Sunday, April 29, 2012

Movie Review: The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

There are some films that I plan to see at school since I know I'll enjoy them more if I see them with friends and when I saw the trailers for this film I suspected that might be the case. There was nothing wrong with the trailers for The Adventures of TinTin, it just looked a bit silly, I actually managed to figure out that it was CGI instead of live action when I saw the scene where a pirate ships coasts over the waves of a desert and that scene seems to sum up the movie, silly and often illogical but in an entertaining manner.

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

Summary: Tintin is an intrepid young reporter with a nose for a story whose been on dozens of adventures already (accompanied by his faithful and clever dog snowy). So when he discovers that the old model boat he recently bought it part of a puzzle involving centuries old treasure he jumps right into the mystery, where ever it might take him.

The Good: With the exception of a few scenes the pacing worked well, despite it's short run time nothing felt rushed and it didn't seem like the characters lingered too long in any one place for too long.  I found Snowy to be the most enjoyable character to watch and, much like the penguins in Mawaru Penguindrum, any scene that has Snowy in it has him off in the background doing his own antics (sometimes related to the plot and sometimes just as a joke) and I liked that attention to detail, it was amusing and made me appreciate the thought that went into those scenes a bit more. The movie was filled with details actually, more on that in the visuals, but I was happy to see that they went to a lot of effort to make the "sets" feel just as real as the sets in a traditional live action film would be and that really helped.

The Bad: I was a bit confused by the setting, which seemed mostly like France but with some odd British details, which seems to be a carry over from the original comics but other people have pointed out that the movie also isn't sure when it's set with newspapers giving the date as 1938 yet cars from the 30s, 40s, and 50s making appearances. It wasn't enough to annoy me but it was enough to jolt me out of the movie a few times which is never a good sign. Additionally, I am convinced the reason Spielberg decided to make this film in CGI instead of in live action was so that he could completely ignore the laws of physics for a few scenes and, like a certain scene from Super 8, while those scenes were amusing at first they just dragged on so long that my suspension of disbelief was entirely broken and I got bored by it. In a way, even when the characters are doing something completely unrealistic you still need some realism to ground the scene and give the scene from stakes, without that it's just hard to take any of it seriously and be entertained by it. 

The Audio: Even if the visuals make the setting a bit unclear time-wise some of the musical pieces immediately made me think that the movie was set in the 1930s vs the 1940s and that's a good thing, it shows that the music is doing it's job at adding and giving more meaning to what's on screen. Since all the actors did both the motion capture and voices for their characters I suppose it technically doesn't count as voice acting here but in any case everything worked there as well, everything matched up and no one had an out of place sounding voice.

The Visuals: The movie is entirely in CGI, shot using real actors with motion capture technology (and a pull toy for Snowy) and, as tvtropes put it, it seems like we've finally hit the other side of the uncanny valley. It's actually hard to tell at first if the movie is CGI or not and when you figure out it's not because everything looks too perfect or that the characters faces just don't look right, it manages to be both realistic enough that it tricks your mind yet not be so realistic that it becomes creepy. Spielberg takes full advantage of what CGI lets him do and creates elaborate settings, overly complicated chase scenes, and plenty of other things that wouldn't be possible (or at least nearly as easy to do) with a live action film.

In the end I wouldn't call this film an all-ages movie but a kid's movie, I just didn't get enough out of it to justify paying more than a few dollars to see it. It appears that there is a sequel in the works and I might see that if I find it playing at a cheaper theater as well but this film didn't leave me with the burning desire to see the new one as soon as it comes out. 


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  2. Great review. The film had some flaws but it was such an enjoyable experience that those can be easily overlooked.