Sunday, January 01, 2012

Tintin: Raiders of the Lost Comic

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, Steven Spielberg's and Peter Jackson's adaptation of Herge's long-running Belgian comic strip, marks both Spielberg's first crack at directing a comic book movie and his debut as an animation director. He succeeds on both counts. True, the Tintin in the movie is a virtual cipher as a character; he is defined more by what he does (go on adventures, investigate mysteries, work as a reporter, collect typewriters) than who he is. We have no idea why he enjoys adventure, what motivates him to buy a ship model for a pound in the opening scene and then refuse to part with it at any price, or repeatedly risk his life. We don't even know what he likes to eat (he doesn't eat at all in the movie). The actual characterization, such as it is, is focused instead on supporting character/sidekick Captain Haddock. But nevertheless, we like these characters enough to root for them. More important, Spielberg both avoids the creepiness of motion-capture films such as THE POLAR EXPRESS (Dead eyes. Shudder.) and brings back the kinetic excitement of his Indiana Jones movies, this time unfettered by those pesky laws of physics. (At one point, two ships on storm-tossed seas tilt until their central masts are touching each other, and pirates run across the masts and board the ship.) The result is a fun time in the theater -- one that shows that there is still life in this venerable property.

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