Raph’s Guide to Moving Pictures #9: Childhood Memories and Motion Capture

First off, if you’re wondering why I labeled this as number 9: Well it is the ninth review in this series. If you are interested in older reviews, you can check out Thoughts from over there where I have posted them (you might have to browse a little, though).

You, my friends, are in for a treat. For the first time in the history of Raph’s Guide to Moving Pictures, I will be reviewing a film that only just hit theaters less than a week before you are reading this. And of course, I am talking about The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. This adaption of the legendary comics by Hergé, a collaboration by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, was highly anticipated by me, not because of the really damn big names up on those posters, but simply because I used to read and enjoy the hell out of those comics when I was younger and more into comics.

Now for those who know me it won’t be news that I am not a frequent cinema-goer. In fact, I am not even sure when the last time I went was. Probably for what a friend of mine called “the hamster film” (the film was actually called Etienne!) which was in spring 2011. And the last time before that, I went to see Date Night in spring 2010. So, that I now actually got off my butt and went to see this film is actually kind of a big deal and demonstrates how much I wanted to see it. I also got pretty motivated by the fact that this film is premiering in Europe, and for once we have the privilege of seeing this American film in Europe long before it will hit theaters in the US. What a great way to pay tribute to the inherently European qualities of the beloved comics.

So, since for once, I am in fact reviewing a film that most readers will not have had a chance to see yet, I would like to avoid spoilers as much as possible. Let me stay general. First of all, I liked the film. A lot. And the main reason for this is that apart from the technical perfection of the amazing motion capture, the animation also manages to capture the look and feel of the comics and translates them amazingly well into 3D. I have read all of The Adventures of Tintin, but it has been a long time since I last looked at any of them. That is why the compatibility of the 2D originals with the 3D animation evoked many old memories and presented me with a whole different look at Hergé’s universe that still miraculously fit.

One concern for me was that the writing would have to be really good. Because when I heard that they were going to merge three of the books (SPOILER ALERT: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s Treasure), I thought that there was a fifty/fifty chance that they  were simply going to butcher all three of those. And when I heard that Steven Moffat was going to work on the script, I was even more concerned. Not that I consider Moffat to be a bad writer – on the contrary. But I simply don’t know any of his work except for what he does for Doctor Who. And I was afraid he was going to take a too science-fiction-y approach to the story. However, after having seen the film, I was relieved. The story is a beautiful merger of the three original books (SPOILER ALERT: and they even managed to somehow add Bianca Castafiore, or whatever that character’s godforsaken name is, to the picture). Obviously some things were dropped and some other things were added, but it is all in good balance. I personally thought some things that happened in the ending were a bit over the top, but not enough to actually bother me.

Now there is one issue that I need to address: 3D. And I don’t mean the animation; I have already covered that. I mean the fact that The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is “presented in 3D” which means you have to wear those stupid glasses in order to watch this film in the cinema. And apart from my apparent dislike for those glasses (I wear glasses outside the theater as well, and I don’t appreciate having to wear two pairs of glasses at the same time), the film definitely does not need the 3D effect. I mean, come on, it’s motion capture CGI based on (two dimensional) comics, how much more 3D do you need to make it until you’re satisfied? I personally am looking forward to the DVD release so I can enjoy this little gem in 2D or as Jim Florentine would probably call it: regular D.

One more thing before I will try to make my recommendation: I actually went to this film with my mother. Well, originally it was just supposed to be her and me – but then she made this whole family thing out of it and we went with my dad, my 3 sisters, and one of my sisters’ boyfriend. And before you call me a mama’s boy, consider that it was my mother who had owned the comics that I had read when I was a boy, and that it was not just that she herself was even more into them than I was, but also that it was essentially only because of her that I actually cared about this film. Now HER comment on the film was that you don’t need to see it if you’re simply a fan of the comics. So to her, the film was not close enough to the comics. Maybe it takes a very specific amount of fandom to be able to appreciate the adaption for its heritage.

So, to top things off, here’s my conclusion: First of all, it’s a good film, whether or not you know or like the comics at all. I especially liked the animation and the excellent writing, but I also thought that particularly the sound design had its moments, as well. Now, if you do know the comics, then you will be able to have a completely new angle at this film (SPOILER ALERT: Even the intro is a compilation of all the adventures of Tintin). The level of detail is almost stunning, especially if you can make sense of it via childhood memories. However, apparently I cannot make a trustworthy statement about whether or not it is enough to just watch this because you want to see the comics turned into a film. I thought it was brilliant, but at the same time others thought that that connection did not show enough. However, when in doubt, I’d say if you like adventure stories and don’t mind the 3D-glasses, go for it. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of big names behind this film (the honorable mention obviously goes to John Williams whose soundtrack did not disappoint – as it never does); and they definitely know what they are doing. Alternatively, you could also just wait for the DVD-release if you’re patient enough and don’t care much for the sensationalist ways cinema makes itself up these days.

Image courtesy of diepresse.com


2 responses to “Raph’s Guide to Moving Pictures #9: Childhood Memories and Motion Capture

  1. Great review! 🙂 I’ve seen the movie last week and I totally agree with 3-D function – the movie would not loose any of charm if it was made in good old regular format. I also found Tintin’s dog Snowy much cleverer than the master in some situations 😀

    • Thank you. Actually, snowie was kind of an issue for me, because even though no one understands him, he talks in the comics. They only marginally adressed that. Then again, it’s really hard to integrate the way snowie works in the comics in a different medium.

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