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Tintin Cements Spielberg's Reputation

<i>Tintin</i> Cements Spielberg's Reputation

DVD Release Date: March 13, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: December 21, 2011 (3D/2D theaters and IMAX 3D)
Rating: PG (for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking) 
Genre: Action Adventure, Animation
Run Time: 107 min.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Actors: Voices of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Cary Elwes, Toby Jones

Steven Spielberg had an amazing year in 1993. Labeled a great entertainer but not a serious filmmaker, the director delivered a landmark film with Schindler’s List, forever proving to his naysayers that he could do drama as well as anyone. And, just to remind everyone of how great a commercial director he still was, he unleashed Jurassic Park on a public that was hungry for the kind of thrills Spielberg had shown earlier in his career. The result was a double-whammy, cementing Spielberg’s reputation as one of the world’s great artists.

The final week of 2011 again brings the release of two Steven Spielberg-directed films: The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. The results are not as uniformly excellent as they were in 1993, but the double whammy of Spielberg films in the same year—indeed, in the same week—qualifies as a major event for lovers of skillful commercial filmmaking.

The closeness in release dates between the two movies also lends itself to comparisons between the two Spielberg works, so there’s no use in dancing around the discussion of which film is superior. That would be The Adventures of Tintin, a spectacular, kinetic motion picture that brings the Tintin comics of Belgian creator Hergé to eye-popping life. Based on three Tintin adventures, the film adapts the stories of the intrepid young journalist/adventurer and his dog Snowy, translating the still images of Hergé's comics into a rollicking, animated roller-coaster that feels wildly alive. The characters aren’t deep, but the movie is so filled with visual thrills and treats—and the promise of more Tintin adventures to come—that to dwell on such matters seems almost churlish. Watching The Adventures of Tintin is a blast—a hopeful sign that movies made in a spirit of fun, and without any pretense to seriousness, can still deliver a delightful experience on the big screen.

Tintin (the voice of Jamie Bell, Jane Eyre) is a young journalist who stumbles onto a big story when he buys a model ship in a bottle—just before two other men, including the villainous Sakharine (Daniel Craig, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), can lay their hands on the ship. They offer Tintin much more than he paid for the ship, alerting Tintin to the possibility that he’s just acquired something extremely valuable.

That suspicion is confirmed when Tintin’s apartment is ransacked and the ship stolen. But the crooks leave behind the most important thing: a piece of paper that had been contained in the ship’s mast. It’s a clue—one of three that, when gathered together, will lead the owner of the clues to a great treasure. But the person essential to the task of piecing the clues together, Capt. Haddock (Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), is a drunk who can’t remember the necessary details. Tintin’s major challenge throughout the film is to distract Haddock from his near constant focus on where he might find his next drink.

Haddock’s alcoholism is played for laughs—an anachronism that might not sit well with contemporary viewers. But although Haddock is the object of our laughter as he bumbles and forgets crucial information, his behavior isn’t approved. It’s Tintin who tells Haddock, “There are worse things than sobering up,” and who congratulates Haddock when he finally dries out.

Tintin and Haddock, along with Tintin’s dog Snowy, pursue their adventure on the ground, over the ocean and through the air via several amazing set-piece sequences. These wondrous sequences fill the screen—foreground and background—with visual information to the point of overload, but stop short of exhausting the viewer. There’s always another swooping camera movement, another approaching threat, another death-defying moment to keep the audience on the edge of its seat, grinning and delighted with what’s unfolding.

Don’t be surprised if, in reaching for points of comparison to Tintin, you find yourself thinking of Spielberg’s great Raiders of the Lost Ark, a film with an adventurous spirit that Tintin shares. Bonus points go to Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) for putting the much derided motion-capture technology—put to controversial use in director Robert ZemeckisThe Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol, among others—to great use in this computer-animated, 3D adventure.

The Adventures of Tintin shows that Spielberg still hasn’t lost his boyhood sense of wonder. He’s made one of the most adventurous, entertaining films of the year, showing that, sometimes, they do make ’em like they used to.


  • Language/Profanity: “Swear to God”; “holy snakes!”
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Reference to drinking, and later, many shots of the captain imbibing and longing for liquor; a dog drinks whiskey; Tintin says, “There are worse things than sobering up.”
  • Sex/Nudity: None.
  • Violence/Crime: Many guns are brandished, pointed and fired; pick-pocketing; Tintin’s apartment is vandalized; a man falls down, dead; a character is chloroformed; cars nearly run Tintin over; a man points a sword at Tintin; sword fights; dynamite is detonated; a threat to “make him talk … break every bone in his body”; a man falls off a ship and into the sea; a plane flies through an imposing cloud of darkness called the “wall of death”; an expressed desire for vengeance; the Captain is hit in the back of the head with a bottle.
  • Religion: A sculpture of St. John the evangelist is shown.

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