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

By Helen Cox

Hollywood has a lot to answer for when it comes to trashing the treasures of my childhood but as I am not a joyless film critic for a national newspaper or a French literary critic lacking any sense of social sensitivity I will not be using the phrase “partying with ghosts” or the word “rape” in this review. Except just now, of course, when I had to use it to explain that I wasn’t going to use it.

A few technological niggles, that I will get to later, aside Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn is as good a version of the classic Hergé drawings as one could hope for in terms of an out and out children’s adventure. The beautifully written script (Moffat, Wright and Cornish are all in the house and the storyline merges several of Hergé’s tales) and the well-chosen actors behind the mocap creations add a great deal of warmth to what could have easily been a cold-hearted, computerised composition. The result is an enjoyable Indiana Jones-esque animated escapade with the added bonus of a very cute fluffy dog.

Our swashbuckling tale begins when our much-beloved hero stumbles across a stunning model ship, going by the name of ‘The Unicorn’, on a market stall. Tintin (Jamie Bell) doesn’t even manage to get his purchase into a carrier bag before he is approached by two more potential buyers. The first warns of the trouble the ship will bring and the second ultimately ends up kidnapping Tintin and attempting to kill him several times in order to gain possession of a scroll hidden within the ship’s mast. One cannot help but feel that Tintin should have paid the first man a little bit more heed.

The hidden scroll turns out to be one of three, of course, and Snowy and Tintin – with the help of a somewhat squiffy Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis – who expertly manages to impress his character on the audience even through the veil of new technology) – sail out on an epic journey to solve the mystery of the scrolls and find the Haddock Fortune that sank to the bottom of the ocean generations ago. Still with me?

The pacing of this film is pretty impeccable. Throughout Tintin and Snowy are pushed into various precarious situations, by the villainous Ivanovich Sakharine and his insidious raven, and often devise exhilarating and humorous escape plans. Gratefully, although our heroes are often thrust into dangerous and death-defying circumstances there is only really one fatality in the whole film near the beginning. After that nobody gets hurt in any meaningful way which adds immensely to its child-friendly charm.

In order to gauge the impact of this film on its target audience I took a token nine year old along to screening (don’t worry, I haven’t taken to stealing children in the name of review writing, I borrowed him from a friend and he was safely returned) and his review was exceedingly positive. Which on many levels is what counts given that this film is clearly primarily meant for the enjoyment of children.

From a critical viewpoint, however, I will have to side slightly with the joyless national newspaper columnists and say that the technology was a pretty incomprehensible choice from where I was sitting. Jackson’s rationale of “wanting to fuse animation and live action” is all well and good but the design of the characters is a little bit alien and with the added 3D it can feel a little bit difficult to follow and digest everything that’s going on. And call me old fashioned but I’m not sure I need to poked in the eye by the villain’s cane in order to enjoy the action sequences!

Separating the film and the technology, however, Tintin…well it does what it says on the tin: delivers fast-paced, family-orientated fun with a side-helping of Pegg and Frost’s amusingly offbeat argy-bargy.

Helen has awarded The Adventures of Tintin four Torches of Truth

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