Film Review: The Adventures Of Tintin - The Secret Of The Unicorn [dir. Steven Spielberg; 2011]

I'm pretty sure that Herge's Tintin books were the very first things I ever read. In fact, I think I became something of a fan. But I'm equally sure that I haven't touched them since I was about 8, so perhaps I'm not exactly in the core demographic for Spielberg's big-screen adaptation of the baby-faced journalist's adventures. Its plot is suitably preposterous and sprawling, but it displays a very poor sense of pace. If there's one thing Spielberg has always been good at (and I say this as someone who generally isn't a fan of his work) it's knowing how to contrast moments of action with quieter sequences. That skill appears to have abandoned him here, with the result that he's created a feature-length barrage of unengaging bangs and camera somersaults. Perhaps one reason for this is that the technology has made it too easy for him to crank everything up to 11... which leads me to the subject of 'motion capture', the part-animated, part-live action technique used to create the film. From a design perspective, it provides an opportunity to realise a rich, gorgeous vision of the distinctive world of Herge's comics. But from a story-telling point of view, it produces an effect that's simultaneously too realistic and not quite realistic enough. The way audiences perceive mo-cap may well change with time, but for the moment, as far as Tintin is concerned, it's merely another questionable facet of a film that proves you can't just shove a load of set-pieces against each other and hope they'll form a coherent whole.


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