And so I finally went to see Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn a few days ago at my local multiplex. Aw, though. Remember the days when they were called multiplexes? See, I like that word. “Oh yes, we saw such-and-such-a-film at our local multiplex…” and then suddenly we’re all back in the 50s and eating Eskimo Pie at the Frosty Palace.
However I digress. Back to Tintin. The thing that struck me the most about the prospect of a brand-new live action – sorry, *coughs* “motion capture” – Tintin film was, if this takes off, are they going to actually film all twenty-four albums? Surely that’s James-Bond level of franchise there. Well that was answered to some extent whilst watching the Secret of the Unicorn, as the film very cleverly integrates storylines from not one, not the sequel of that one, but three Tintin albums in one move. In this film the plots and events from the Secret of the Unicorn were woven in with the afore-mention’s sequel, Red Rackham’s Treasure, and parts of the Crab With the Golden Claws, in which the boy journalist meets the affable but drunken Captain Archibald Haddock – presumably thrown in for good measure, and to make sure we see the moment when Tintin meets Haddock. For me, this worked beautifully. I couldn’t see any seams as the three stories were gloriously sewn together to great one story, back story and conclusion which was centred around Captain Haddock’s ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock, and the mystery of the three models of the Unicorn ship that Sire Francis had hidden clues in about the location of his plunder from his days on the sea.
A good proportion of the film’s puzzles and comedy moments came from Tintin’s faithful terrier Snowy, who let’s face it, how many clues would be left unseen in the Tintin books if it hadn’t been for the small, quick-witted dog. I was pleased to see that Snowy – or Milou, if you will in French – was given a lot of screen time and was not just filler or some kind of comedy side-kick. And while the characters of the film looked nothing like the actors who were playing them – there was no trace whatsoever except for voice that Daniel Craig was playing the malevolent Mr. Sakharine and his ancestor/ Sir Haddock’s arch-nemesis Red Rackham – you couldn’t argue that the animations of the characters and the sets were just stunning. This is a whole new level of animation right here; Spielberg as he always does, raising the bar in filmmaking. He did it with E.T. He did it with Jurassic Park. He’s done it again now with Tintin.
The energy of the plot and story never seemed to stop; after watching the plane crash-landing scene in the Sahara Dessert I did think I had just dismounted from a rollercoaster, it was just that epic to be that drawn into the action and pace of a film. I didn’t see it in 3D either, this medium has yet to win my affection, so watching it in 2D was just a joy to behold. I had sincere reservations about the prospect of a live action… sorry, I’ve done it again, motion capture – film of the Tintin albums; the thought that my beloved 2D cartoons could not take off or be a cinematic success worried me and may tarnish Herge’s legacy. Not everything Messieurs Spielberg and Jackson have done have been successful. We know that. But I think they can rest happily now knowing that this has certainly been well-received and loved, even if it’s just cynically from the box office figures. Young Billy Elliot-star Jamie Bell played Tintin wonderfully and full of passion and thirst for discovering the truth about the mystery of the three Unicorns, keeping his English accent for Tintin. Purists could argue that Tintin should have a Belgian accent and therefore would be speaking in French, his mother tongue, and wouldn’t actually be speaking in English at all. Methinks the box office would doth protest at this, so let’s just keep him English. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost fans should’ve enjoyed their turns as the bumbling and accident-prone Interpol detectives, Thompson and Thomson. Believe it or not, I could actually tell which one played which. It was also from my personal point of view very exciting to see the Milanese Nightingale herself, Bianca Castafiore, Herge’s ironic ode to opera diva-of-yore Maria Callas, in the film too. Believe me her voice is the deadliest weapon of them all. I also defy you not to fall in love, at the very least, with the undeniably-French and quirky animated opening titles, as well!
It seems I had nothing to worry about, but when you’re such a fan of something and the prospect of what you’ve loved is about to be changed, reservations and trepidations are permitted. Look at The Smurfs.