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Film Review: The Adventures of Tintin – The Secret of the Unicorn

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Childish Things

Finally, Hergé would miss the middle aged Spielberg’s awkward return to those early entertainments, a grab for the good old days that seemed as ill-considered as meeting up with an old girlfriend after a messy divorce. The forth Indiana Jones movie showed none of the discipline, none of the wit, of that first rollicking adventure. Spielberg had forgotten how to make the movies that had made him. Then, at precisely the moment he was least qualified, he announced that he’d be adapting Hergé’s books at long last. He had the man’s blessing after all; he’d been holding on to it, out of flattery, for 30 years, but Hergé didn’t know this Spielberg; he hadn’t seen what we’d seen.

Admirers of Spielberg’s early work will be struck by the fact that The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is one long visual effect; a movie built in a computer without a single frame of film intruding on the experience. Struck, because Spielberg remains one of the few Hollywood Brats who retains a romantic attachment to the 19th century technology that netted them a fortune. Peers like George Lucas and James Cameron are notoriously dismissive of these so-called “photochemical addicts”, luddites who refuse to join the synthetic revolution with its texture free visuals and screaming artifice. It took another visual effects junkie, Peter Jackson, to convince the old refusnik to put away his childhood things and make this holdover from his youth using Weta’s hard drives, rather that crude organic matter. The computers, said Jackson, with all the conviction of a snake oil salesman, could render Hergé’s world as the Belgian had seen it; a heightened reality with the look he gave to each character very much in evidence.

The finished film, if it is a film, doesn’t make a liar of Jackson. Not on a technical level. For an old Tintin fan like me, there were frequent pangs of childhood recognition; long forgotten scenes recreated in this new 3D aspect. The tone of Hergé’s work is preserved, his characters live and there’s even the odd murmur from that young director the Belgian marked out all those years ago, and yet something is amiss in this quasi-reality.

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Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Country: US/NZ

Year: 2011

Running Time: 107 mins

Certificate: PG for imitation of life and an inappropriate relationship between a boy and a hound.




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