11 Nov 2011

Movie Magic: Tintin comes to life!

Can I take a moment to gloat that we got this film 2 months before the US?

Ok, moment taken. It's such a rare occasion, particularly in a big-name film like this one, I just had to enjoy it! ;o)

It took me a bit of convincing (read emotional blackmail) to get my regular movie-going partner in crime to agree to this one because a) animated films haven't been his cup of tea in years, and b) in his words "Tintin isn't part of my culture, it's very much a European thing". Well sorry Dad, Tintin may be primarily a European cultural reference, but Hergé's famous reporter has blazed his way across the globe with his comics having been translated into more than 80 languages (and more than 350 million copies sold - thx Wikipedia). Sure, I may have read through the whole collection -several times- in high school (any French Lycée worth its salt has a decent BDthèque -comic-book library-, and Tintin wouldn't be missing from it!), but someone got me copies in English as well... who might that have been? For the record, he says it was my mom, which would explain the ones in Spanish as well... I have an odd multi-lingual comics collection. Back to the non-Gringo thing... I do have several friends in the US who were very familiar with Tintin, including one who was something of a Tintinophile. He went so far as to have someone translate the dialogues in the comics that were in Arabic, Chinese and Russian just to verify that they fit in with the story and weren't random gibberish made to look like another language! And hey, even Bart Simpson is a Tintin fan! Although being very much a part of European culture I guess would explain why the movie got released 2 months ahead on this side of the pond...

For those unfamiliar with the wonderful world of Tintin, perhaps I should give you a brief intro (you can go much more in-depth with Wikipedia or the official US Tintin website). Tintin is one of Belgium's proudest exports, created by artist Georges Rémi (nom de plume Hergé), with a life-span of 24 comic books written and drawn over the course of the mid-twentieth century. Our hero is Tintin, an intrepid young reporter who seems to go out of his way for a story and always ends up involved in some wild adventures across the globe! He's been in the Congo, in the US, dealt with the Incas in Peru, been to Tibet, China, Russia... you name it! He's even been to the moon! Always with him is his faithful pal Milou (Snowy in English), a very intelligent dog who gets is own lines of dialogue, usually expressing frustration with his master for something or other. 

Another partner in crime is Capitaine Haddock, an old sea wolf who drinks whiskey like water and curses like... well like a sailor! He's got some grand old curses stored up, although his favourite is "mille millions de sabords!" which has nothing to do with the English version "blistering barnacles!". Check out the crazy list on Wikipedia! Even better, this guy collected the lot of them!
Next time you want to lash out verbally you could go with any of these: "Filibusters! Carpet-sellers! Technocrat! Pickled Herring! Fancy dress freebooters!" Although personally I prefer those of a more scientific nature: "Belemnite! Hydrocarbon! Macrocephalic baboon! Duck-billed platypus! Logarithm! Troglodytes! Artichokes!" and so on and so forth... Too many to choose from? Just try Captain Haddock's insult generator here (there should totally be an ap for that!). ;o)

Then there's the very absent minded Professeur Tournesol - Prof Calculus (who doesn't make an appearance in this film) and the nutty identical-looking detectives Dupont et Dupond (Thompson and Thomson in English). The stories are all fabulous adventures, loads of fun, and for those who want to read between the lines frequently a social/political/cultural commentary or satire.

The first volumes are a bit thick with the racial stereotypes (Tintin au Congo, Tintin en Amérique), but it was the colonialist mentality of the 1920s after all... in later comics he changed his attitude and showed quite a bit of growth breaking away from stereotypical representations.

Back to the movie!

It's principally based on The Secret of the Unicorn (in which Tintin and Haddock try to find and unite three parchments hidden in model ships which will allow them to solve the riddle of where Haddock's ancestor hid a pirate treasure), with elements from The Crab with the Golden Claws (in which Tintin first meets Captain Haddock while investigating a smuggling ring that uses crab tins -seen in the movie- to smuggle opium. In the film we only get Haddock and his ship the Karaboudjan and his traitorous first mate Alan as well as the crazy trek through the Sahara) and Red Rackham's Treasure (which tells the story of the actual treasure hunt). This last one should have given us Prof Calculus (and his crazy shark submarine which I always loved!), but sadly they managed without him. 

Less comics more movie? In the film Tintin buys a beautiful old model of a 17th century sailing ship, the Unicorn, which is soon after stolen from him, but not before revealing an interesting secret... Tintin goes on the hunt for the perpetrators and finds himself on the Karaboudjan where he meets the imprisoned Captain Haddock. The two make a run for it and try to get to the third model ship (the villains have the second) before the bad guys do. But the bad guys have a (fabulous) secret weapon and things really heat up! The actual treasure hunt part is just a teensy bit from the end of Red Rackham's Treasure (which disappointed me a bit, but I guess the whole search would have made things way too long).

Hmm... all this and I haven't even given you my opinion on the movie yet! Well for starters let me say I think this motion capture thing was the perfect way to bring Tintin to life! There's no way we would have got the vibrancy of Hergé's world in a live action film (and just thinking of what would have been done with Snowy makes me shudder!). And the motion capture makes the acting and movement of the characters more realistic than with traditional animation. Add the 3-D to that... and WOW!!! I thought it was marvellously put together and I was totally immersed in the film and the characters. My favourite was without a doubt Andy Serkis' (of Gollum fame) Captain Haddock. I felt like he'd sprung to life from the pages of the comic books! :o)

Jamie Bell (Tintin) and Andy Serkis (Haddock) all wired up for their motion capture performance

Kudos to Spielberg and Jackson for paying so much attention to details. I loved looking for all the little Easter eggs ref the comic sprinkled throughout the movie! Can't remember all of them, but an example near the end: the crate of cans with a crab stamped on them. Even the credit sequence at the beginning was beautifully crafted! Was kind of like a glimpse into Hergés world, a preview of various of Tintin's adventures! The Sceptre of Ottokar, the Incas, the Blue Lotus... and the silhouettes chasing one another...

To sum it up: it's a grand adventure with pirates and motorcycle chases and camel treks through the desert and a mystery to solve... lots of fun! GO SEE IT! And it's worth the 3-D. ;o)

Then report back here (if you remember in 2 months) and let me know what you thought about it! :D

For more info: the movie's official website, the imdb page and Wikipedia.

PS: none of the above photos are mine (except for my collection of Tintin comics), found them around the web with a Google search...

Edited on Dec 14th: I want to add a link to a VERY interesting article on i09 with Tintinologist  Michael Farr about Hergé and the world of Tintin. Go read it, it's fascinating! :o)


  1. Well, I'm not usually interested in movies like this, but you've convinced me! If it comes here (and it will), I'll go see it and think of you.:-)

  2. I'm afraid I've never even heard of Tintin, and not the movie either. I don't believe I've even seen a ad on tv for it. I'm going to ask my kids if they know anything about it. It sounds like something my son would go see. I'll let you know.

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  4. As you can tell I enjoyed it immensely and I hope you do too! :o)

    Kim, it might be a bit early for ads since it's slated for a Christmas release in the States.

  5. Yeah, yeah, yeah...gloat all you want. :P I admit that I was pretty excited to have seen the trailer for Tintin when I was in France, then I realized that I would be returning to the US before it could come out in the movie theaters. --.-- Such is my American life...


  6. No worries Barb, you'll get it soon!

    I must admit, this is the first time I've found myself wishing I'd seen a movie dubbed! Ok, I did see it dubbed (in Spanish), but I want to see it in FRENCH!!! I want to hear Captain Haddock's ludicrous curses in French! He's so much fun in the comics! :D

  7. i can't wait for Tintin!!! So excited that it will be out in the next few weeks!!

  8. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did Chris! :o)

  9. Just in case anyone's subscribed to the comments, I edited the post to include a link to a fabulous article about Tintin and Hergé which I highly recommend you go read!

    Here's the link:

  10. Another great review of the film can be found here at i09:



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