:27, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: Spaldron L: demoncleaner rsh and uncalled for" was my absolute response to the rootless, inconsiderate and unconcerned bitching that came before, and to the untrained eye this might amount to a litany of negative "criticism".  This shallow thought-lessness might give people the wrong idea about the movie.   This quick-and-easy and ill-considered consensus proves that opinion is indeed cheap.  And if openly ... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 02:00, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: demoncleaner Thank you AdamO/T AdamBatman at the LFF... what did you think of i]? Will Fassbender pip Oldman for the Oscar?  (As an Irish person I can honestly say I'm whole-heartedly on for Garyquote] Fassbender is amazing in Shame, probably my favourite performance of 2011. He's also great in A Dangerous Method too, which is a tad more academy friendly! I fear that Shame will be overlooked due to its subject matter. ... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 02:00, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: Deviation L: demoncleaner L: tysmuse Quite fun first hour gives way to a relentlessly boring second. From the moment the Haddock 'family' flashback begins, it's all rubbish. Daft set-pieces and lame writing. Looks gorgeous though, but that is slightly ruined by 3D. ed this in 2D as I'm far too meam to pay the extra for 3D. There are several shots that look as if they are specially made to look good in 3D, but therefore look a bit weird in 2D. Basically its a kid's film (c... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 01:54, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: demoncleaner rsh and uncalled for" was my absolute response to the rootless, inconsiderate and unconcerned bitching that came before, and to the untrained eye this might amount to a litany of negative "criticism".  This shallow thought-lessness might give people the wrong idea about the movie.   This quick-and-easy and ill-considered consensus proves that opinion is indeed cheap.  And if openly calling these "people" cunts stops the rot, even for a bit.... then...let's do that. o... More

Posted by Spaldron at 01:45, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: adambatman82 L: demoncleaner Thank you Adam O/T AdamBatman at the LFF... what did you think of i]? Will Fassbender pip Oldman for the Oscar?  (As an Irish person I can honestly say I'm whole-heartedly on for Garyquote] Fassbender is amazing in Shame, probably my favourite performance of 2011. He's also great in A Dangerous Method too, which is a tad more academy friendly! I fear that Shame will be overlooked due to its subject matter. You'r... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 01:33, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: demoncleaner L: tysmuse Quite fun first hour gives way to a relentlessly boring second. From the moment the Haddock 'family' flashback begins, it's all rubbish. Daft set-pieces and lame writing. Looks gorgeous though, but that is slightly ruined by 3D. ed this in 2D as I'm far too meam to pay the extra for 3D. There are several shots that look as if they are specially made to look good in 3D, but therefore look a bit weird in 2D. Basically its a kid's film (check out the trai... More

Posted by Deviation at 01:26, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

Thank you Adam O/T AdamBatman at the LFF... what did you think of i]? Will Fassbender pip Oldman for the Oscar?  (As an Irish person I can honestly say I'm whole-heartedly on for Gary ... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 00:35, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: Spaldron L: demoncleaner mpressive succession of fatuousness here...can we get all you ill-thought, reasonless cunts together in some kind of Russian Roullette Royal Rumble where there doesn't necessarily have to be a winner?   ote] Just because you disagree with them doesn't mean you have to call them all "reasonless cunts". Bit harsh and uncalled for. "Bit harsh and uncalled for" was my absolute response to the rootless, inconsiderate and... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 00:30, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: demoncleaner mpressive succession of fatuousness here...can we get all you ill-thought, reasonless cunts together in some kind of Russian Roullette Royal Rumble where there doesn't necessarily have to be a winner?   ote] Just because you disagree with them doesn't mean you have to call them all "reasonless cunts". Bit harsh and uncalled for. ... More

Posted by Spaldron at 00:15, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


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

L: The Shadows Make Believe I don't think I have gone into a Blockbuster movie with as much good will towards the characters or the fictionanal universe being portrayed since I went to see J J Abrams' Star Trek reeboot in 2009, nostalgia stemming from a clear childhood recollection of the reruns of the 1960s TV series that used to be broadcast on BBC2 on a Friday night. My affection for Tintin, on the other hand, is derived from a more hazy childhood memory of the cartoon series that ... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 00:09, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: not great

L: tysmuse Quite fun first hour gives way to a relentlessly boring second. From the moment the Haddock 'family' flashback begins, it's all rubbish. Daft set-pieces and lame writing. Looks gorgeous though, but that is slightly ruined by 3D. ed this in 2D as I'm far too meam to pay the extra for 3D. There are several shots that look as if they are specially made to look good in 3D, but therefore look a bit weird in 2D. Basically its a kid's film (check out the trailers), though not pre-... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 00:06, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: horrific writing

Live action would have made us care ... More

Posted by spilsburt at 23:21, 29 October 2011 | Report This Post


Tat film was UNREAL MUST SEE!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ciaran McDaid at 22:40, 29 October 2011 | Report This Post


Dump the 3D and remake in live action

Wanted to love this film, it has echoes of Spielberg and raiders, but I am afraid it doesn't hit the mark for three reasons: 1) 3D simply ruins the quality of the picture to the point of distraction, it far too dull! 2) The script is very weak; taking 20 minutes too long to get going and then fizzles out. 3) The film would have been much better in live action, especially the set pieces ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spilsburt at 20:53, 29 October 2011 | Report This Post


Previous pageMore user comments

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