Saturday, January 21, 2012

Just the Ticket: Tintin

I'm a little behind here, and not just because I'm a month behind in writing this review--it's also been a month since I saw Tintin.  Or nearly, anyway.  My brother and I saw it on Christmas Day.  Since then, because I am me, I have deprived all of the children in my county by requesting all of the Tintin books from the library.  All of them.  Reading them (I'm only halfway through, but I've read all three books which are included in the movie) has increased my love of the characters and franchise, but even more than that, it's increased my appreciation for how deftly the writers stitched those three stories together.  This seems appropriate, as the writers were the real reason I wanted to see Tintin to begin with.
There was some concern that the choice to use motion-capture animation would drive the film straight into the Uncanny Valley, and I would be lying if I told you that there weren't moments when I felt I was teetering on the edge.  They all seemed to have to do with Tintin himself.  As the character with the most human (or at the very least non-cartoony) face, he was already at risk of feeling not quite human enough.  I noticed it mainly at the end of scenes, when his face held an expression just a beat too long to feel really human.  Did it give me a shiver?  Yeah, it did.  Was it also more than made up for by the other characters, in particular Andy Serkis' Captain Haddock?  Heck yes.
There is a reason why Andy Serkis is the go-to guy for motion-capture animation and that is because the man is damn good at what he does.  (And not just when he's covered in those little balls, either.)  He is a skilled actor and mover, and Captain Haddock was in the best of hands.  I will admit to being a bit biased, as Haddock is my favourite character in the books and I loved what the film did with him.
But the film is at its strongest when the emphasis is on action.  Far from the uncanny valley, the viewer gets swept up in sequences which are fun, pure and simple.  The impression is of Indiana Jones had Spielberg not been burdened by concerns such as gravity.  I found myself laughing in delight at the sheer joy and impossibility of the scenes.

My biggest criticism was of the ending, which is always a sad way to leave a film.  Without giving too much away, there's a scene in which the villain is vanquished, which feels very gratifyingly resolute.  The film could have ended there, or just afterwards.  Instead, we're left with an ending that feels weirdly somewhere between an epilogue and a prologue.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a lover of both (you want to give me more story?  Okay!), but this just felt disturbingly un-resolute.  Almost as if the film's editors weren't entirely sure where to wrap things up, so they picked a random place and sent it off.  I understand that it may have been to whet the audience's appetite for a sequel, but my appetite was already whetted by the movie on the whole--ending it that way felt unnecessary.

On the whole, I loved Tintin.  I would love to see another film, especially if they adhere to the source material as well as they did this time around.  Reading the books, it was interesting to see where the writers chose to break away from the original, and gratifying to agree with them in every single instance.  Stephen Moffat is one of those writers and, as I've seen in his work on the wonderful Sherlock, he's very skilled at creating something new while paying homage to the source.  With the same crew, I have great faith that subsequent films would be just as much fun.

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