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

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Childish Things

It’s strange how Herge’s books liberated the childhood imagination – took it to different parts of the world, a different time; your brain didn’t care it was an illustration, it was real enough in your mind’s eye. Ironic then, that when the adaptation finally comes, it is, for all its technical wizardry, constrained; the filmmakers go nowhere, they recreate nothing; instead the focus is on preserving the limitations of the media. Spielberg puts your imagination back in its box. Children won’t care; they can abstract beyond the pixels, but adults? Adults may think it’s an unusual way to bring a childhood thing to life, to make a movie that contains no life.

It’s more coherent, perhaps due to a tighter screenplay, than late Spielberg “entertainments” but the direction is, from a storytelling point of view, flabby. The director, seemingly dazzled by the immersive computer generated environment, draws attention to it with pornographic zeal; his virtual camera swoops and cranes and completes 180 degree tracks, as though the synthetic operator was drunk on Loch Lomond Whisky. What’s missing are those b-movie thrills that marked out Raiders, that energy, that care in composition, that gave you a sense of pure cinema. This, your brain knows, is a substitute for the real thing; it’s like a virtual reality grope; you can see the breast, even touch it, but there’s nothing in your hand. Film has a texture, live action an immediacy, an expressivity and energy, which computer animation kills.

It’s a magnificent technical feat and the animators can congratulate themselves; one is drawn to the mirage and bewitched by it. It’s a movie that casts a spell. However, it’s a trance likely to distract you from the movie’s deeper problems; the stuff you can’t see. Why has reverence atrophied the comic muscles of Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish for example? There’s barely a titter between them. Why do you struggle to hold on to this movie when it’s over?

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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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